consett photographer blog about photography in county durham and Tyneside in the "north East" of England
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consett photographer blog about photography in county durham and Tyneside in the "north East" of England

As with most beginnings, it’s good to start with a plan. If you intend to set about a serious
photographic coverage of a child, then having an organized approach will greatly increase
your good results.
That doesn’t mean you won’t take advantage of luck and, when you see a wonderful
moment, grab the camera and take a picture. You will do that. But you also will plan photo
shoots almost in the same way a professional would—by setting aside time, getting your
equipment together, and creating or finding a good location and lighting. Finally, you’ll
decide on the style you want to try that day—and start shooting. Each time you organize a
“photo shoot” with your child, you should have a goal for the style of pictures you want. Try
creating photo assignments for yourself based on each chapter of the book. Use the topic of
the chapter as your assignment. Make an effort to shoot at least one specific assignment each
month in addition to any day-to-day photography you do.
The approaches and styles introduced will help you plan your shooting day. For example,
one day you may concentrate on close-ups of the face, choosing a suitable location and
wardrobe. Another time you may try showing the child in action, outdoors playing a game;
or you may plan coverage of the intense concentration a child shows while working on a
craft or assembling a toy or puzzle.
Babies and children are unpredictable, so much of your success will depend on the age
you are working with and the mood of the child that day. Babies and toddlers, if they are
dry, well fed, not teething, or needing a nap, may be enticed into most any location you
want. Older children may not follow your plan and are likely to present their own ideas of
what they want to do or where you should photograph them. But having a plan gives you
a departure point. Even just following a child as he wanders the backyard can be a plan for
one of your shoots. The one sure thing is that having a plan, in the long run, will result in
more good photos than just shooting random moments. The discipline of following a plan
intensifies the experience and helps you to learn. Keep in mind that professional photographers
base their careers on this kind of discipline—it’s called “making the shot happen,”
and requires diligence every bit as much as talent and skill
Depending on your relationship with the child, set realistic expectations of what you can
achieve for each shoot. Use each opportunity with the child to take a certain type of photograph.
You can be flexible, depending on the circumstances, but when assigning yourself a
plan ahead of time, take into consideration the amount of time you are likely to have, the
conditions you’ll encounter, and your ability to control those conditions.
For example, if you are a grandparent on a family visit, you might be able to control
your photography to the extent that you can position your grown son with your toddler
grandson on his lap, in open shade, on a porch, reading together. You can work for closeups
of the toddler engrossed in the book, or an endearing interaction between father and
son. That will work as long as the baby isn’t bored with the activity or your son/collaborator
isn’t pulled away to a conference call. If you are a parent, by working alone with your
child you have control and some excellent opportunities for photography. But don’t ignore
the value of assistance from the other parent, partner, or an older sibling. It can be very good
to have a helper (“baby wrangler” is the term in the profession), either to be a model actually
in the photo with the child, or to help distract or assist. Your partner’s shoulder, upon
which a toddler can be perched, or a lap where the baby can be safely contained are very
useful, safe locations.
Consider who you are as the photographer, i.e., your relationship to the child, and what
advantages or limitations it brings to your job as a self-appointed chronicler of this child’s
life. Are you the parent? Then your great advantage is that you spend lots of time with the
child. You are there, at every time of day, in every season, and at many locations whether at
home or on vacation. In addition, the child is totally at ease with you. The drawback to the
parent as photographer may be that you are exhausted and harried by a hectic life, which
keeps you busy coping with career, home, and child-rearing. If the images are important to
you, then set aside time on a consistent basis for photography. Once a week for two hours.
Or every day for a shorter time. Just don’t let those months and years slip away without a
record.
If you are a visiting grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend, your advantage may be
the novelty you present to the children. Oftentimes, someone they don’t see on a daily basis
can catch their imagination for a brief period, just enough for some terrific photographs. For
example, if you are the grandparent of a toddler who is fascinated by your tractor lawnmower,
then perching that child behind the wheel (motor turned off, naturally) could yield
some delightful, exuberant expressions. Anything special you do on your visits, especially if
you get the child alone, will provide photographic possibilities. The bonus is that your
photographic bond can build an even richer relationship with the child. The disadvantage is
that your time with the child may be limited, or you may be around the child when the situation
is fraught with other activities.
Back to the idea of planning. Since your time with the child is probably limited, you can
make that time produce the best photographs if you think ahead about what you want to try
to photograph. If you are going to babysit the child during a quiet afternoon, you can plan
some setup portraits with your young nephew or niece. However, if it is a busy weekend with
relatives gathering for a barbecue, you may not be able to do more than try to catch the child
in action.