We’ve partnered with our friends at global photography site Feature Shoot to spotlight some of the most compelling images in our Offset collection. This week highlights nine Offset photographers who capture authentic moments with their own families.
When it comes to family, everyone is a photographer. Yet images of skipping toddlers and angst-ridden youngsters are some of the most challenging to execute. More often than not, it takes a parent to capture the essence of his or her own child; but it’s a rare individual that possesses the patience to take on the dual responsibility of rearing children and documenting them.
We asked nine phenomenal Offset family photographers to give us some insight into how they capture such incredible images of children. The resounding response was simple: Let your kids be kids, and pay attention to what it is that makes them exactly who they are. Extra treats and fun activities don’t hurt either.
See each photographer’s images and perspective below.
Ginger Unzueta: One of the biggest mistakes mothers make as they begin taking pictures of their children is forgetting to capture the everyday life within their homes. Cameras are often pulled out for milestones, holidays, and celebrations; the other days of the year are never documented. What about the most normal, mundane days you spend with your children?
As you begin to capture the everyday beauty of your family, something special will begin to happen. You will see your days in a fresh way. You will become grateful for so many little things that you didn’t notice before. You will wonder how you went so long without these special moments included in your family albums.
One way you could get started with this is to have your camera out for one entire day. Use it from morning until night. Set a timer if you need to, and take a picture every hour or whatever increment feels comfortable. You can also take your images randomly throughout the day — but make sure you pick it up often. There may even be times that you don’t “see” something you would normally think to capture, but that is okay. Find something. The more you do this, the more you will see that there are many aspects of life within your home you haven’t noticed. Finally, remember to let your children be children. Go into this without expectations. Don’t ask for smiles or certain looks, just observe and see what happens.
Antonieta Esis: I want to capture and document the childhood of my children through photography. I love to think that we can look back and remember those special moments that we have lived together. Documenting their life as it happens — free from posing and beautifully imperfect. For me, the best way to do that is photographing my children in their natural state.
I take pictures of my boys every day doing their own thing: eating, playing, running around our house, doing homework, even when taking a bath. For me, those are the best pictures and sometimes they don’t even notice I’m there. Details, I never forget about the details. They grow up so fast, I made a habit of capturing their expressions, the bond between them as brothers, changes, and everything they do at their age.
The light plays a very important role for me; I take advantage of windows, light spaces in my own home or anywhere I feel is great for an image. Sometimes I talk to my little child about what we see out the window of his room and it’s fun for him and it’s great for me to capture his expression with the light coming from the window as he and I have a conversation. It’s surprising the images you can get just keeping things simple and letting them be as they are. I always say keep the camera handy. Keep it close; it is easier to capture a moment that you really want to keep and remember.
Kirsty Larmour: Photographing your own children can be both easier or harder than photographing others. On one hand, you know what makes them tick, but on the other, they are perhaps more inclined to say no to mum’s requests! But that’s where the fun lies. I truly believe in capturing them doing the things they love the most — let them follow their own instincts and interests and follow their lead to capture natural shots.
Sometimes they may need encouragement and guidance to keep doing something, but that’s where a mum’s intuition comes in: You know when you can eek a few extra photos out, or when it’s time to stop. For example, one of my children is more shy and thoughtful, so I get quiet pictures of her, and the other is always skipping and is very textural, so I frequently capture her bounding down a street or running her hands through something — or even both! Respecting your children’s own boundaries means they don’t get too tired of the camera and see you just as a documenter of moments, rather than someone who pushes them into situations they don’t want to be in. The best shots always happen when kids are enjoying or engaged in what they do.
Julie Mak: My children are still fairly young, so I use a wide lens most often (I prefer the 24 mm) so that I can remain relatively close to them. Using a wider lens allows me enough room to get my entire subject in the frame, and also include part of the scene. When shooting my children, I like to include the environment, as it is often an important element of the story.
I shoot at many different angles, down low with at their level which shows the world from their perspective, and from above which can help to emphasize just how little they are.
The best images come when my children forget that the camera is there. While there is a time for posed images, I usually try to avoid images with direct eye contact; it is when they are completely lost in their world that their true selves emerge. I either set them up with a project or give them opportunities to explore, and then I wait until they are fully immersed. After that, it’s a combination of patience and luck to see what unfolds and to be quick about capturing them before the moment disappears.
Lastly, I try to capture my children as they are — while I will move around to get better light, a better angle, or a less distracting background, I don’t wait for the perfect setting or scenario. I want to capture real life, as messy or imperfect as it may be.
Maria Angerilli: When I photograph my own children, most of the time, my aim is to capture them just as they are — I want to photograph them being them, rather than them acting for my camera. To get genuine moments of your everyday captured, you have to be like a fly on the wall; you observe, anticipate what may happen, and have your camera close by and ready to go. Some of my favorite photos of my children may not be technically perfect, but in one frame, that photograph tells a story.
