The Art of Interviewing Children

A few years ago I bit the bullet and invested in a big, expensive, fancy pants camera and I felt I could finally call myself a photographer. You and I both know that just because you have the gear, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re a professional but there is nothing to stop you from trying to be, to look for opportunities to learn and progress as an artist whether you intend to make money from it or not.

I know a lot of bloggers who take beautiful photographs, documenting their daily lives as I do. Some have children, some have pets and others have beautiful homes or creative hobbies. You don’t have to be in business shooting weddings, couple’s portraits or family photos to create beautiful photographs. What you need is an understanding of your camera, some patience and how to engage the subject your shooting as well as the audience who you intend to show the finished image to.

I’ve had a camera in my hands for over 15 years, I didn’t got to university and I was never an apprentice in a photographers studio, I just took every opportunity I came across to expand my knowledge and deepen my appreciation of photography. I studied via correspondence, won awards, participated in workshops and organised photo shoots on my own terms. I don’t have a team, I don’t have three camera bodies, I don’t have top of the range gear and I don’t have an overflowing bank account… but I love it.

It’s taken over 10 years to allow myself to fully commit to my passion. To accept that I may not make enough from it to buy a house but that every little bit I do earn helps. That no matter what I look like, as soon as I put the camera to my face, the images will speak volumes. That the moment I think I know all I can about my profession I will, without question, learn something new.

The most important tool in blogging for me personally is images, I’m a visual creature. In order for me to really connect with you I need to see the world through your eyes. I’m smart enough to realise my strength doesn’t lie in my writing. I make spelling errors, screw up grammar and use way to many commas. I write the way I speak, just minus the swearing.

When I’m asked about how I blog I say “My blog is made up of photos of my life just with captions.”. My photos do the talking for me. I love looking back on stories I’ve written, seeing the photos, moments captured in time from my own eye. When I see one I’m instantly transported back in time. I hope that’s what Aidan will get out of all this. His life captured in slivered moments for him to recall, to relive in his memory.

Just taking photos is often not enough to convey a feeling, to share a unique perspective with the viewer. For instance I never ask Aidan to “smile” because all that people would see is a child smiling and whilst a beautiful happy child is nice, nice is ordinary. Nice lacks feeling and it often feels forced. I believe a truly engaging image is one that makes us ponder, documents activity and somehow builds a bond between the subject and the viewer. Sounds impossible right?

It’s what journalists and documentarians do every day. Heart wrenching images on the cover of national newspapers, stunning natural images from across the globe in National Geographic, images of war torn children, of famine, of royal weddings, even of Olympic celebration. What we get from these photos is a sense of compassion and involvement, the viewer invests part of themselves in what they see. They see something that makes them feel, then draws back on memories of their own achievements, failures, passions and aspirations.

How does any of this apply to how you take photographs at home? How can you make your readers and family members feel your images that way? Well it all comes down to how you engage with your subject and what you want to achieve. Most of us enjoy capturing our family members and friends in a casual environment, generally using a compact digital camera or with an entry level DSLR camera. No matter what you use, if there is no feeling behind the image it will just be fine… and no one ponders things that are fine or nice.

Growing up I mainly shot candid photos of my friends and no real thought or feeling went into it. I saved my energy for macro still life photos of objects surrounding me. Looking back I still feel the same excitement of discovery, a tiny flower, a fleck of red dust on rusty machinery. I compared the images and threw away the thought of ever becoming  a “people” photographer because the images seemed dry in comparison. It took years of practice and thousands of nice images for me to learn how to get more out of my photos.

Subject engagement is key, learning how to get the most out of the person in focus and that’s what Angie Baxter’s first e-book The Art of Interviewing Children is all about. A portrait photographer living in Melbourne with her husband and three adorable children who does what she loves everyday. I’ve always found her to be such an inspiration.

Angie was one of my first practical teachers, I signed up to her Sydney Love Your Camera and Love Your Camera II workshops and found them to be a wealth of knowledge. Afterward Angie was an unofficial mentor sending encouraging emails and even invited me to assist her on one of my very first weddings. She’s a natural teacher so when she offered me a copy of her ebook and asked if I’d like to review it on my blog for my readers I didn’t hesitate.

