The default mode when photographing just about anything is to stand where you are and point the camera at your subject. Sometimes you get lucky and wind up with a great shot. But, more often changing your perspective, even just a little, can make all the difference in the impact of your image and in capturing the memory you want to keep.
- Get on the Child’s Level: Children are not just smaller than adults but also spend much of their time playing on the ground. Getting on their level allows you to see the world as they see it. It also provides more opportunities to get your child to look directly at the camera which will provide a strong connection with the viewer.
- Get Above the Child: If your goal is to capture how small your child is a good way to shoot them is from above. Shooting children from above can provide a great sense of scale showing, for example, how little your child is in relation to his surroundings or even in relation to the photographer’s feet and legs. Don’t be afraid to stand on your tippy toes or a chair to get the shot you want! Sometimes this is the best way to include multiple people in the frame when you are in a tight space and cannot back enough. Having a child look up at the camera is also a great way to get gorgeous catchlights in their eyes.
- Get Below the Child: By getting below your child you can make him appear bigger. This perspective is often used in portraits of businessmen to portray power and can be used just as effectively with children to portray a sense of accomplishment, ranging from taking first steps through a proud child at graduation. It’s also a great way add height to an image of child climbing or jumping and may make the child appear much higher than he actually is. Sometimes getting this type of shot means lying on the ground but it’s worth the trouble to get a new perspective.
- Over the Shoulder: This is a form of layering in photographs that can add a dimension of interest to your photographs by showing how a child is interacting with someone else in the frame. It’s a great way to capture natural expressions in children because they will generally be interacting with someone other than the photographer when you are taking a shot with this type of perspective.
- Use the Foreground: This type of perspective may take a little bit of practice at first, but it is an easy way to add depth and storytelling elements to your photos once you get the hang of it. Instead of getting very close to the child move a little farther back and capture some of the scenery or activity. For example, if your child is playing with Legos, include something he has already built in the foreground of the frame. Or, if your child is working on an art project stand back a bit to include some of the art supplies she is using. The same technique can be used when photographing children outside if some grass, leaves, or flowers are included in the foreground for context.
- Fill the Frame: While sometimes you want to set the scene and include some context in your photographs of children, other times you want to focus on a child’s adorable face, sparkling eyes, or great expressions. Getting very close to a child is a great way to ensure the viewer is focused on the child. It’s also a great way to take great photographs even when the background is very cluttered.
- Get Behind: Sometimes getting behind a child is the best way to capture the moment. Looking at something, whether it is a new toy or a beautiful sunset, from the child’s perspective is the best way to preserve the memory you are trying to keep. This is also a great way to preserve memories that would be impossible to capture any other way, such as the way a child carries her backpack or drags his favorite blanket behind him.
- Walk Around: Sometimes the best perspective isn’t obvious. If circumstances permit, try walking around the child to find the best angle. Sometimes just taking a few steps to the left or right can eliminate distractions or clutter in the background or prevent it from looking as though a tree is sprouting from the child’s head.
After you spend some time experimenting with perspective shooting from different angles will become natural and you will be amazed at how much difference moving yourself (and your camera) just a bit can result in completely different shots.
Jamie Davis Smith