How To Photograph Children In The Home?

  • 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 rain-spattered glass.

  • 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 incongruous.

  • 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 equal success.

  • 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.'

More About Methods of Approach In Child Photography

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