Moving on from the Holidays

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday. I’m sorry I have been so tardy in getting a post out to the FirstanAmateur.com Blog but I took an extended trip to the Midwest to visit some friends and our sons and grandkids. Fun stuff but I must admit that I didn’t do much photography, except for a type of photography that I just took for granted – point-and-shoot pictures of the holidays.

I hope you also had time to take some photos of family and friends over the holiday. And I wonder if you might be in the same place I am in – disappointed in your “portrait” photos of your family. I see myself as a landscape photographer – or at least attempting to become a landscape photographer. I have seen quite an improvement in my landscape photos and I have “upped” my expectation of any photos that I take. Unfortunately this has led to some disappointment in my attempt at portrait photos of my family. I suppose I could have just taken a bunch of point-and-shoot pictures and been satisfied. But as I said, my expectations have increased and I want good photographs of my grandchildren NOW.

Since I have two wonderful grandkids (aren’t everyone’s grandchildren wonderful?) I try to take photos of them as often as possible. But since they live in Ohio and I live in Idaho, I don’t have daily or weekly opportunities to take photographs of them. So, when I spend a week at their house the pressure is on for Randy to take great portrait photos just like the great infant photos I took a few years ago.

I have a beautiful 11-year-old granddaughter named Cate (aren’t all granddaughters beautiful?) and a funny cute 8-year-old grandson names Ben (yep, all grandsons are funny and cute) and in the last few years Cate has decided that “they” don’t want their picture taken. A couple years ago I even gave Cate a point-and-shoot camera for Christmas (she asked Santa for it) and talked to her about how important it was for me to take photos of her and her brother. Last winter we went on a very short “shoot” when they visited us and we talked about photography. But now she is back to hiding her face and acting shy when she sees my camera … and her brother tends to follow her lead.

Cate No  (1 of 2)

From the beginning I have called this Blog a description of my journey where I shared with my readers what I have learned. I have also hinted that I hoped the readers would share their journey so we could all learn together. But now I need to be a little more pushy – I need your help ! !  I was a college professor who taught teachers, so I had fairly regular interactions with younger children. I was also a track and cross-country coach for kids of all ages and I took tons of pictures of them running – and they liked seeing themselves running. But they weren’t my kids (OK, two of them were my sons) and they never had any problems with me taking photos. What am I doing wrong? OK, I’m not in panic mode quite yet but I am disappointed – not in my grandkids but in my ability to set-up a comfortable environment where Cate and Ben will allow me to take photos of them without having to beg (which isn’t working) or create a formal photo-time (which probably won’t work).

I’ve looked for articles on-line that might help and there are certainly some articles that address this issue. But they seem to be more for a “planned shoot” than informal photos of children. So I’m hoping for some suggestions from those readers who are parents or grandparents. As always I would greatly appreciate comments and suggestions from readers. Those of us who have children or grandchildren would love to have photographs to treasure as our children get older … but many of us need some help getting those good shots.

I have done a web-search for articles that address the challenges of taking good portrait photos of our kids. An article in Nikon Learn and Explore by Tamera Lackey (Taking Better Photos of Your Kids at Play) really stands out to me (I wish I had read it before our holiday trip to the Midwest.) I can’t give you the exact web address but it is part of the Nikon webpage under Learn and Explore. But I can give you a quote that really makes sense to me: Having your subjects trust you is obviously key for a professional shooter, but it’s equally important for the family photographer. “The best way to start when photographing your kids or nieces or nephews,” Tamara says, “is to say, ‘My whole goal is to get great pictures and have fun.’ And then let them know they’re contributing to the success of the photo—it’s a confidence builder for them.”

I will certainly look at Tamara’s article again before my grandkids visit us this spring in the mountains. She has at least a dozen suggestions that really make sense and would be easy to adopt. My approach has been telling them how important it was to me to get good photos but that does seem to work since they “hide” as soon as they realize I am taking their picture. Both of these photos show that I have to be sneaky to get a shot; they lack that fun look that says we are all having a good time.

