Capturing our kids can be challenging for a variety of reasons, the most common being they simply get sick of our camera in their faces!
But what if they’re just busy kids? I’m not just talking about kids who don’t stop moving…
…for many of us, the older our kids get, the busier family life gets. Dance classes? Tick. Football games? Tick. Guitar lessons? Tick. 4 hour trips in the car on a Monday? Tick tick tick!
Between all of that and the other things (work, eat and sleep anyone?), it doesn’t leave much time to take photos. It’s easy to understand why so many of us put the camera away, finding it all too hard!
Carla Yeo is one of our Advanced Photography Course grads, and the mother of three fabulous girls. We’ve watched them grow and change year after year, as Carla documents their lives in a way that captures their everyday moments, their personalities, and their connections.
I know what you’re thinking. Oh she must have lots of time up her sleeve. Her kids must love posing.
Like most families, Carla’s is BUSY! On top of working and running a household, all of her girls are into dancing, swimming, sport, music… you name it. And you know what that means… she’s in the car a LOT.
It doesn’t leave much time to photograph for fun, but Carla knows kids grow in a heartbeat. Blink and you miss it. So she prioritises documenting her family, but she does it in a way that’s fun and her girls are ok with (so she even gets smiles!).
Carla shared how she photographs in a way that combats reluctant kids and a serious lack of time, to ensure she doesn’t miss recording her girls’ childhood. Read on to learn how she does it…
I am blessed with three beautiful girls. They are the heart and soul of everything I do, and the reason I got into photography in the first place.
My girls are very different to one another… I have a kind, huge hearted 12 year old; a cheeky, active 10 year old; and a 7 year old who is full of sass! So our days are never dull!
Like most children who have a mum that is often behind the camera, my girls tire of being photographed constantly. When I started up my photography business a few years ago, they were relieved to see me turn my lens toward others!
But whilst I love my clients and documenting memories for them, capturing my own family remains at the core of why I learned photography.
Adding to the challenge of getting photos of my girls, is the fact that like most families, our life is crazy busy!
I don’t get enough sleep, I drink too much coffee, and I juggle paid shoots with being mum’s taxi every single day for swimming, school, dance, netball and music lessons.
I know it’s cliché, but our children really do grow up too fast. My eldest started high school a few weeks ago and it feels like only yesterday I was bringing her home from the maternity ward after she was born.
Sometimes I wish life had a ‘pause’ button… just so I could freeze time for a bit…. thank goodness for shutter buttons instead, allowing us to capture memories to cherish!
So despite the crazy busy of family life, documenting my girls whenever I can is really important to me, so I always make the time.
If I only photographed my girls when I could get them to stop and pose, I’d never get any photos. Their childhood would come and go without any photographic memories to look back on and cherish.
So you need to change the way you approach capturing their childhood.
Firstly, I need to keep it fun because they’re not interested in sitting still and posing nicely very often, for any length of time. If my girls are happy then the photos will reflect this and portray more ‘feels’ through their interactions.
Secondly, rather than trying to carve out time to take photos, capturing them when they’re naturally at play is an easy way to fit in photos. No matter how busy we are, rarely a week goes by where they don’t find at least one pocket of time to simply play.
They love active play, and by that I mean, dancing, acrobatics, jumping, and just generally being really physical and silly. So I make a point of having my camera easily accessible so I can jump in and capture some frames when I spy them playing.
Related: How to Take Sharp Action Photos
If you do want poses, ask them to come up with their own. Not only will they be more willing, the poses will be fun, more authentic to their personality, and tend to prompt natural laughter and smiles.
I prefer a candid approach to capturing natural and honest photos. That being said, I am also led by light, and where possible try to render it so it will give me the best exposure and most flattering option for skin tones. It’s also the different between a snap shot and the something special I crave in my photos.
So I do have to take some degree of control in order to get technically sound photos with all three of my girls in the frame, in good light.
But there’s a balance between trying to get them into the good light, and not being too demanding. I find gently coaxing them to where I would like them to be, whilst encouraging them to do the things they love to do, is much more conducive to success.
