I was walking along the street the other day when I saw a mother and her three kids walking along towards me. Suddenly one of the kids – a boy who looked maybe seven or eight – suddenly shouted ‘jump!’ and leapt into the air as high as he could. Once he’d made his jump, he just carried on walking, as he had been doing just a few seconds earlier.
Seeing this made me chuckle – as that’s a kid just being a kid. When you’re a kid – particularly when you’re under ten – you usually haven’t got a thing in the world to worry about. Bills, jobs, responsibility – that all comes later in life. You exist in this strange world where nothing really makes that much sense – because it doesn’t really have to. You don’t even have to worry about what people think of you as you’re just a kid, after all.
When you’re shooting photos or video of your children, it’s almost impossible to capture this unique sense of just ‘being a kid’. Once a kid sees you’ve been filming them, they either clam up, or start putting on a show for an imaginary audience. You never can quite capture the true essence of what it means to actually be a kid.
It is possible though – you just have to be patient, prepared and act like a kid yourself.
If you tell a child you’re taking their picture they usually go into ham mode, as I explained above. After a while, they’ll get annoyed. Then, they’ll get bored, and once they’re past that bored threshold, they start being a kid again. They forget you are intent on taking their picture or video recording them, and you’ll then capture them behaving naturally.
When you’re around kids, you can never be certain when that perfect moment arrives, so you need to make sure you’re good and ready when it does. The last thing you want to do is tell a kid to ‘hold that pose’ while you’re finding your camera and setting it up. If you want to see how exasperated a child can get while you’re composing a shot, check out the famous photo by Diane Arbus called ‘Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park‘.
Kids only really play like kids when with other kids, so if you’re an adult, they’re going to behave differently. You’re going to have to cast your mind back to your own childhood days and act like a kid yourself for a while. Lose that adult dignity, just for a little bit, and get your hands dirty and your knees scraped up. You’ll get a much more natural reaction if you’re not afraid to get a little goofy.
One final tip – most pictures of kids are taken from above them, which is how us adults are used to seeing children. You’ll get a much more natural looking shot if you take pictures from the same height as the kids themselves. Movie directors have been using this trick for years – Steven Spielberg shot the entirety of E.T. from the height of the Eliot, the leading child character. There’s no point in shooting a kids film from an adult’s height when you think about it! Use the same trick when taking your own photographs or movies to capture kids as other kids see them.
The next time you whip out your camera with the intent of photographing your kids, just remember these handy tips. You’re likely to be both surprised and amazed by the natural-looking shots you’ll attain if you do!