Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons in child photography.

I had the pleasure of spending yesterday morning with one of my favorite people on the planet, my good friend Kim (a.k.a. former roommate, former co-worker, former fellow grad student) and her two beautiful kids. Kim was hoping to get a picture to use in her Christmas card, so we agreed to meet at her house, which is about 30 minutes north of here in Hermitage, PA.

To describe Kim, she is the classic white shirt in my closet of friends. I can take her anywhere, she goes with everything, and I never get tired of her. She's the kind of friend who doesn't care if your hair or your life is a mess. The kind who can fool your parents into believing you only associate with respectable people. The kind who makes you believe you look skinny the same week you give birth. The kind with a solid internal compass who always seems to know which way is up. She's the kind of friend who makes you glad you took a crappy paying job because it meant your paths crossed and you ended up with a million memories and a friend for life. She's just that kind of friend.

Kim's babies are as cute as Kim is fun. Her first-born is son Spencer, a bright-eyed three-year-old who is bursting with questions and giggles, energy and spirit. He's the kind of kid who makes a photographer wish for a second (stronger) cup of coffee and a higher speed lens. He's all boy and an absolute blast.
Little sister Sydney, who celebrated her first birthday in October, recently discovered her land legs and is a girl on the go. She has the face of a doll baby, perfectly round with wide-eyes that take everything in. When she smirks, you get a sense that there's an inside joke that you're not quite getting.
Now that you have the background on these faces, let me share my ah-ha! (or should I say duh-ha?) moments about child photography from yesterday. Just as in raising kids, I realized that it takes a village to photograph them. In order to get even a half decent shot of a child, you need to be able to quickly shift into any one of the following roles: clown, athlete, school teacher, negotiator, director, comedian, sports commentator, magician, animal tamer, hairdresser, wardrobe assistant, fashion guru, set designer, therapist, playmate, artist, coach, and chef. There is rarely an opportunity for a still shot. You have to work (and work hard) for every picture you take. I must admit that I felt frustrated at times throughout the morning. I was expecting to breeze in, snap some lovely pictures (i.e. dreamy child sitting perfectly still on doorstep) and head home. Those moments and those images were no where to be found. And the more I pushed for them, the more frustrated I became. I began to wonder if I might throw a little tantrum of my own. And that's when I realized that it was me who needed a time-out. I needed a reset. I needed to regroup. And I needed to remind myself that the big picture is not always about getting the perfect one.

Kim, thanks for sharing your kids with me yesterday. You're a great mom and a wonderful friend. Hope you like the pictures as much as I do :)


  1. And that my friend is why they should pay you the big bucks!! It reminds me so much of the time I offered to take pictures of my great-niece at Pearson Park. I had visions, she had her own agenda, one that did not include cooperating with the photographer. i think I resorted to bribery. Nice job here, Mom should be very pleased. I especially like the BW of Spencer looking at the ornament and the desaturatd one of Sydney in the hat.

  2. Hi SP!! I'm so glad you posted! Did your Pearson Park adventure have any influence on the kinds (or ages) of subjects you shoot now? It definitely requires a different energy level, doesn't it? Not sure if I could do that everyday, but here and there it's fun!

  3. I love shooting kids. It is one of my favorite things to do. However I like to do it on my terms, when I can sneak around with the camera and catch them unaware. What you did is plain hard work. And I think you did a great job. Getting them to look at you and smile is next to impossible unless you have some along to entertain for you.

  4. If you didn't use the word "Camera" in that last comment, I would call the police. The "laughter police" that is!! ;)