In saying this, I try not to get too hung up on perfection, because capturing emotion is my priority. But it is nice to be able to have the advanced technical and creative skills to make these things work in harmony together most of the time, so that I can capture my girls in photos I can be proud of.
Speaking of light… the hour or so around sunset is my absolute favourite time of day to shoot.
On weekends I am often shooting photos for other families in the late afternoon, and on weekdays my girls are always at dance classes until late.
So I make the most of school holidays, and take as many photos as I can to make up for the lack of golden hour shooting available to me during the school term.
Related: Golden Hour Photos
Then once the sun goes down I’ll try for some silhouette shots.
The bonus to these images is that it doesn’t matter if they are smiling at me or not as I can’t see their facial expressions!!
Related: How to Take Silhouette Photos
If my girls are in a silly mood when they’re playing, which they often are, they make jokes and give me a bit of hard time… but I’ll turn a blind eye to this and other crimes. Anything to get a shot of them laughing!
My middle child can be quite sarcastic (gets it from her father) so she is great at making jokes and getting everyone to laugh.
My youngest farts when she laughs and sneezes, so this gets them in hysterics even more and the cycle continues.
But if it’s not coming naturally to begin with, you can try these these prompts to kick start some silliness:
Connection is extremely important. When siblings connect physically their love, trust and bond is revealed.
When the girls hug, or even just lean a head on the shoulder of a sister, their mutual trust and intimacy comes out in the photos.
Quiet moments are a great time to capture these kinds of photos
When you’re out and about running errands, it’s not an obvious photo opportunity. But you never know when a great moment will occur.
Turn your boring errands into a photo opportunity by taking scooters… even if you’re not walking distance from wherever you need to go (or simply don’t have time to walk), scooters fit in the back of even a small car.
Bringing the family pet in to photos is a great way to get all the kids to stop, in the frame at the same time! Our chocolate lab Molly has grown up with our girls and she makes them laugh so that’s a great prompter!
But even more than that, I love to get Molly involved, because she’s a big part of our family, and it just makes sense to include her in our photographic memories.
Photographing candidly can be tricky because the clutter of everyday life and our environment is always looming somewhere in the background!
When outdoors, I’m talking the hose, garden shed, stray bikes or toys, random people, parked cars, playground rubbish bins… or the dog running into the frame!
So move anything that can be moved! When that isn’t possible, try to capture it in more creative ways by varying your perspective:
I like to shoot at a wide aperture because I love the compression it gives, but this in itself can be quite hard when the girls are active within the shot. Their movement and varying distances within the frame can lead to blur.
Instances where they’re all on different focal planes but I want them all in acceptable focus, narrowing the aperture is the only option.
Related: Getting Everyone in Focus
But in low light situations, or when they’re back lit, a wide aperture is essential to get a good exposure. In this instance I try to get them on the same plane to maximise the chance of getting all three girls in focus.
It helps to have your camera on you anytime you’re hanging out.
This way you can take advantage of candid moments, especially when they’re all together and will fit in one frame!
When we’re on holidays there are loads of memories being made right there, every day. So I take the opportunity to capture those moments, organically and unposed by adopting a documentary approach.
My goal this year is to spend more time taking photos of these three beautiful girls I get to be a mum for. Together with their dad, they are my world and I want to document the every day as much as I can. I get so caught up in editing and shooting for others that sometimes I forget to put the camera in front of my family.
My husband and I are taking the girls on a 6 week family camping trip this year, travelling around Australia and planning to visit Uluru/Ayers Rock. It’s something we have been talking about for a while now and I am so excited for this family time together. It will be so good to get back to nature, the art of simple conversation, away from screens and soak in the memories of just being together.
I’m also hopeful for a few fabulous locations to practice my photography and try out some creative things on these three sisters!
Fantastic tips from Carla there! If you love her style and want to see more, or book her for a session for your own family, she’s based in Dalby, Queensland and you can find her at Carla Yeo Photography Facebook and Instagram.
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