Our ability to capture moments in our lives has become so easy; but how do we capture those truly simple yet special moments when photographing children?
Cameras in our transportable smart phones and devices, allow us anywhere at anytime to record our daily routines and outings and then tell the world about them immediately via social media. Technology has made photography accessible to almost everyone. But have we lost the magic of the traditional camera? We were perhaps more thoughtful then about the pictures we took as the roll of film only had twenty four or thirty six shots. We would wait a week for the film to be developed and then upon collection, quickly search through for the best photographs to frame. When was the last time you had your photographs printed and framed? I’m guilty – I haven’t done this in months – maybe even years. So, before the summer holiday break begins and we snap away documenting new memories, I thought I’d catch up with self-taught photographer Shirley O’hara Falcone and ask for her tips on photographing children. I plan to frame some photographs this summer and give them a purpose, a little more than just to store in my phone.
Where It All Began – A Budding Photographer’s Story
Shirley sailed into Mallorca on a boat in May 2014. At eight weeks pregnant and having never been here before, she immediately felt at home. Born and bred an island girl of Antigua, there was no doubt she wanted her future child raised here – another beautiful island drenched in sunshine, with an energy and vibe she connected with instantly.
At 22, after finishing an interior design degree in Italy, Shirley was selected as one of six girls from fifty thousand applicants to star in a travel documentary, ‘Donna Aventura.’ Not merely another reality television show but inspired by the concept of a long distance rally, these girls needed grit, determination, focus and most important of all, a sense of adventure. For they were bound for Brazil, entirely responsible for driving themselves 25,000km along the coast, documenting their journey in film, photographs and weekly articles. It was during this experience that Shirley learned the technical skills of photography and was provided with the most amazing backdrops to capture and her real inspiration – communities and people. She explains it’s not just technical skills needed when taking photographs: “There’s a moment when you capture authenticity. When the filters drop and the subject’s self-consciousness dissolves in front of the camera and they are immersed in their own true self. That is what it is to capture something real. There is always a warm up period between the photographer and the subject and there needs to be a connection between them or between the subjects within the photograph…I like my images to illustrate the positive and good in life rather than the differences between people.”
After her dalliance with photography in Brazil, Shirley continued to grow in this creative field, combining it with her other passion, sailing. Back home in Antigua, racing on board Super Yachts, she focused her lens on capturing crew at work. It was an environment she felt totally comfortable in and her subjects were at ease with her too. She became a regular contributor to sailing magazines, Yachting World twice using her images for their front cover. But somewhere along the way, Shirley felt she lost her creative flair – the pressure to make a living from photography alone had stifled her. She put the camera down and explored other creative avenues…
Years later, motherhood provided her with a reason to pick up the camera again – to record precious moments with her daughter. With her creativity restored, and a greater sense of being present in every moment, she has never felt more confident behind the lens. “It’s a relief to not be limited just to photography for financial gain. For me it’s always been about finding a balance between my head and my heart. Things are happening organically for me here and I like being able to do a little bit of everything.”
Photographing Children – Some Helpful Tips
Children are often the most genuine subject in front of a camera. As Shirley puts it: “They have a rawness to their being – no filter and are more connected within themselves.” However this makes them less predictable. So when taking shots, we are the ones who have to adapt and go with the flow if we want to capture them in their natural state.
Let your child’s imagination take over and let go of the photo you want. When photographing children, you never know what you’re going to get!
Choose a location you and your child both feel relaxed in. A safe place where they love having fun – it may be the beach, in the garden or even on your front terrace.
Avoid the distraction of too many toys. One simple ball, a bucket and spade or a snuggle teddy…the simpler, the better.
Have fun and keep them engaged by turning ‘getting your picture taken’ into a game. Hide and seek is a fun one, let them hide and you go seek with your camera at the ready…you never know what surprise they may give you!
Pets and siblings add that connection you may be looking for. An image can tell a thousand words and those showing physical contact between family emanate feeling like no other.
For some natural child and parent shots, the key is to get down on the child’s level. Cuddles, kisses and tickle shots can give the smiles you’re looking for.
Don’t be afraid to play with the lighting and angles. The light from behind isn’t always a no no when it comes to photography – you may get some interesting silhouettes and shadows.
Direct the attention away from a child who is shy in front of a camera. Children are naturally curious and often a timid child will come around if you allow them to come to you.
Know when to start a photo shoot and when to finish. Attention levels are often short and an overtired child is never going to photograph well.
For other ideas and more information contact:
Shirley O’hara Falcone
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for recent work and portfolios
New website coming soon!
Written by Gemma Sherlock
About the author
After many years of moving around, Gemma, her husband and 2 children settled in Mallorca.
Why Nourish the Kids? Words, language and especially writing have always been a focus and priority for Gemma. She likes to express herself thoughtfully and with clarity whether writing or speaking and enjoys discussing and researching new ideas and topics, particularly when it comes to health and well-being.
Likes: Circuit training, pilates, cooking from Ottolenghi books, pukka tea, hummus, reflexology, the audible app, Spanish lessons at MTA and thoughtfulness.