This week, our Threenager’s preschool asked us to submit answers to a questionnaire, and one of the questions asked us to describe our child in a few words.
I thought of just sending them this picture and wishing them good luck.
Great portrait photography involves a perfect blend of technical elements — your aperture, your shutter speed, ISO, available light, and on and on — but what it comes down to is your subject. Does your audience — other family, even yourself as the photographer — feel an emotional connection with the person in the photograph?
Expression is a prime way to achieve that. A smile, tears, a laugh, that bottom lip getting pushed out when they’re upset, facial expressions like this draw someone into the image, gives them someone to relate to, and makes the photo far more memorable.
As a Dadographer, I’m lucky. Our Threenager emotes, like, a lot. You know exactly what mood he’s in, and when he’s excited, he makes being the family photog incredibly enjoyable.
I will sometimes tell my sons to tell a joke, or in the case of the image below of the Threenager on the beach, just yell out “OCEAN CITY!!!” and then fire away with the camera. Works (almost) every time.
You might be at the stage where your kids are tired of having their picture taken by you, and let me encourage you not to get dismayed. This happens to every family photographer. Kids eventually figure out that they don’t want their picture taken, so when you tell them to stand over there and smile, they resist.
That’s why I recommend investing in a good zoom lens. Get some distance, let the kids play, hide out in the bushes like the paparazzi, and watch these little organic moments and expressions come alive. Then capture them. You don’t need a posed photo to capture the essence of their personality because candid images work even better.
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer based in Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at email@example.com