Holding up a camera between you and your family to take a picture is to place a barrier between you and them. You’re pushing them away a little. But photography can be a shared, unifying activity – if you work at it.
‘Doing photography’ is a good thing. It forces you to look, and teaches you to see. Going about the daily round with eyes open allows the opportunity to appreciate the marvel and beauty of the ordinary. The shape of a leaf on the tree by the bus stop, the flowers opening on the hawthorn in the hedgerow, the clouds billowing over the city-centre skyscrapers, the texture of an old brick wall, the life and times engrained in the face of the elderly person resting on a bench, the body language of the courting couple, the radiant wonder in the curious eyes of the baby. Seeing and appreciating some of these small things can be a step towards finding some peace of mind and contentment.
For a family member to love photography they really need to be doing it themselves, as well as tolerating you taking their picture. I was delighted when my son chose to do Photography GCSE and bought him a little Nikon. He never used it. I assume he took pictures with his phone, I don’t know because in two years I didn’t see a single one of his photographs. My daughter developed her own interest in photography after she’d left home, so nothing to do with me, but we’re going to the Andreas Gursky photography exhibition in London’s Heywood Gallery together.
We can help our family find a love of photography, firstly by not turning them against it, and secondly by encouraging them and sharing our own knowledge and interest.
Some people grow up associating photography with boredom. That’s because they’ve spent so much time waiting for dad to take a picture of the ‘view’. I saw a child being told off by his mum on the train the other day, he wanted to look out of the window at the other trains at Clapham Junction, she wanted him to smile for the camera. He’s learning to dislike the taking of photographs. On the other hand, sharing your own delight at a nice picture of your child will encourage a positive association. If you can get the picture quickly and without fuss, so much the better. There was a lovely picture to be taken of the boy looking out of the window at the trains, but it was missed. Do photography around what the child wants to do, do not drag them to a National Trust garden and then get cross when all they want to do is go on the swings.
With a young family in tow, there’s little point in having a sophisticated camera. Better to have something very portable that can be kept out and ever-ready to snap a picture. The camera on a phone fits that bill quite well, but it will let you far more often than a simple, dedicated camera on a strap around your neck.
…get in their Face
Respect your family’s personal space and privacy. Don’t photograph a teenager just after they’ve got up. Even if it is in the middle of the afternoon and really funny. Remember that your kid’s social media is probably very important to them, and more complicated than we can ever image. Trust is easily lost, so don’t share pictures of your children without their knowledge. (As I’m doing for this post) Active consent to sharing is even better. In the tangled web that is modern social networking you can never be sure in whose feed the pictures might pop up. Damaging the trust between parent and child is bad at any age, but especially through the tricky teenage. But if they trust you not to embarrass them, you’ll get more acquiescence and even cooperation. Then you’ll get to take more pictures of them. Perhaps, even just after they’ve got up.
…keep your powder dry
So you want a day doing photography, and your family is the subject. So you want to keep them sweet. So this is not the day to tackle them on tidiness, homework or cleanliness. This is the day to take them somewhere they want to go to. If that’s not going to facilitate your photography, then try a compromise. They will let you take some pictures of them at a location of your choosing, and you will wait in the car while they go round the shops.
When you’re taking pictures of your family, get them to suggest locations and poses. ‘Try to make it fun’ – is a deadening phrase, I don’t think you can make things ‘fun’. But you can have fun doing things. Smaller kids might enjoy running around looking for something for you to photograph and looking at the screen on the camera as you take the picture, or through the viewfinder. You could even let them hold the camera and take the picture. This is when they might start to develop their own interest in photography.
…get it gift wrapped
When they’re ready, or perhaps just before, give them a camera of their own for a birthday or Christmas present. Do a little research into what’s available, even secondhand if your have a trusted camera shop locally. Think what they’ll like and what they’ll use – it should look good and be no bigger than their phone. It’s for them not for you. Keep repeating that.
The 10 Best Cameras for Kids are listing in this Digital Camera World article.
Kids are Great Photographers
They’ll surprise you. They have a fresh perspective, their view of the world is unencumbered by experiences. But whatever they take, love it. And remember they’re not interested in how you’d have taken it. Ask them to share their pictures with you so you can share them on your social media. Get some of the pictures printed, stick them on the fridge or frame one for the wall.
A Gift for Life
Photography is a great form of self expression that’s available to everyone. It forces us to look at what’s around us and teaches us to see it. Only then can we really appreciate it.