Framing in Photography: Getting Down to Their Level!
Published on: June 13, 2022
In part three of Ian Taylor’s series on taking the best candid pictures of your kids, we’ll be looking at framing and how to make your child the center of attention in your photos.
By Ian Taylor
While my previous articles on photographing your kids have focused on things every photographer needs to think about, this month’s is ‘kid-specific’.
Do you ever feel that all of your photos of your kids look more or less the same? A lot of that has to do with your positioning. As you consider ‘Light, Frame, Moment’ for every shot, this is about the frame.
In terms of composition, the most important thing you need to do when photographing kids is to get down to their level. I see so many potentially interesting portraits taken by grown-ups who have made no effort to see things from the kid’s point of view. So often, it’s the child staring up at a lens. The only positive thing about this shot is that you usually get nice light on the face and in the eyes.
The first thing to do is get down on the ground. Begin at eye level every time. This makes for more intimate portraits; it also levels the field between the kids and the adults. You are now one of them; you see the world as they do. Laughs will come more easily.
The backdrops of your photos will become much more interesting when you are at your kid’s eye level. Instead of the ground, it will be the environment: buildings, trees, sky, or other kids. Try to avoid photos where the kid is looking up at you, with grass or pavement in the background.
Now that you are down at eye level, you can improve your images even more by getting even lower so you are looking up at your subject. This completely changes everything; now the adult-child physical relationship has been completely reversed. When you are super low, kids are more likely to forget about you and do their thing, so getting truly candid shots is easier.
One idea that will instantly elevate all of your images is the idea of ‘figure to ground’. This is a concept from the art world whereby you isolate your subject, so there is maximum contrast between the person and the background. The most straightforward is using the sky; think silhouette. (Remember the old “is this two faces or a wine glass” drawing? That’s figure to ground.) Or have the kid framed against a very dark background; doorways are perfect for this.
Mix up your distances. Many photographers, even pros, often shoot every image from the same distance. For variety, get as close as your lens will allow, then get back. I mean way back. Make the subject tiny in the frame; think of a landscape shot with kids in it. These images look great printed as large artwork for your walls, serving as reminders of places you’ve lived and visited.
Play with extreme close-ups, once again getting as close as your lens will allow. (The example here is using a window for backlight.)
While all of these will lead to a better range of images, make sure you start with the eye-to-eye concept the next time you photograph your kids. When you get home, you should be covered in just as much dirt, grass and sand as they are!
Photos courtesy of Ian Taylor Photography.
About the Author
Thailand-based Ian Taylor has been a roving family photographer since 2006. His e-book, ‘Never Say Cheese: How to Take Great Natural Photos of Your Kids’ is available at iantaylor.ca. For questions and comments, contact Ian via his website or on FB: @IanTaylorPhotography
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