June 10, 2014

Learning Toddler Photography

I was hoping to discover one go-to trick for toddler photography like I did for baby photography. Alas, I haven’t found one yet. My old trick? It doesn’t work as well these days. These days Nicki isn’t likely to sit still, unless there is a very enticing reason, like cookies.

Admiring the Tree
Nicki admiring the tree. Or is she? She was admiring the tree in much the same pose. I wanted to get a quick photo on my cell phone but kids these days seem to come with smart phone proximity detectors. As soon as I picked up my phone, she forgot about the tree. We faked it by having daddy hold up his cell phone next to the tree, and just off frame. That is what she is looking at. I am an instagram photo fraud.

I need a new strategy. Here’s what’s working for me these days.

Stay put, do not chase. This advice is easier to follow if you are photographing something that can easily be repeated, like swinging. Babies ‘first’ anything? Much harder.

I find if I chase after my toddler most of my photos are of the back of her head. If I’m moving around I’m constantly in a spot that would have made for a good photo a few minutes ago. If you stay on one spot, the action eventually comes to you. You’ll get five killer photos, instead of oodles of ho hum photos.

The spot I picked for the chocolate bunny photos ended up being pretty lame. I was getting very typical (read: boring) kid eating chocolate bunny photos. Then Nicki did something unexpected. She went from the sitting position to flat on her tummy and offered Mommy a bite of the bunny. The end result was pretty magical, even if the depth of field was too shallow for the close up.

Use the camera in no longer than five minute intervals. Nicki loves, loves, loves dress up. She’ll go through her dresser, find her super girl outfit and ask to wear it. Yesterday she asked to wear her swim suit to daycare. While she can be quite the little ham, she will get bored with it eventually. I find that the first five minutes are the best expression wise. Once we hit that point I usually put the camera down and enjoy the rest of our play time without it. No sense getting everyone frustrated with the camera, especially for photos were the smile is no longer as bright.

Putting the camera down also gives me a chance to regroup. I can go through my photos off line to try and figure out where we’re going wrong, and how I can plan to do better next time. (I benefit so much from the chance to do do-overs.)

Strive for fun first, photos second. This one is pretty much a no-brainer. If Nicki enjoys an activity, she’s likely to want to do it again and be just as excited for the activity, which means I’ll have more opportunities for additional photos in the future. Nicki is less likely to be as expressive or cooperate for those future photos if the activity ever becomes not fun. Thus we strive for fun first, and photos second.

Lately I’ve been taking photos of Nicki in the swing. If the swing slows down too much, Daddy gives her a good push, even if that means blocking my shot of her with his hand. No push means no smiles, which makes for a lame photo anyway.

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