When I was about 5 or 6 months pregnant with my first child, I asked my husband to take a profile picture of me. We don’t have any family in town, so I wanted to post a picture for family to see. I wanted it to be a flattering shot, of course. I had him take one, then I would examine it on the LCD screen of our point and shoot. It looked so strange to me. Not my growing belly, but my face, and my height, and my shorter than usual legs. I had him take a couple more. After the third shot, I stopped worrying about my smile and hair and watched him take the picture. My husband is 6 feet tall. I am 5’4. When he took the picture, he angled the camera down on me. The result was a distorted image. HA! It wasn’t just me. I wish I could find the picture to show you. Once I realized it, I had him crouch to my eye level, and that shot looked “normal.”
Once I had my daughter and started taking pictures of her, I realized I was doing the same thing. I pointed my camera down on little Miss S. It created some distortion and always forced her to look up. So my tip for this week, is to consider your point of view and how it helps shape the story/memory you are capturing.
Here are a couple shots I took of my kids while on a field trip. They were having fun playing with the pumpkins (even though we were there to pick apples). Of course, their backs were to me, so I asked them to turn around and show me their pumpkins. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get a smile, so I would settle for their faces. Their expressions were so funny that I stopped mid squat and stood back up. They were both so annoyed with me for interrupting their play for a picture, and I wanted to remember their tough little expressions of defiance. And remember it from my point of view. I realize if you don’t know my son he might look a little sad, but trust me, he was like “mom???? Again with the camera??” Those are my only 2 shots of the day at the fruit farm, and I love them.
Here is another example of how perspective can help tell the story. My kids were playing in the foyer one afternoon, and I noticed my daughter had the cars and trucks all lined up. When I asked her what she was playing she said “traffic jam.” I thought this was great and because I always have my camera handy, I started positioning myself on the floor at their level to take a shot. I took a couple, but realized you couldn’t really get a sense of the play from that angle. So I stood up. Then I looked up and realized I would still be able to see them from the hallway at the top of the stairs. So I ran. Fortunately, they didn’t move much and I got a shot that truly reflected their play. It reminded me of the helicopter shots you see on the traffic report.
Sometimes, I plan the “candid” shots I want to take. I wanted to take a picture of Miss S in the tub surrounded by bubbles. To place emphasis on the bubbles, I wanted to shoot from above her. Here is the shot.
I like the above photo, but I felt it lacked emotion. So I sat down on the floor in front of the tub and reviewed the picture on my LCD. When I looked up, my silly little guy was smeary bubbles on himself. Big sister thought this was hysterical: that became my “bubble story.”
I am constantly squatting or sitting on the ground to take photos of my 2 year old and almost 4 year old. In the back of my head, I realize I must look like a fool shouting “Diego” or “Daddy’s stinky” while scooting around on my knees in the strawberry patch, but hey, I want a good shot.
When working with clients, I realize that the parents are probably going to be taller than me, so I bring a stool. I try to make sure I am at eye level with the tallest person. Otherwise, I will be shooting upward. And who really wants to see up the nose shots? When my clients sit, I sit. When a kid dives on his belly into the leaves, so do I. Stay at their level.
With that being said, by changing your perspective, you can change the story. When shooting down on kids, you see their smallness. And this is the perspective we see them from. Sometimes, that is how I want to remember them.