My son Will went for his first train ride the other day. He is mad keen on Thomas the Tank Engine, and excitedly points out any and every passing Thomas when we’re out driving. So to actually go for a ride on Thomas was an exciting and momentous occasion! I wasn’t going to take my “good” camera, but thankfully Bruce gently pointed out that I may regret it later on…
As I was editing the photos, there were a few that stood out as “perfect moments”. When all the elements of focus, timing, facial expression, exposure and background came together in 1/125th of a second. It gave me shots like this, which I love – they’re not all that timeless or award-winning, but they really show off Will’s gorgeous personality.
When I look at the photos taken either just before or after these moments, most of them are actually quite awful! Closed eyes, weird grimaces, etc. etc.
But if you want to increase your chances of catching those perfect moments when photographing your own family, here are my tips:
1. Take lots of photos
Digital media is really quite cheap, so there’s no reason not to take several frames. Just don’t forget to go through and cull them later, and only keep the winners.
2. Wait for it
If your kids (or other subjects) are about to do something photo worthy, get yourself in a good position, and then wait. Don’t just snap a quick shot and consider it done – wait for the cheeky smile, the superhero pose, the quick flash of personality.
Having a DSLR will help greatly with this – when you press the shutter, it takes the photo without delay. Often compact “point and shoot” cameras have a lag between the moment you press the shutter and when it actually takes the exposure.
3. Photograph unscripted
Will loves having his photo taken (thankfully!), and will happily jump in front of the camera when I want to take his photo. However, when I ask him to smile for me, this is usually what I get:
Believe it or not, that is the same kid! Those first four photos were not a result of any direction or encouragement from me. In fact, running along the train platform is exactly what he was told not to do! I’ve found the more I try to direct him (and almost every other child I’ve ever photographed), the more I just end up with high blood pressure and dodgy photos. You need a ton of patience, a little bit of luck, and a big memory card.
4. Know your settings for proper exposure
If you’re operating a DSLR on anything other than auto, you need to be confident in your settings before you start shooting. Getting it right quickly only comes with time and practice practice practice, but you’ve really got to be on the ball to capture these things that happen in the tiniest fraction of a second. And don’t be discouraged – for all the winners that make it to my website or facebook page, there are thousands of shots that didn’t make the cut and will never see the light of day.
If you’re getting disappointing results on Auto settings, or you’d like to learn more about taking control of your camera, you can contact me here to enquire about one-on-one mentoring.