Photographing teenagers can be challenging but the results are definitely worth it. A recent project I set myself during lockdown was to see how I could take creative photographs of things normally considered too dull to bother capturing on camera. I’ll admit trying to coerce reluctant ‘models’ (aka my teenage children) into posing for a camera was sometimes difficult. But patience was rewarded and it created a sense of purpose in my daily routine and kept me on the right side of sane. As well as keeping my eye in using my Leica cameras and lenses.
Here are five tips when photographing children
How to be Creative
With mundane tasks like washing-up, there are actually a lot of interesting ways you can approach photographing this seemingly simple job. Think of different lighting, angles, and then start shooting, you won’t have long as kids don’t tend to stick around.
For this washing-up shot, I tried some options which didn’t work well. It was only after photographing him from outside through the window that I found the shot that worked. Being prepared to experiment was essential. My son wasn’t aware of me and I got a good shot I think with a somber expression which contrasted well with the yellow Marigold gloves.
So, a tip is to look for somewhere a bit different when taking the picture. Consider how you hold the camera, and try a lens that doesn’t require you photographing too close to the subject so you get a natural shot that can only come when the subject is unaware of your presence.
Set Up Equipment Beforehand for Action Photographs
The inspiration for this image came from the Netflix series ‘Better Call Saul’. Watching TV and films can be a great source of ideas for photography.
This unusual photograph of my son cleaning the oven required a really wide lens - a 14mm Voigtlander in this case – and some preparation to get the right exposure and work out how high the camera should be.
Once I had set up all the equipment and taken test shots, my son could get stuck in and earn his pocket money cleaning the oven. I set the camera on a 12-second timer and managed about three shots before he had had enough of being on camera. When photographing kids time is of the essence and, while I generalize, most are probably not as interested in the photo as you are.
The picture above is a shot of my daughter working on her school robot project during Lockdown. I had to persuade her out of her bedroom to work on her robot on the kitchen table because there was brighter light and I had more room to crouch down so that I could fill the frame using a 35mm lens.
When photographing children, it’s best not to change the way they would normally do things but sometimes you need to alter the space to give you better light and room to move. Always be thinking of new and different camera angles and how the light will affect your shot.
Photograph Outdoor Walks
During the lockdown, we would normally always walk together as a family. But to achieve a sense of Lockdown loneliness I let my children walk ahead at times, trying to capture on camera a sense of an empty Oxford stretching out before them.
When photographing outside always weigh up whether the backdrop and subject will look better suited to color or black and white. In the above shot, the trees form a textured backdrop behind the child, creating a natural vignette.
An empty urban scene such as the one above taken during Lockdown is unusual as there would normally be traffic and bustling pedestrians. The presence of one, solitary person emphasizes the emptiness.
As before, think about the composition of the frame and ensure there is some movement – a sense of motion as the subject walks towards the space on the right. It is worth checking the weather forecast before a photographic expedition, as a blue sky will enhance the backdrop.
This picture above taken in a normally busy shopping Mall gives a sense of walkways and shops with one small lone figure scooting around it. It has a melancholy feeling about it, a kid normally scoots for fun, but that here is contrasted by the reason the mall was empty, because of a global pandemic.
The photograph above shows my daughter walking a very energetic neighbor’s dog. There is a narrow footbridge over a canal near where we live, I set the lens to about f/5.6 pushed it down low and pointed it back up at the dog’s face. It was a bit of luck in that both dog and walker were looking in different directions and the flare really helped, again a wide 21mm lens to get a sense of environment. Often photographing into the sun can give a lot of extra drama to a photograph.
Capture Unposed Photographs
Some of the most important photographs to try and capture your children are the ones where they are not aware of your presence. This reportage photograph will give a real feeling for the person and their emotions. You may need to keep the camera away from your face so as not to alert the kid to what you are doing.
Get an Original Group Photograph
Food played an important role over lockdown with each of us trying to prepare a meal. My daughter was in charge of making cakes and at the end of one lunch brought out a lemon drizzle sponge cake. I realized there were many geometric shapes and colors on the table. So, I quickly grabbed a tripod, pushed all the legs together to make like a chubby monopod, and put the camera on a timer, again my trusty 21mm lens was brought into action. I got about four shots before someone made a lunge for my cake with a fork.
A photograph taken from overhead will require a tripod but definitely gives a very different group shot. You can always prepare for a photograph in advance and then assemble the group when you are ready.
Douglas Fry Photographer is a corporate photographer in London. Over a typical year, he covers about 300 photographic commissions around the UK and Europe for Piranha Photography. All Photos in this article are by Douglas Fry and shared with permission.