OHbaby! photographer Sam Mothersole shares her advice on how to capture your precious family on camera.
I spend a lot of my time looking at the world through a lens and it never ceases to amaze me how the simplest of moments can be so beautiful. I am obsessed with light and am even more obsessed with putting people into that light.
While there’s a place for professional portraiture, there are many other magic moments that only a parent can capture, for no other reason than that you are there on the spot. You’re with your children more than anyone else, so you can become a documenter of the little moments.
I run workshops specifically aimed at giving mums the tools and knowledge to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. The first thing to be aware of is that you need to treat your young models differently depending on their age.
Here is some of what I teach about capturing the best of your precious children as they grow.
The first year
One to four months
Four to nine months
Nine to 12 months
Toddlers and older
People often mention how hard it is to photograph siblings together. The “cuddle trick” and the “pull faces trick” are key in my repertoire. And it’s all about how you ask, for instance, “Now, Beth, can you show Mummy your special big-girl super cuddle for your little brother?” Or, “Do you think you would be able to kiss him on his nose? That’s a tricky one!” Snap the cuddles and the proud face afterwards.
If your children are older, I find it’s best to start with the “Pull some faces at your sister” request. Once they get laughing at each other you can capture that interaction.
If you have several kids try some games. Think along the lines of “Simon says...” but it’s “Mummy says... jump!”
Another tip is to get them to run while holding hands. Then try the “big stretchy arms” game. See how far they can stretch while holding hands in a line. “Can you reach the water? Pull, pull... oh, no, you’re going to break!
Once you’ve got them relaxed and smiling and captured some natural, fun shots, you can grab the opportunity for a cuddle shot. “Lucky, last one guys! Squish closer together, like you’re stuck together with peanut butter!” And done.
Snapping on the go
You don’t always need a fancy DSLR camera to get a fabulous picture. Your smart phone can work some pretty amazing magic. My favourite apps for editing my images are Matte Box, VSCO Cam, Snapseed, and Camera+.
If you’re an Instagrammer, I encourage you to take your photo on your camera phone instead of through Instagram. The original will be of a much higher quality. You can then import your photo and edit it in Instagram.
Perhaps my most valuable piece of advice is come out from behind the camera and put yourself in the picture.
US blogger Allison Tate wrote in The Huffington Post: “Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people living lives.
“Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay? I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.”
Damn straight! So, use the self-timer function on your camera, practise the art of the selfie and give the camera to someone else sometimes to capture childhood, Mum included.
Finally, a few words about keeping your photos in some order. The beauty of taking pictures with a digital camera is that you can take literally hundreds. But the problem with that is you end up with far too many photos on your computer.
Here’s my advice:
Sam Mothersole is OHbaby!’s official photographer and also runs Love & Soul Photography Workshops for mums. She has two children, aged eight and six. For more info go to sammothersole.co.nz.