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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
When children become kids (02/15/2004)
By Tom Hirsch


     
When children reach the age of three or four, they are very much aware of the picture-taking process, and from then on they have the ability to control the results. Now they are kids.

At any age, youngsters have a photogenic quality that can lead to good photographic results. Baby pictures are cute, pictures of children are adorable, but pictures of kids are unpredictable. A kid might mug the camera with an expression that says "I dare you to take my picture," he or she might strike a pose, or even turn away from the photographer as if to say "Please, not now."

If you are allowed to photograph a kid, the results are sometimes stereotyped poses and expressions, and trying to pose a kid as you think he or she should look is often a hopeless endeavor. Most kids just don't respond well to posing. From one who is eager to cooperate, you can expect an artificial-looking smile and an unnatural-looking stance. A reluctant kid might give you that let's-get-this-thing-over-with expression with pose to match (okay, these might make good pictures).

But you're more likely to get your best shots of kids when they are engaged in activities of their own choosing. Expressions and poses will be more genuine, and the natural enthusiasm will come through in the pictures.

It's not necessary, nor is it always desirable, to photograph kids when they are aware of the camera. One reason for photographing children of any age is to record the spontaneous times; to catch the movements and expressions that reflect the wonder of new experiences and adventures.

Young kids have not yet formed rigid patterns of behavior. As they mature, habits and attitudes begin to develop. The changes that take place not only reflect changes in the individual, but also depict the attitudes, fads and technological advances of their world. Photographs are one way of recording these and all other aspects of a young person's life.

I'm reminded of a scene I observed while waiting in an airport terminal a few years ago. A family of four was seated opposite me. The youngest daughter, about ten years of age, was tossing a toy bear into the air and catching it - usually. When bored with this, she began twisting her hair in her fingers. Next, she pulled her feet up onto the seat and rested her chin on her knees with her arms hugging her legs.

At one point the girl leaned over and whispered something to her older sister. In response, the older girl turned up her eyes and one corner of her mouth in mock disgust. As she turned away, the younger sister then yawned, looked bored, and again rested her chin on her knees. I hope the parents documented the lives of these two beautiful girls.

When photographing childhood events, don't forget some of the basic techniques. For example, select an angle that seems suitable to the specific event or activity. Remember that shooting down on a person can diminish the subject, making him or her look less significant; but this angle can also imply quietness, and suggest that the subject is in a pensive mood. Taking a picture from below eye level can give the impression of subject dominance or superiority, and it can also imply action.

None of these shooting angles - high, low or eye level - are necessarily good or bad; the situation should dictate which angle seems most appropriate. You might try a variety of angles and select the shot or shots that you like best.

Youngsters of any age - babies, children or kids - are enjoyable, and pictures of them and their activities as they grow can bring back many pleasant memories later on. 

 

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