Take better family photos with these 5 tips.
– An activity for the confined. #lavietellequelleestavecCaro @carocuinetwellings
I am an in home, family lifestyle photographer based on the French Riviera (near the stunning village of Eze). I love capturing authenticity, connections and life, just as it is, in people’s homes. But life as it is right now doesn’t allow me to come to your house to do just that. My job has to stop for a while, like many others, for the good of our community.
Families are stuck in their homes for weeks, finding it difficult to deal with their emotions, the new reality, kids to educate, entertain and for some a very, very uncertain future. I myself go through sadness for people worse off than me, anxiety, optimism, fear, anger, worry and trying to create space for hope again. It’s in this space that I write this today.
This is such an important time to keep documenting. Not only for the future, but for right now. Creating to keep sane, creating to have fun, creating to learn, creating being together. Creating because life, although different for a while, is still carrying on. There’s still love and laughter, hugs ; stories being read, words of love being whispered, hands stroked. There are still dreams to be had, memories to create, stars in the sky ; resilience and kindness. It’s time to record your story, part of history.
I wanted to share with you a few little tips if you wanted to improve your photo skills at the same time as documenting this unique time in our lives, whether you are in a couple, have a tiny baby, kids of all ages. I hope it allows for some creativity, some fun and helps you to tell your story.
What makes a good photo?
Sure, following rules – and having a great camera – will ensure you get sharp, well lit images with smiling people against gorgeous backgrounds.
But I think part of what makes a good photo is what it makes you feel: a good image triggers memories and emotions of that moment.
So, the aim should be to take less photos but more meaningful ones. Your little one might be just about to crawl, or is starting to use a spoon to eat by herself. You may have a child learning an instrument, enjoying a particular activity. Then there’s you. There, with them. They might be struggling and you’ll be there holding them tight and close. They might be doing distance learning lying on the carpet in their pjs… They might just be running around the flat because they havent been able to do so in the park. Embrace it all. These moments matter. They keep us grounded and feel alive right now.
You can always learn the technical side of things, but even on automatic and on your phone, the following tips have to do more with what happens BEFORE you actually take the shot.
Here is a simple tip (that you may already know) if you are using your phone : you can lock the focus on the subject by pressing the screen for a couple of seconds. Once the focus is locked, use your finger to slide up and down to increase or lower the exposure/brightness. This takes a bit of practice so try on non-moving things before you try it on your walking toddler.
I’d like to say that if it is overwhelming to think about taking photos, don’t shut the idea down just yet. This situation will take a little while for our heads, brains, emotions to settle on. Then, when you feel ready, grab a wine, a tea, a gin and tonic or whatever else you fee like or can, and look around your home. The spaces where you read, cuddle, the ones where your kids make a mess, the loud ones, the quiet ones, the ones you love. How old are your children ? What is it they love doing right now, what stage of their development are they at ? What details of their faces, hair, hands do you love the most ? If you don’t have children yet, but there’s one on the way, you must feel incredibly anxious, but this time is still precious. Consider lovely self portraits, alone or your with your partner and record your thoughts and feelings. And don’t forget your pets.
1. Change your perspective and look for interesting light
It’s incredible the things we see when we change our perspective. Going down to ground level or shooting directly from above are my two favourite things. Try it. Going down to the kids’ level will show how small they are. See how big the space looks now compared to your two-year-old playing on the floor? You might also notice that it helps to remove unwanted elements in the background or surprise you with reflections. Shoot through stuff if you can, windows or glass doors are great… It will add texture and interest to the story.
You will also start to notice little details when you get closer: their cute, chubby hands, the curve of their lashes. From a little further away, you can capture their environment: the toys that surround them for example. Try to get out of the room and frame your little one within the door frame. Shooting from directly above, we can capture some cute positions that our children take when sleeping or starting to crawl, for example. Including the environment gives context and a sense of proportion.
What is interesting light? It’s made of patterns and shapes, it comes through the window with the morning or afternoon sun. It shines through leaves of a tree. It hits the floor or a wall and you can see it dancing. Take advantage of these early wake ups that you do not have to rush, and notice where the light falls in your home. And how about that golden light, late afternoons !
No sun? No problem. Get closer to windows (strategically place the painting easel right next to a big one).
Moving around will allow you to see light that you might have never noticed before. Interesting light will instantly bring something “wow” to your shot, and guide the viewer’s eyes.
2. Anticipate the action
This comes with a good dose of patience. You know your children the best so you know what they like and how they do things. You also know what will make them giggle, frown, look curious, interested etc… By “knowing”, or anticipating what is going to happen next, you will be able to position yourself somewhere you will get the best angle, perspective or light.
Stay open minded to something not happening and going with whatever comes instead. Interact with your children, and perhaps put the camera/phone down for a while and come back to it a bit later.
I feel like taking the time to observe first allows me to pick my moment to take the photo. There’s nothing wrong with taking pictures straight away, but when we do that, we don’t give ourselves the time to take things in (the scene, the colours, the light, our position and why we are taking the photo in the first place) and we can’t anticipate what our children will be doing. So we may come back with dozens of photos of the exact same scenes (still guilty of this!), trying to make our little gang smile at us, and none of these work. Instead, choose to wait and see, and feel.
3. Let them be
Kids don’t have to be smiling at the camera for the photos to stir emotion or to tell a story.
As for your kids, take the time to observe when they are interacting together, or when they are being themselves. Go with the flow of the moment, one that will trigger memories later on. Moments are made of all kinds of emotions. Embrace that. How about suggesting a game? Who’s the tallest, who can reach the highest with their hands up? Can you look at each other without laughing? A little interaction might just give them that little encouragement. Equally, don’t force them and let them interpret your “directions” in their own way, their personality will shine through.
4. Aim for authentic rather than perfection
Which also means “let it go”. Messy breakfast time is as good as an excuse for a photo as everyone bathed and in their best outfits ready. Why? Because messy breakfast also means morning light and cute little splashes of milk and cereals and fruit covered faces. Something that will not last forever (thankfully?). Because it also means fuzzy hair, beautiful sleepy eyes and moments spent together without rushing.
Life is made of little moments that, when we look back, we will be nostalgic about. It doesn’t mean these moments were perfect, that they didn’t come with their dose of frustrations. But they are testimonies of time passing, and right now, more than ever time is going to feel different. While in it, it’s not always easy to see. But remember, triggering memories is the key. Authentic means: get the details, get the environment, get life. As it is, right now. So let go of the “perfect”, embrace all emotions and where home is, and make way for real life.
5. Get in the frame
If you don’t do it for you, do it for them. Your children. They think you are the most beautiful woman or the most gorgeous man on the planet until you prove them otherwise. Don’t do that. Instead, get in the picture with them. Set your phone/camera on timer and play with them, brush their hair, help them get dressed, give them a cuddle, tickle them, feed them, dance with them, bake or cook with them, build something together, help them with that piece of distance learning etc…
Who are these photos for? Think carefully why you are taking them in the first place. Don’t you want your kids to see you with them on photos? Find a good reason why you wouldn’t want them to see that. I know all about all kinds of adults / parents or not not liking themselves on pictures. It’s OK, you don’t have to do anything special. Special is now, in all sorts of ways.
I would love to see what photos you are going to create with your loved ones so I am inviting you to share on Instagram or FB, and spread life, life, life with me ! On Instagram, you can use #lavietellequelleestavecCaro and will re-share in my stories @carocuinetwellings
Take really good care of yourselves until I can come back into your homes to photograph your lives.