Photographing Children - by Nicole Boenig McGrade
There are many apuggers I feel that have given me so much over the passed year or so and I've never quite felt that I've been able to reciprocate. So tonight as I sit at my desk finishing off writing an article, I find myself sidetracked and wanting to share a little of what I do, how and why.
Why? That's a long and personal story, but I will share that I once had a beautiful baby who was very ill and I had no camera to help save my memories from fading. Today I make it my mission to keep memories alive for others.
There is no rhyme or reason and no particular pattern here as I ramble through so if you manage to make it to the end of my notes then I thank you for your interest.
My work is not always for the technically minded critiques, but for those willing to open their hearts and see a portrait (or environmental portrait) for what it is and find a little soul within.
I am not necessarily a 'natural' with children but I have a certain fascination towards the fast changing thoughts and moods of a child. As a parent I can rarely get my own children to sit still for me. As a photographer in a clients home the children are interested in my cameras and how I use them and so it's a little easier to captivate them.
When I first arrive on location of the shoot, if I can, I leave my cameras and gear in the car or at least never show them. The first sight of a photographer and their camera can be quite intimidating, especially if they are bigger than you (from a child's point of view).
I talk to the whole family from the moment I enter their world. I don't just hear but listen to what they have to say and watch their changing expressions, children and parents. It's important to get to understand their family unit and I generally only have a couple of hours to do this in.
I'm very humbled when people open up and tell me their life stories, from sad moments to triumphent successes. All the while I watch their expressions, they are the key to finding their true soul.
Just a couple of examples...
What funny things does sister do that makes brother laugh = a giggle
What does she do that makes him cry or angry = serious response
What foods do and don't they like = wide eyed or disgusted
What things do they think are great fun although Mum/Dad get cross = cheeky
It's all about communication, I direct the conversation towards the kind of response I'm looking for and then I observe.
99% of the time I photograph hand held. With children I don't have the time to adjust tripods. Their attention span doesn't give me any luxury to take my time but it does allows me see what is often missed in their unique personalities.
I love working with my medium format cameras and waistlever finders as I can still look at my little clients and not appear to be concentrating on working the camera. I only have the one lens. If I have to start changing lenses and I take my eyes off the children, the perfect moment could be lost.
I really enjoy photographing with my 35mm which has become second nature to me. It's fast, I can run and jump with it but primarily I use it due to it's composition. Love it. And I don't have to change film as often. For my 35mm I only have a couple of (fast) lenses and rarely change them too. I scout the location see which lens works best, choose it and work it.
Another thing I'm always conscious of is the level/height I'm photographing from. From up high the child looks more vulnerable and from down low makes the child more dominent. From the height as their eyes we can relate better, the child relaxes more and it allows me to show my viewers who the children really are.
Lighting... I don't own a flash or any artificial lighting units. Natural lighting is something that's a whole other area and I could write about forever. I see light, corners, windows, walls, a hollow tree, etc... and my heart skips a beat. Oh well, I'm passionate, what can I say.
So, I better get back to my article. If one person learns something little from this, then today's been a good day.
Nicole Boenig McGrade
Last edited by Nicole; 02-18-2007 at 10:28 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Comments from the previous article system:
By David Brown - 04:28 PM, 04-04-2006 Rating: None
Thanks for the notes, Nicole. Your work speaks volumes about your passion and success at this endeavor.
By Suzanne Revy - 07:19 PM, 04-04-2006 Rating: None
Thank you for your thoughts, Nicole. Indeed, quite helpful.
By rfshootist - 01:04 PM, 04-05-2006 Rating: None
Nicole, thanks for this article which I read with great interest ! Your photos of children belong to the very best I've ever seen (I'm serious), undoubtedly the work of professional top photographer.
The article tells a lot about how well thought your approach to this issue is.
What your photos tell too tho is that you must be a warm-hearted and positive character, the faces of your small clients reflect that.
It must be the combination of careful craft and and a special personality
which make the results so great.
