Photographing children always charges me up with positive energy. I’ve been doing it for years now and not only I believe they can be great teachers, but also that I’ve became a better photographer by spending time with them.
In no particular order, here are 7 ways photographing children has improved my work.
Writers often tell the best stories by choosing the best point of view available and children teach us a lot about this.
Sometimes, shooting from eye level isn’t the best option when composing a frame. It can be dull and lifeless and chances are others have already picked it as their first choice.
Kids jump and crawl and walk in four legs or stand upside down. They get closer or look at things from all these weird positions, sometimes you wonder how they do it.
Getting the best images sometimes requires for us to look from all sides and angles until we find the best one.
In time, knowing when to change perspective becomes as natural as using your camera. You won’t need to contort your body in hilarious or complicated ways every time - a right turn of hand and a wide lens will usually do the trick. Other times you’ll duck or lie on your belly or climb on a chair and that will be fun too.
One of the best ways of learning for human beings is through curiosity. Children have plenty of that, so much that at times adults get frustrated with it. But being curious is one of the best qualities and skills a photographer can have. Among others, curiosity manifests through exploration and discovery and through asking questions and figuring things out.
2.1 Learning through exploration and discovery
Children love to explore and discover new things. To them the entire world is amazing and interesting and they use all their senses to get to know it better. We usually get curious about things that excite us and study says we can even cultivate our curiosity.
So allow yourself to feel like a kid again. Go out and explore, discover your city with fresh eyes, pay attention to people who live around you, listen to sounds, pay attention to smells.
2.2 Learning through asking questions
Children are a never ending source of questions, predominantly they ask a lot of whys but they also asks things grown-ups never even considered.
Follow their example and start asking yourself questions like:
Why do I want to learn photography? / Why do I like photography?
What is it about this image that I like?
How did the person make this photograph?
How can I make better photographs?
What is the first thing I need to learn to make this type of image?
A good image should excite us emotionally, spiritually or aesthetically. Emotion makes our photos alive and a great way to observe and capture it is through kids. Children have raw, authentic feelings and they express them no matter what. As you pay attention to them you will learn to recognise and anticipate emotion when photographing grownups as well.
Kids take the materials they have and create their own things. Even if all they have is a string and a stick they will make something out of it. One of the reasons photography is so much fun for me is that it allows us to use our imagination and create new meaning through our photos. We decide what to include and what not to include in the frame and create new realities.
Kids love stories. We all grew up with them, but do we ever stop and think how much they connect us, how powerful they are?
Often, when children play or create things with their hands they make up tales about them.
What I think makes a memorable photograph is an image that starts a story in the mind of the viewer. An image that makes you interact with it, ask what happened next or ponder at what’s behind the scenes.
From my observations, when children lose their interest in something they switch to something different. I think that’s a very good way for photographers to get past a creative rut or expand their boundaries.
If you feel frustrated with your own work experiment. When you get bored or stuck in your photo endeavours try new things.
You like shooting landscapes? Try portraits for a while. See what you learn, what you like and don’t like. You shoot only in colour? Try black and white.
Give your mind more material to work with and in time it will make the right connections.
7. Be present in the moment
Have you ever seen how kids get engrossed in an activity? They are there 100%. They are far less self aware than adults are and don’t care about how they look or what others think of them. All they care about is their game or activity. They live deeper, fuller authentic experiences.
When photographing, have your mind and thoughts in the moment. Connect to your subject or environment and be open to it.
And last but not least, have fun!
*This article first appeared on Picture correct.