Monday, January 26, 2015

photography: how to capture your kids without revealing their identity

Sharing photos of your children online; it's a pertinent topic in the blogging world and it's one I constantly think about as my online space evolves and my children grow. Taking photos of your children is part and parcel of being a parent and if you're a personal blogger (or an instagram/facebook user) your children are a significant part of your story. However, there are people out there who choose to keep their children anonymous but still want to creatively document experiences, milestones and the beauty of childhood. Sound familiar? This post is for you!

Perhaps one of the most significant changes you can make as a photographer is to embrace a candid approach to taking photos. Ideally you don't want your children to realise you're taking photos of them hence don't ask them to stare down the lens or "say cheese". Act sleuth-like and you're more likely to capture the moment without revealing the face.

Let's begin...





set the scene : the photo of Poet above says a lot about the season, location and her personality. It's winter (long pants, jumper), we're at the beach and she's decided to jump in, clothes and all. I don't need to show her face here and to be honest, I think it's a more whimsical shot as a result.


stand back : I think parents tend to get up close and personal when they photograph their children. I know I do it all the time but lately I've been standing back and photographing Poet within the landscape. This works really well if you want to set the scene and it's particularly useful if you don't want to show your child's face. In this shot (above) I'm standing on a rock wall and hence I'm much higher than her. You can't see her face here but you can see that her fist is clenched; anticipating the incoming wave.


encourage your child to wear a hat : if you've read this blog for a while you may have noticed that my children are always wearing hats - for practical reasons (they've inherited my English-rose skin) and aesthetic purposes (toddlers in bonnets - need I say more?). When you photograph a hat-wearing child from the side it's very hard to distinguish his/her features hence it's a great technique for capturing a moment without revealing an identity. This photo isn't about Poet's face, it's about her stance (because two-year-olds squat with such ease) and her hands playing with sand; it wasn't at all necessary for me to reveal her face.


follow your child : parents naturally lead and yet you often capture the most evocative images of your child when you follow. In this shot we are walking home after collecting lemons from our neighbour's tree. Poet was determined to carry the heavy bag and she's struggling (but persisting) - an honest capture of her personality traits. It's also tells the story of our "journey" as we walk from one garden to the next. 


focus on the foreground : the focal point in this image is the plant in the foreground and yet the photo captures Che exploring in the garden. You can use this technique as a great way of capturing an activity that your child is engrossed in (for those accustomed to manual shooting I have focussed on the plant and then recomposed the image to place Che in the centre). In this image I'm using a aperture of 2.8 hence I have a shallow depth of field (foreground is in focus, mid and background is blurred). A shallow depth of field is a great technique to use when you shoot manual; you literally choose what's in focus, hence it's easy to blur your child's features but still accurately capture them in a landscape, activity, scene. 


shoot over-the-shoulder : in this shot Che is reading a newspaper clipping of knock-knock jokes (my mum cuts them out of the Sunday paper every week). Cheesy jokes are his current obsession. When you shoot over-the-shoulder you tend to focus on the hands and hence capture your child reading, eating, building blocks, painting, playing. It's a great technique to use if you want to "document childhood". 


photograph your child's accessories : the clothes and accessories that children choose to wear say so much about their personalities. In this shot Che's wearing his favourite "peace"shirt (from Paul and Paula), his new "super-cool" Spiderman watch and he's reading a book on how to create a comic strip (his favourite school holiday activity).

capture subtle facial features : this is for the blogger who doesn't mind photographing parts of the face but doesn't feel comfortable featuring a front-on headshot. I'm shooting on an angle here; midway between straight-on and from-above. I suppose it's the angle that you would naturally shoot your kids at if you held the camera to your eye and looked straight down at them. You could call this a lazy way of shooting but I really like it; if you look back through my blog you'll see it used quite a bit.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you have any questions I'm more than happy to answer them within the comments section.


38 COMMENTS

  1. I love this post and the stories you have captured within it. I've been experimenting with photography for a few months now and find that by disguising their identity you often get a more evocative shot. All these tips are great!

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  2. I love this post. Thank you for the tips! I'm sharing it or twitter!
    Marta
    A Bilingual Baby

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  3. Really creative, useful photography tips Jodi. I have finally reached the point where I never switch from M and I couldn't agree more with your points about control on light etc. To go back to Auto settings now; the photos just look so flat, for want of a better word. The photos in this post are beautiful. x

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  4. This is so perfect and timely. We've been discussing this subject ALOT lately because I really want to start writing a blog but my husband is absolutely against having photos of our son anywhere online. I totally get his perspective (and I do share his ideals) but it makes it so much harder for me to document our lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  5. Lovely tips Jodi and as always, BEAUTIFUL photos!

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  6. Thanks for a great post as this topic is a difficult one. I will definitely take your tips on board for future blog posts, very helpful. T x

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  7. This is a wonderful post. My 8 year old has recently asked me not to include her image on social media, I was lost for ideas of cutting her out totally but some of these ideas will be fabulous.

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  8. Gorgeous pictures and great tips... might start trying them out instead of avoiding it all together!

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  9. Great tips Jodie. I really try to be cautious with the images I post of my boys on my blog, I find I take a lot of hands and feet.

