Approach + Perspective | Becoming a Family Historian Lesson 2

Last week I covered making your game plan, and I hope you had a wonderful week observing all of the little things that you hope to be able to document well by the end of this series! If you missed it, you can give it a read here.

For this week’s lesson, we’re going to actually cover TWO things that you need to start thinking about as you capture your images. The first will be your approach, and the second will be your perspective. Let’s dive in!

Approach: Become Invisible

You read that right. I want you to become invisible. What does that mean? Well, for starters, if you happen to be in the habit of saying “look at mama!” or “say cheese!”… we will need to put an end to that. In order to capture those beautiful, authentic moments that make your heart skip a beat you’ll want to be sneaky. We all know that some of the cute things our kids do immediately come to an end if they know we’re watching, right? Calling for their attention, asking them to smile, or directing them to change the way they are doing something while you are trying to take a picture trains them to halt their normal behavior when they see you with your camera. That’s not what we want!

Captured with iPhone XR

By becoming master camera ninjas, we can snap those photos without them skipping a beat. But if the so called “bad habits” are already in place, how do we break them? Simply have your camera out often! Make it a point to take photos without giving any direction to your kids. ONLY document what is happening authentically. If you get busted and your child (or other subject) stops to cheese it up or strike a pose, snap a quick image to make them feel good and then encourage them to resume their activity.

Be a fly on the wall, have your camera out often, and don’t give direction. Consistency in these simple steps will help break those habits and open up windows for capturing genuine moments.

Perspective: Move Your Body

Before we get into the nitty gritty on this, let’s talk about what perspective means in relation to photography. Perspective is an important part of the composition of an image. Composition is simply the way you arrange the view of your image to suit your core idea or goal for your image. Perspective is important because it helps communicate the story you are telling with the image. You can take three different photos of the same scene and tell a different story based on the angle you shoot from, how much of the surrounding area you include in your image, and other compositional techniques that you choose to use. Let’s look a few ways that we can accomplish changing up our perspective:

Get low - Especially when you are shooting kids, you’ll find that physically getting low - on their level - can create a more captivating image. Also, getting low can really create an even greater contrast of the size of your subject vs. their surroundings. For example, if you get down on the same level with your toddler playing under a shade tree, and place the toddler within the bottom third of the frame, you’ll be able to show just how big that tree really is compared to your little one.

Captured with iPhone XR

Shoot from above - I love to shoot from above when I’m photographing my kids. Looking back at these images it’s like going back to the moment I was standing there looking down at what they were doing. When shooting from above, be sure to hold your phone parallel to the floor directly over your subject, not at an angle. If you have an iPhone, your phone likely will show you two little crosshairs that will line up when your phone is level.

Captured with iPhone XR

Close crop - Sometimes you can really bring back memories by documenting the tiniest details of a scene. Maybe it’s the little dirt covered toes of your barefoot toddler, or pretty pink manicured fingers gripping a pen as your daughter doodles. Whatever it may be, getting in close and capturing the details and excluding the distractions is a wonderful option.

Captured with Canon 6D mark ii + Canon EF 35mm f/2

Wide angle - Alternatively, you can step back and capture the whole scene with a wide angle to tell a story with the context of the surroundings. Is that little game of tic-tac-toe happening at your feet in the kitchen as you cook dinner? Has coloring turned into a giant disaster of crafty mess? Include the surroundings to tell the full story!

Captured with iPhone XR

Layering - Layering is when you include multiple layers to a scene. For example, you may be focused on your little one blowing a dandelion in the yard, but there is some tall grass unfocused between you and the subject. Layering is a great technique to not only add depth to an image but also give an authentic viewpoint.

Captured with Canon 6D mark ii + Canon EF 35mm f/2

Framing - Framing, somewhat similar to layering, is when you use objects or elements in a scene to create a frame around your subject within the image. The most common way I use this technique with my children is shooting through a doorway. By using the door to create a frame around my girls, I can create focus on my subject in the image and also show that I’m observing what is taking place when they are alone - like a fly on the wall.

Captured with Canon 6D mark ii + Canon EF 35mm f/2

You can use one of these techniques to change up your perspective, or you can combine a couple of them together for a really captivating image! Next week we’ll be talking about more composition techniques, but let’s go ahead and practice these first!

Challenge: Choose a scene that you want to document and try to capture it with three different perspectives. How does the story change with each image?

Be sure to post your images and tag me so that I can follow along! I can’t wait to see your work!

Example: These three snaps were taken with my iPhone while my girls were playing yesterday. I love the clean colorful look of the image shot from above - it feels happy carefree. The close-up of my oldest making a goofy face is lacking in compositional thought, but I love that she likes to be silly so I decided to keep it as part of the series to capture her personality. Lastly, the wide angle/get low image shows the reality of what was happening - my girls playing with pom pom balls and empty spice jars while wearing mom and dad's tees. It's a little messy, but it shows so clearly this phase of living in oversized shirts (and my daughter's DIY mullet, bless her heart) while keeping an interesting perspective by being so low. I look at it and feel almost as though I was sitting there with them in the moment.