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Photographing Grandchildren

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posted May 7th 2018

Aren’t digital cameras great? No more thinking you were winding the film on only to discover you’d made 36 exposures of your left foot on the same frame. No more chemicals or films lost in the post. No more creeping out of darkrooms with eyes like a Morlock. George Eastman, who founded the Kodak company in 1892, invented the legendary box brownie camera with the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest’.

These days, with your digital camera, you press the button and the camera does the rest. Pretty much perfect shots every time and yet, why is it, when you’re back from a quiet week clubbing in Magaluf (or whatever you like to do with all this spare time) and invite your friends around to view your holiday photos on the widescreen, do you suddenly find they’re all washing their hair that evening – even the bald ones!

The answer is, of course, that despite the technical advances, your pictures just aren’t that interesting. Sorry, but that’s just how it is.
Since the advent of digital technology it seems that everyone with a reasonably high-end camera thinks they can become a professional. This isn’t the first time this has happened as those who can remember the catchphrase ‘Who do you think you are? David Bailey?’ will attest. Sadly, this attitude is as wrong now as it was then.

Yet even for the grandparent amateur with a basic compact camera and no real interest in the rituals of photography, it is a straightforward matter to produce photos of your grandchildren the family will want to see, just by following a few simple rules. As luck would have it, I’ve typed them here:

How Low Can You Go?
Kids are nothing more than little adults, even if they have to look up to you. Get down (as best you can obviously) and hold your camera at their eye level and create the feeling that you are a part of their world. They don’t have to look at the camera – catch them off guard when they’re playing. The best pictures often come when they are occupied with something. If you’ve got a wide angle function, get in close and it will give the background real depth.

Clear The Decks
Sometimes you can’t avoid scenes cluttered with people or things, but a plain background, a wall or a hedge, will emphasise your subject. Check your composition to ensure there are no trees or poles emerging from the child’s head!

Use Flash
Even outdoors the fill flash setting on your camera will improve your snaps. Use it in bright sunlight to lighten dark shadows on the face, especially when the sun is behind the subject, or overhead. On cloudy days the flash will brighten your subject and make them ‘stand out’ from the background.

Get Vertical
Sometimes a memory card full of horizontal images can get boring. Make an effort to turn your camera sideways and take some vertical pictures for a change.

Compose Yourself
Liven up your picture by placing the subject off centre. Imagine you’ve drawn a noughts and crosses grid on your screen or viewfinder. Now try placing one or more of the grandchildren on a point where the lines intersect or place the horizon on one or other of the horizontal lines.
This is called ‘The Rule of Thirds’ and is the most basic, and one of the best, compositional aids. Simple! Remember though: most basic cameras focus on the middle of your view. Check that your camera has a focus lock facility – most do. Focus centrally on your subject, lock, then re-compose your shot.

And remember, when all’s said and done, rules like that are made to be broken. Take a chance and try anything to break free from convention. The memories made are your memories and that’s the important thing.

Geoff Maxted

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