I picked up pictures from the school photographer today. You know, the ones with the cloudy blue backdrop, and fake apples gripped tightly in their hands. I swear I hardly recognized my first born when I looked them over. “Did someone do your hair right before you took these pictures,” I asked. His hair looked unnaturally fluffed, and the not so natural tilt of his chin made him look much older than his young 4 years.
I quickly concluded that I would not be ordering any prints. Surely, I could get better shots of him at home or maybe at the park on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But reality set in around 6:00 p.m., when my work projects still needed to be completed, there was no sign of dinner on the table, and my son skipped passed me singing a familiar commercial jingle. “OK, no more TV,” I announced in my I’m taking charge mom voice. “Let’s get dinner,” I commanded, as my son opened the drawer that neatly held local take out menus.
That night when everyone was tucked into bed I pulled out the order form, placing a check next to the least expensive package. Guilt had set in and I convinced myself if I didn’t order that commemorative photo my own mug shot would end up on some wall of shame for not persevering my son’s preschool memories.
Capture the Moment
I couldn’t help but wonder - what should we really be trying to capture in pictures of our children? And how can we best enjoy them without feeling stressed to get that perfect shot or guilt ridden about our empty scrapbooks?
According to Katherine Draper owner of Katherine Draper Photography and mom of three, ages 3, 5, and 7, “Ultimately you should try and capture who your children are right at that moment.” For example, her son is happiest kicking a soccer ball right now, so a lot of pictures of him at age 3 include a ball under his feet and a smile on his face.
“Let your kids be kids and capture the moment,” Draper says. “Childhood is fleeting. Having the ability to photograph your children is the ability to freeze time. Capture and file away memories – do it as often as possible.”
Where to Start
Draper suggests investing in a small digital camera for everyday use. “Carry it with you in your purse, that way you have it when the urge strikes.”
She adds not to try and force the perfect photograph. “Don’t stress so much about the perfect shot, worry more about capturing their childhood years as they really were.”
Taking pictures in natural sunlight, and avoiding flashes, which can create glares and unwanted shadows, are other ways to start snapping great pictures.
Unless you want an album full of fake grins Draper also suggests erasing the word CHEESE from your vocabulary. “
Capture your children as they really are and don't be afraid to take pictures of anything and everything. You will relish the picture of your two-year-old having a tantrum over a cookie one day.”
Tracy B. McGinnis has published hundreds of articles on women's issues, parenting, and business, among other topics. Her work has appeared in national print and trade magazines including PINK, Women's Health and Fitness, and American Baby, among others. She has written dozens of features on-line for popular and award wining sites like Babyzone.com, iParenting Media Group, and SheKnows, to name few. Tracy lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 14 months.