Child in a sports uniform giving a thumbs-up. Child curled up on the couch in PJs. Child with a maniacal grin standing next to Mickey Mouse.
We’ve all seen these photos. Maybe we’ve taken them ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you want to go beyond the norm – shake up your Facebook feed, get Grandma to finally look at Instagram, tell a real story and let it live on forever in a good old-fashioned picture frame – it’s time to try a few new photography tricks.
“It’s OK to break the rules. It’s all about digging into the moment,” said Sarah Wilkerson, CEO of Clickin Moms, a female-photographer social network, and author of the book “Capture the Moment: The Modern Photographer’s Guide to Finding Beauty in Everyday and Family Life” (Amphoto Books, due out April 7).
Here are five tips from Wilkerson for photos that are not like everyone else’s:
▪ Skip smiles and laughter: “Joy isn’t the only emotion worth capturing,” Wilkerson said. “Really rich childhood has anger and tears and quiet moments and sadness and surprise. It’s important to get all of it.” Shoot on the sidelines during a sibling squabble, capture your unknowing kiddo as he or she is wrapped in pretend play, or snap that rustled just-out-of-bed look in the morning. It’s part of the whole picture.
▪ Go to your garage: You’ll get a hazier background because of the dust, darkness and shadows, and that can be totally mesmerizing in a photo. Best of all, you’ll get great natural light. “Stand with your back to the open door (the light source should always be behind you) and have your child stand in the middle. It may seem like strange advice, but you will be astounded by the beauty,” Wilkerson said.
▪ Remember, blurry isn’t always bad: As they jump, twirl, dance ... don’t worry if your photo gets out of focus. People worry that a blurry photo isn’t worth keeping, but the opposite is often true. In fact, hazy photos draw a stronger emotional response because “it becomes about the energy and the feeling, rather than the little details,” explained Wilkerson. “The best photos come right after the motion stops and the energy hasn’t been released yet.”
▪ Avoid vacation cliches: Beach shots are photo gold because light reflects beautifully off sand and water. Point and click to grab your obligatory sandcastle pose, then move on to artful compositions by playing with perspective and color. “Get close and fill the frame with details of water dripping off your child’s hair or the simple ruffles of a swimsuit,” Wilkerson said. “Then take big steps back to widen your field of view. You’ll have this big swath of beach and then a very tiny child, giving a sense of the immensity of the environment.”
▪ Take your child out of the photo: Wait. What? Yes, you can take a photo that’s all about your child, without him or her. Shoot symbolic props instead. “Take your tot’s favorite things – markers, a doll, a sippy cup, a building block – and arrange them in a beautiful spread,” Wilkerson said. “This tableau of stuff can be an equally compelling way to represent them.”