Thinking on (and off) My Feet

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There’s an old entertainment line (attributed to W.C. Fields) about never working with kids or animals. They always steal the show. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to go out and take pictures of a couple of my friends and their kids. I had been out with them before, but didn’t get as many shots of the happy couple alone and we’d have liked. So we tried again, taking the whole family downtown this time. The kids weren’t too keen on group shots, but when let loose… well, it was difficult to focus on the adults.
Kids are difficult to photograph. Ask anyone who has tried to make portraits of children and they will tell you, kids don’t stay still for long. The challenge is in keeping up with them… and keeping them happy – nobody wants a portrait of their child crying.

In order to keep their son occupied for a few moments (and allow me to get in a few shots of the parents alone), they handed him their P&S camera and asked him to take some pictures as well. (I didn’t get to see his results, but I understand they turned out well; we may have a prodigy on our hands.)

Taking a page out of… well lots of places, really – the concept being that to make a better picture of things smaller than the average adult human (things we tend to look at from a downward angle, like animals or children), it is better to get down to eye level or lower with the subject. I decided to lie down on the side of this hill and see if I could get the kids to come close enough and stand still long enough for me to get an interesting portrait. Of course, they had no interest in helping me on this task, but their daughter did allow me this action shot as she tumbled down the hill.

For my portrait work, I find myself most often reaching for my fast prime lenses. I can’t give many real, tangible reasons for this. I guess it just feels right to me. But for working with young children and families with young children, there are some very real advantages to using a zoom lens. Then you can let the kids play, and just try and keep up.


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June 2010


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