Genealogy: Photographing children

Genealogy: Photographing childrenBy Barry J. Ewell

For over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.  Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research.

The following are some of the lessons I have learned when photographing children.

Make picture-taking a part of your everyday life with children. Children are always climbing, building, exploring, and trying out new things.

  1. 1. Begin a photo tradition.
    1. Take pictures regularly so that you, your family, and friends can see how much your child has changed: Initiate one of the following ideas:
      1. Capture your child setting off for the first day of school each year.
      2. Mark your child’s growth against a tree–then take note as your child and the tree grow.
      3. Every Father’s Day, surround grandfather with all the grandkids.
  2. 2.Be patient:
    1. Don’t expect to get the perfect shot immediately.
    2. Sit back and wait for the right moment, then shoot quickly.
  3. 3. Shoot at eye level:
    1. Eye-to-eye contact is as engaging in a picture as in real life.
    2. Try sitting on the ground and snapping some photos from the child’s perspective.
    3. Expressions will look more natural, your flash photos will be more evenly lit from nose to toe, and the background will probably look a lot better, too.
    4. This also works great for pets!
  4. 4. Take candid pictures:
    1. Ignore the impulse for subjects to pose by staring at the camera.
    2. Variety is important.
    3. Take candid shots to show them working, playing, leaning against a banister chatting, or relaxing.
  5. Include friends in your pictures:
    1. Remember to include your kids’ friends in some of your pictures.
    2. In years to come, these pictures will remind them of happy times and the bonds that were so strong.
    3. “Look! That was right after Carrie tried to cut her own hair!” “Whatever happened to Tyler?” “I wonder what we were giggling about.”
  6. 6. Get close:
    1. Fill the camera’s LCD display with your subject to create pictures with greater impact.
    2. Step in close or use your camera’s zoom to emphasize what is important and exclude the rest.
    3. Check the manual for your camera’s closest focusing distance.
  7. 7. Let kids record their world:
    1. It’s a whole new world when seen through a child’s eyes.
    2. One time use cameras and digital cameras provide easy ways to let kids take pictures of each other and to capture what’s important to them.
  8. 8. Place your subject off-center.
    1. Placing your subject to one side of the frame can make the composition more interesting and dynamic.