My other tip to get genuine images of your children is to interact with them and ask them questions while you are photographing them doing an activity. You can get some great expressions from them when they are explaining something or showing you something they are doing. And then, when they are immersed in an activity, throw them off guard with a funny sound or face, and you’re sure to get some genuine laughter and smiles.
My last tip is a technical tip: I often see parents photographing their children from the perspective of looking downwards at them. Change your perspective; get down to your child’s level to see how they see the world. Whenever I give friends this tip, they are amazed at how something so simple improves the picture!
April Burns: Living on a small farm, I spend a lot of time on the back porch watching our cattle graze and the clouds floating by. I have always been amazed at how beautiful the sky and our surroundings are. When I photograph my two boys, I try to capture them in their own crazy element, but I also want them to be able to look at the photographs and see how beautiful the simple things in life are. Most of the images of my boys are action shots — they are always running this way or that way.
I try to give as little direction to them as possible to avoid them becoming annoyed with me and the camera. When I give directions, it is usually just “run towards me” or “run in that direction.” In order to capture the beauty of the clouds and their surroundings, I step back and capture the landscape as well. Many times I will take two separate exposures, one exposing for the kiddos skin and another exposing for the sky. Then I will combine the two images during my processing. I really try to watch the horizon line to keep it from running through the middle of my subjects; I either angle the camera down to keep the kiddos below the sky line or I will lay on the ground and shoot up to have the sky as my complete background.
I love puffy cloud days; I will lay on the ground and shoot up at my kiddos while they run towards me, capturing the sky behind them. I have to admit that I do bribe my boys some with popsicles and Oreos if they are not in the mood for the camera. I love capturing them in the clothes that they pick out themselves. In many of my images, my boys are wearing cowboy boots and shorts or swimming shorts, and I love it! Little things like boots, shorts, and popsicles make the most amazing images that tell colorful stories.
Carolina Hanna: What I have discovered over time is that, when photographing my own children, it cannot be all about me and getting “the shot.” It has to be about them, having fun and exploring. Instead of having them sit still and pose perfectly, I just allow them to take the lead and follow them on their adventures. Not only do they not mind being photographed, but they actually thank me for bringing them to discover cool places and allowing them to experience new things. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; I take my children to little forested areas, different neighborhood parks, or just photograph them playing around the house.
Kids have such an open mind and can find joy so easily if you allow them to. Let them just do their thing; you will have a much greater chance of capturing the true essence of childhood, along with their genuine expressions. Most importantly, don’t forget to put down the camera and enjoy time with them as well!
Kelsey Gerhard: Photographing your own children can be a bit trickier than photographing clients and other people’s children. I try to keep three things in mind when working with my own girls.
First, don’t force it. There is no one more skeptical of the camera than a photographer’s child. I don’t want to have the sort of relationship where my kids groan and shut down the moment I put my camera strap around my neck, so I try hard not to force them to be in front of it if they don’t feel like it. If I do decide I really want that shot, and they aren’t in the mood, I make sure to pay them back in some way. I’m not a huge fan of the sugar bribe, but I believe strongly in giving them something in return — even if it is just an extra hug, letting them know how much it meant that they would stop for a moment to help me out. And if I don’t get the shot in one or two takes, I definitely give up and move on.
The easiest way to photograph my kids is by trying to remain in the background while they are doing an activity they like. The best pictures always emerge when kids are doing something fun without my camera intruding or distracting them. Let kids be kids.
Finally, I like to include my girls in the process. I have a lifetime relationship with photography and it excites me to teach them about it, too. Whenever they show interest, I love to point out where I think the light looks pretty, or why I chose the lens or depth of field that I did. They get it, and they love to be a part of it too. Not only does it help in the process of photographing them if they understand what you are doing, but they actually start to enjoy it when they have some control!
Melanie Acevedo: I live in a two-story house, so I like to keep one camera upstairs and one downstairs, so that I don’t have to run all over the place when I see the kids doing something that I want to shoot. My work with my kids is very spontaneous and snapshot in style, so I’m not posing them or setting things up, merely capturing moments in time. Occasionally, I will ask them to keep doing something for me so I can get the shot. Sometimes they do it for me, and sometimes not; kids are kids, so it depends on their mood at any given time. If they get really annoyed, it can actually be a better moment — more authentic. I’m looking for the realness of them, not the set up or romantic moments, so this method works for me. I just let things happen, watch them, and don’t worry too much about the results. And of course, there are always bribes!
Offset artists are visual storytellers with a deep passion for their craft. Images in the Offset collection are gathered from world-class and award-winning assignment photographers, illustrators, and agencies, with a focus on unique content with narrative, authentic, and sophisticated qualities.
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