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May 03, 2013

By Me Ra Koh

5 Photo Tips for Capturing Your Child’s World

Sesame Workshop and professional photographer and TV photo expert Me Ra Koh have joined forces to bring you the “My World” photo contest with grand prizes that include a luxury, family vacation from Sandals or one-on-one coaching from Me Ra Koh and more! Click here to enter your own My World photos! Deadline is May 4th! Find Me Ra at www.merakoh.com.

I will never forget the afternoon it happened.  Pascaline, my daughter, was 18 months old and playing on the living room floor.  The afternoon sun began to spill into the room and illuminated her with this magical, golden light.  Everything in me wanted to capture that moment, to make time stand still.  But I didn’t even own a camera.  At thirty years old, I decided to buy my first camera.  Ten years later I’m still in love with the magic of photography. For years I assumed good photography was out of my reach.  I’m so glad I found I was wrong. Whether we are documenting the latest blanket fort our child has built or our baby’s chubby legs, there are several simple ways to tell their story and capture their world through the photos we take, even if you don’t have a professional photography background.

Here are five photo tips for capturing your child’s world.  You don’t have to own an expensive camera for these photo tips.  The built in camera of your SmartPhone will do the trick.  Knowing what story to tell is the focus.

  1. Refuse to Say Cheese.  This four word statement is my mantra to moms all over the world.  No matter what country my family and I are travelling through, the local people may not know a word of English but they still say “cheese” to their kids when taking their photos.  Refuse to say “cheese” and capture the story—especially the ones without smiles.  There is no question about how cute smiles are but frowns are fun too!  Now that my kids are older, nine and twelve years old, they get a kick out of their fussy pictures much more than the smiling ones!

  1. Pick a Story Based on Their Developmental Stage.  Every parent knows how easy it is to take thousands of photos of their child.  Picking one story to tell helps give your picture taking focus.  For example, did your baby discover his toes or fingers recently and sucks on them all day?  Did she learn to sit up recently on her own?  Or maybe your toddler is in love with princess dresses and wears the same dress every day, refusing to let you wash it.  Finding the story of what is happening today helps give you focus and keeps you from overshooting.

  1. Turn Off Your Flash and Face the Window Light.  The built in flash to your camera or on your smart phone gives horrible results.  The flash washes out your child’s skin coloring, and it often leaves your little one looking like he has a five o’clock shadow.  My advice is to turn off the Auto flash and have your child face the window light.  The results of window light is soft, flattering, and most of all, no five o’clock shadows.

  1. Limit Yourself to 36 Photos.  When I first started photography, it was still a film world.  I had two rolls of film that I would use for every portrait photo shoot.  Being limited to 36 photos per roll of film caused me to slow down, look for the shot, and find the story before shooting.  The digital world is wonderful because we can take endless photos.  But this is the exact reason why the digital photo world is overwhelming.  I don’t know about you, but being able to take endless photos can feel stressful.  It becomes so easy to overshoot the moment to where I have fifty photos of the same moment.  Anyone relate?  Next time you set out to capture your child, limit yourself to 36 photos—tell yourself you only have two rolls of film.  How are you going to spend each photo?   Take a deep breath, slow down, find the window light, and in taking these steps, you are setting yourself up for success.
  2. Document Defining Details.  Sometimes we can get so focused on capturing our child’s face that we forget about all the little defining details.  As you capture a photographic story of your children, consider adding images that are defining details specific to their age.  This could be the shoes they wear, their bedroom, or the favorite toy.  Your child can be in the photo, but for defining detail shots it’s almost fun to not have them in the photo.

Photography is powerful.  It provides a visual record of our child’s world.  Even if the photo isn’t perfect, the story still moves us.  My mom has a photo of me as a baby standing in my crib with my dad sitting on the couch watching TV next to the crib.  I LOVE seeing the rust colored shag carpet, the wide wing collars on my dad’s polyester shirt, or the paisley orange colored couch that he’s sitting on.  Mom wasn’t a professional photographer.  There is clutter around the crib, toys all over the floor.  Yet, when I look at the photo, I don’t see all the imperfections, I see me—and I see this real world I came from.  When my kids are older, I love that they too will have a visual history of the world they came from.  And this sense of “knowing you came from somewhere, a place where you were loved” will help them stand that much taller.       

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