Available light in the home can be
difficult to work by with a moving subject and the child may move from
patches of strong light coming through the window into pools of deep
shadow in corners or beside pieces of furniture. The simplest working
method is to keep the child near the window. Persuade the younger ones
to play on the window-ledge with toy cars or bricks. Sunlight can give
a pleasing rim-lighting to a child in profile, absorbed in his game.
Older children may be looking through the window or reading a book. Try
going outside and take pictures of them looking in, possibly through
Inside again, when the child near the
window t urns towards the camera you will need to get some additional
light into the shadows. This can be provided by fill-in flash (as in
some outdoor sunlight shots) by a photo flood on a stand, or a
reflector, which can be a piece of hardboard or plywood of convenient
size painted white or covered with metal foil. Even a book or newspaper
will reflect some light into a face. A child plays the piano with an
air of deep concentration while another child looks on.
The sunlight streaming through the window
strikes the sheets of music and is reflected back to pick out the
expression on the face of the young and earnest musician. Robert
Doisneau, the brilliant French photo-journalist grabs the picture. He
had to shoot quickly because the expression came 'immediatementí. Most
of his child pictures are taken in the streets of his native Paris.
They often reveal his delicate sense of humor and an eye for the
The bounced flash technique is useful in
the home. Direct the flash on to the ceiling or a light-colored wall
instead of the subject. The result is a pleasantly diffused light
which, because of its evenness allows the child greater freedom to
wander about the room. Except where pieces of furniture cut off light
reflected from walls, you will be able to take pictures wherever the
child roams and be sure of a soft even lighting, particularly suitable
for young children. Remember to open the lens at least three stops for
this method, which is only suitable for color if the walls and ceilings
are white. A photoflood in a reflector can be used in this way with
If there is a fireplace in the room, a
photoflood placed in it will give convincing 'firelight' pictures, with
the children in pajamas grouped on the hearth-rug.
Two photofloods on portable adjustable
stands widen the scope of photography at home. One can be kept near the
camera and well-diffused while the other is used as the principal
modeling light and is moved about and positioned to give 'roundness' to
the face and, at the same time, avoid shadows cast by furniture. A
small spotlight used high and behind the child will add lustre to the
hair, but this has to be used cautiously. Stray light from this lamp
must not be allowed to fall on the forehead or tip of the nose. You are
often better off without it when a baby has little hair or is very
fair. Otherwise you are liable to have burned-out highlights and a bald
look, which the mother will not like.
As the lighting grows more elaborate you
need to exercise greater control over the child, probably confining him
to a particular area in the room where the lighting is set up. Often,
you have to rearrange the furniture, and it is vet-tautly advisable to
remove all knickknacks and ornaments. If the wall is plain you are
lucky, but it is more likely to he decorated with a strongly patterned
paper. The one room where conditions are usually conducive to good
child photography is the bathroom, where the walls are not only plain
and light, they are also highly reflective. Consequently one light, be
it flood or flash, is sufficient, as it bounces about from wall to wall
producing good modeling. Children often enjoy bath time and make
delightful pictures at play in the water. But even here, objects such
as taps can intrude.
Children also like to be told bedtime
stories and here is another delightful picture-subject. Inspector V. A.
Belgamkar, C.I.D. photographer of Bhopal, India, took his successful
exhibition picture of an old lady reading to two young children, with a
Rolleiflex and photofloods. Indian houses often have plain white
interior walls, so backgrounds there are less of a problem than in the
modern European house.
Inspector Belgamkar tells me that he used
a diffusing filter for the picture, which he titled, Tell Tales. He
tries to create a 'homely' atmosphere and never orders children about.
'After a while,' he says, 'they find suitable poses themselves but it
requires patience.' As an escape from the sordid photography he is
called upon to do in the course of his police duties he likes to
photograph pleasanter things to make exhibition pictures. India abounds
in camera subjects, but children are 'the most easily available. Even
if I spend a little time getting the right pose and expression,' he
says, 'it is a real recreation for me to live for a while in the
innocent world of children.'