My wife has this communication adapter for kids too, she seldom needs more than 10 minutes and all kids in the room are gathering around her ! :-)
Unfortunately she does not feel like connecting this talent to her photographical activities, I am still working at this issue tho ;-)
By Carol - 02:47 PM, 04-06-2006 Rating: None
Nicole your attention to detail both before and whilst photographing children is obvious from the beautiful, thoughtful images you produce. Thank you for taking the time to put your notes down for others to learn from. I have never been drawn to taking people images, but have recently become a grandmother and suddenly an unexplored side of photography beckons.
PS I love natural lighting and if you ever get the urge to write on that subject I would be one eager reader.
By df cardwell - 03:34 AM, 04-08-2006 Rating: None
Art is Technique, charged by Emotion (Charles Baudleaire)
Nicole,A long time ago, it was believed that an artist needed to SEE and to FEEL.
You show that it is still true.
By Nicole - 12:29 PM, 04-09-2006 Rating: None
Thanks everyone, I very much appreciate reading your comments, especially after a hard day.
Carol, I'll keep you posted. I may be on the east coast later this year and would be happy to help if time permits.
Kindest regards, Nicole
By ricksplace - 12:33 PM, 04-12-2006 Rating: None
Thanks for the insights, Nicole. In my experience, kids often reflect the emotions of the people around them (without knowing they are doing it). Your work shows that the kids let down their guard because they trust you and are attracted to you. Bravo.
Your second paragraph eludes to a very emotionally painful time. My sympathies go out to you.
By wfe - 10:01 PM, 04-17-2006 Rating: None
Thank you Nicole for sharing your notes and thoughts. This world is really all about people and the children that represent our future and few capture them with the elegance, passion and honesty that you do.
By papisa - 08:01 AM, 04-22-2006 Rating: None
Passion is not photography, your passion is the photography, when i found this site you were featured so i went to you web page and read about you and then i clicked on you picture page so i called my mother to come into my room and to look at the children, at age 93 now 94 she has a way with children, when i clicked on the photo of just the two hands together both of us were slient, we both looked at each other and smiled and she grabbed my one hand and looked at me and said and i quote " Thank you for being the wonderful son that you are right now in my life and has always been to me" I started to have tears come from my eyes and she said i have always loved you my whole life, and she said what ever happens right now to me it will be alright because i no you will be here with me. That was said with a Mother who is realizing that she has that Dreaded diease called Alzheimer's. The next morning when i got up i looked around the house for pictures of her, only one was on the fireplace so i went and found all of the old picture boxs in the basement and went thur them for 4 days and scaned them in and now there are a lot of her around the house, and i also found 35MM slides of her and dad's 25th wedding anniversery. I do not no that much about taking pictures but i am sure going to learn even if i have to take a course some where, Thank You so much for giving me my Mother back that one moment, i will cherish that the rest of my LIFE, and do what you do best, take photos of our kids because right now that is all that is left for us to do because they are going to be the leaders of our countries when they grow up.
By yerbury - 10:01 AM, 04-23-2006 Rating: None
Thank you Nicole. I wish you luck in all you do and aspire to do.
comments from the previous article system:
By Rob Archer - 09:18 PM, 04-24-2006 Rating: None
Thanks, Nicole. I first read your article a week or so ago, just after our daughter, Grace had died at the age of 2 days. I've just read it again and a has a new resonance as I've just printed a couple of pictures of Grace with her older sister before she passed away. I normally only shoot landscapes, but I'm so glad I took those few frames on B&W.
By Nicole - 10:25 AM, 05-08-2006 Rating: None
It was not just a good day, but a day worth remembering! Thank you everyone!
Mike and Rob, I very much appreciate you sharing these moments with me.
A great article. Food for thought, for sure. My wife's cousin has recently had a baby and I get the distinct impression I'm going to be asked to shoot a few frames soon :-)
Hasselblad 501CM...my 2nd love.
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