Cate No  (2 of 2)

 

 

Ben

Arriving Home

After three weeks in the Midwest it was time to go home to Idaho. I took a lot of family pictures (most of them not qualifying as real photographs) and I looked forward to getting back in the saddle and working to become a better landscape photographer. But the transition wasn’t easy. I was used to sleeping in; my son’s stay up way-later than we do and there were lots of football games to watch. I hadn’t used my camera very often and I felt lazy. But I knew what to do. I needed to text my photo-buddy Mario and set up a sunrise shoot.

This may sound strange but I have found that when I need to get off my butt early in the morning and get out there and take some shots the best way to do that is to make a commitment to someone else to meet early in the morning. Mario and I met at the TPG Informal Critique last January and have taken a lot of photo shoots together in the park. We talk photography and share what we have learned and what is difficult to learn about photography. It has worked so well for me that it reminded me of the Peer Mentor program I developed at the university: peers supporting the learning of other students and becoming better learners from the experience. Here is a photo I took last Sunday that I don’t think I would have taken if Mario hadn’t met me at the park.

 

Snake River Sunrise

What’s Coming ?

I hope to get some advice from parents and grandparents about taking photos of their kids. In the past we haven’t had a lot of response to the FirstanAmateur.com “homework” so I’m just going to call this advice from parents to other parents. I hope a number of you will share what you have learned; I suspect I am not the only disappointed grandparent who is trying to become a photographer of beautiful, cute, funny children.

I also want to encourage you to keep an eye out for the next blog post. I wasn’t real dependable in sending out posts late in 2015 but I promise to be a good boy in 2016, at least early in 2016. I am creating a Peer Mentor Photography Program (PMPP) this winter for the Teton Photography Group. I’ll be sharing the goals and plans for the program in the FirstanAmateur.com blog next week and I hope to be able to recruit some of you to join the program.

8 thoughts on “Moving on from the Holidays

  1. Dear Disappointed Photographer Grandparent,

    What’s all the fuss? Just point and shoot. Follow Tamara’s advice, have fun. Take as many candid shots as you can. You’ll get just the right ones that you will treasure forever. That’s how it’s done. You can even edit the photos to weed out the unnecessary background images.

    The second shot of Ben is superb! It captures his personality that’s impossible in a formal shoot.

    And dear Professor, follow the advice you so often gave your students. Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, persist, work hard and you’ll succeed. Meanwhile, continue having fun. And don’t be so hard on yourself.

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  2. Nancy Peters

    I don’t have kids or grandkids and NEVER take pictures of people, so I cannot offer any help there. However, I do want to say that I appreciate your very honest and open sharing of your goals and trials and limitations. You are very relatable. Hope to see you next Monday at TPG meeting!

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  3. Thanks Nancy. I wanted to share my journey including the ups-and-downs. I suspect most amateur photographers have these same challenges. I’m hoping if I shared my successes and failures that others would feel more comfortable sharing theirs. I hope you decide to become part of the Peer Mentor Photography Program. I think you will enjoy it and add a great deal to our learning.

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  4. Curtis Leggett

    Morning Randy:

    First, let me say I like your posted early morning winter shot. You get better and better. As for shooting kids, I have not had much luck either. Their natural shyness seems to get in the way. I have had some luck by putting a prop in play: reading a book, on their bike, hanging or sitting on a tree or rock, hiking on a trail, etc. The prop seems to depersonalize it enough to let them relax. I have also done ‘silly’ pictures ( them laying on the floor, making clown faces, making a statue) as a way to get them started at letting me try to get a straight portrait. The hardest part was trying to have them make eye contact with the camera! I also had better luck with my kids when I started with them in groups and then moving on to separate shots.

    Not much help I am afraid. I guess that is why portrait photography is so hard!

    Curtis

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    1. Thanks for your kind words on my improvement and your kid photo suggestions. I think the natural shyness can be overcome by building a ‘new relationship” that builds trust and helps them understand that these are OUR photos (the children’s and the grandparent’s photos) so we need to work together. The Tamera Lackey is really good. Not only does she have great idea but she also has a great assortment of beautiful photos of children. Check it out. It is inspiring.

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