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  10. Thank you for this super useful post!
    The only problem I can see with my kids is their awful taste in clothes. They never look presentable in pictures since it is angry birds or go naked ��. Luckily, I find them adorable anyway, but I so dream of two little boys dressed as cutely as your children.

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  11. These are great tips Jodie! Such beautiful pictures, as always!

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  12. You are perfect! I do not have kids, not for a while, but I want to cherish these articles for the next ten years so I have them when I'm ready to be a mother. Thank you!

    www.oolretaw.com/blog

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  13. I love everything this post. I have been a blogger for 7 years now and never once added a picture of myself or my son. I would never ever post his images online for some creep to steal. I really do not understand how some women can post naked pictures of their kids online and then get mad if they cannot.

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  14. too many great tips to count! shooting pictures of children using that candid approach really challenges creativity and perspective. but what i love most is how it allows us to REALLY narrow in on our children: tier actions, emotions, interests. such a great post. thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  15. Absolutely wonderful Jodi. I keep my son's photos anonymous for the most part, if more writing about motherhood comes into my blog I'm still out on whether or not I'd share his name, it's little things like this that we wonder about as parents. Thanks for these tips, they make me feel good because I'm already doing a lot of these things!

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  16. This post was incredibly helpful as I begin to think about how I want to "present" the arrival of my baby this fall. You've shot some wonderful photos of Poet and Che.

    I believe I asked this on another post, but which lens are you shooting with? Or which would one (I use a Canon 60D) do you recommend for portraits of kids? I currently have the 50mm 1.8 and 35mm 2.0 but wondering if I should another another to my arsenal?

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  17. this is a lovely post, and though i choose to show my children's faces(i started my blog so my family far away could see them grow) i think its great that some people keep their children's identity off the internet, If my situation were different i may make the same decision... for me i simply love your view on angles etc. i have a view friends who will love this post!

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  18. Thank you Jodi - this is an approach that I generally take. I don't feel like you need to have a complete shot of a face to have a lovely photograph xo

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  19. This is really great advice thank you. I don't show front on pictures of my children on my blog and as a result don't include many photos at all. I'm not a great photographer and struggle with creating interesting photos that don't include their faces. I will give these ideas a go. Thanks :)

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  20. Such beautiful advice and photos! I'll definitely be giving these a go when my little one is a bit bigger and cruising around on his own steam.

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  21. These are lovely shots and in many ways I think they tell such a better story than if the focus was on the kids faces or identity. This is a great post. I try and not use identifying shots of my kids but more and more I have been but I think I might revert back.

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  22. I rarely put photos of my daughter on facebook but i do on instagram (i don't have many followers anyway!) I hadn't realised until i looked back but many of them don't show from behind or side on so i have naturally been shooting like this without realising. I have always loved photography (my father & grandfather are photography enthusiasts) and i studied photography for my hsc but things have changed since the 90's. I have a Nikon 3000 which i don't love but can't afford a new camera at the moment. Maybe if i learnt to shoot manual on it i'd be happier with it's results? Do you know of anyone in our area that offers short courses in shooting in manual? I love your photography, so inspiring.

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  23. Very sound ideas and lovely shots , I'd love to learn more about manual shooting too.

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  24. Great tips Jodi, also for taking photos of people in general as I think these sorts of photos tell a story better than if their faces were more recognizable. As humans we are immediately drawn to the eyes and the face as a whole and so that would be the main focus instead of body language and details that you have captured so well.

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  25. I love this post. I've thought about not posting pictures of my daughter anymore, but great suggestions on how to photograph them without using their faces.

    BTW, I see the picture of the little sweater vest with the hood. I just finished knitting one for my daughter and she can't wait to wear it this fall. Thanks!

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  26. I have never thought of photographing my daughter this way, although often I have considered putting a stop to sharing photos but since blogging I thoroughly enjoying sharing her adventures. Thank you for this idea, I have taken it to heart xo

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  27. I love this post because it is a topic I've been struggling with for a while. For me, the hardest part is names. I've tried and keep the names of my kids and my husband out of my posts, but people that know them tend to refer to them by name in comments. As for pictures, I've been more careful with my daughter (almost 4) than my son (barely 1) because I know her facial feature are more set and his will still change greatly. But he is growing up and this post might be the push I need to start taking it more seriously. Thank you for writing it!

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  28. I do these things too. FAB post. Great examples.

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  29. Such a wonderful and useful post. You are truly set apart in the blog world. Thanks for the thoughtful tips.

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    Replies
    1. That's a lovely thing to say. Thank you x

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  30. Very clever, Jodi. I haven't really struggled too much with my decision to put my kids on my blog, but I am not one to really tell their stories - I keep it light. I love all of these images and somehow they seem more 'universal' when Poet and Che's faces aren't seen. x

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    Replies
    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your "universal" description; a lovely way to put it x

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  31. That's so helpful, moreover with growing children and teens...

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  32. Thank you so much for this.
    Kind regards,
    Kenza.

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  33. Wonderful tips and pictures. I can't wait to try. Thanks!

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  34. Great post Jodi! Regards from Portugal!

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