If you want to learn specific techniques, games, questions and phrases to get the best reactions out of your little ones then you’ll want to buy her book. I’ve been using some of her tricks for awhile now and after reading I have a buckload more to draw inspiration from. This book isn’t about the technical side to photography, it wont go into lighting, exposure or composition. What is does go into is how to get the most honest and responsive expressions out of the most interesting little people on the planet, your kids.

I have one copy to give away!!! The Art of Interviewing Children can be purchased for $30.00 AUD so it’s already a really affordable ebook to learn a few top tips. To enter all you have to do is answer this question:

What camera do you use to take your photos?

Competition open to Australian and International readers. Competition closes 30th June 2012 at 5pm AEST. Winner will be announced in the comments section of this post. This is a game of skill. I was paid for this post (opinions are my own) and supplied with a copy of “The Art of Interviewing Children” to review. 

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I have been looking at this ebook! Talking to strangers seems to have come naturally to me, but would love some more tips :)

    I currently use a D90 and D60 and as you know am on the market for an upgrade :)

  2. 2

    says

    I am a professional photographer and have heard really amazing things about Angie’s approach to children. I largely shoot weddings, bridal editorial and a lot of media coverage. I plan to start working more with kids after I have had my own.

    One thing worth noting: I don’t own the top notch gear. The kit I own is 5DII x2, 50mm 1.4 x2, 85mm 1.8, 35mm 2.0 and a 24-70 2.8L. I shoot almost everything with a 50mm 1.4 because that’s my style and you can’t imagine the number of people who assume I always shoot with 50 1.2 etc. I rent all my L series, 1.2 lenses for weddings because sitting on $30k worth of gear in the off season doesn’t make sense, and it’s been the best choice for my business. Plus, I love the work I do with my ‘cheaper’ gear anyway. People get too caught up in gear and forget that most of photography is about the emotions captured and that $10k worth of gear doesn’t make up for a complete lack of talent :)

  3. 3

    says

    I am far from a photographer but I do love taking photos. Even if they are just for us to laugh at or show at my childrens 21st birthday parties. I have had point and shoots forever (think Target/Big W less than $200) and just got a Nikon D7000 for my birthday. I have been reading the manual and trying to figure out all the buttons and settings…it might take me forever.

    I should also add that using my old Fujifilm camera from Target I came second in a photography competition. Talented?! Hahaha.

  4. 4

    says

    I use a Canon 1000 i think it is… the one that is called a Rebel XT in the USA and is the basic DSLR that is so basic, it isn’t even available anymore. I also use my iPhone 4 a lot. Like, a LOT!!

    But I’m not a pro photographer and have no desire to be, i just like to capture pics of my children so that this next ten years of our lives together can be remembered and enjoyed for the next 60 years or more.

    I loved reading about when you attended Angie’s workshops and the wedding. She seems like such a warm person and i got the same vibe when Jen from Lovely Living attended a workshop too.

  5. 5

    Cathg1g2 says

    Canon EOS something or other
    I wing it taking photos
    I infuriate everyone ‘holding a pose’or trying to keep perfectly still
    It was a gift from a generous loving husband
    It has served me well but I have not shown it the respect it deserves

  6. 6

    says

    I’ve got a D60. Would love an upgrade but I don’t think the hubster will approve it. I think I take nice photos (and lots of people tell me so) but I’d like to take awesome photos. practice practice practice. I know!

  7. 9

    says

    I have one of the first amatuer nikon dslrs which is a d100 and it is really hard to use but bc of this I have learnt so much about manual photography. I really really no I mean really need a new Nikon 3100……

  8. 10

    says

    I use a little Olympus digital camera I bought about five years ago, because my partner’s fancy-pants Canon DSLR was stolen! I’d love to take better photographs – I wince when I look at the ones on my blog at the moment – and I’d love to get some portfolio shots for my little girl, who is super-photogenic, and loves being in front of the camera and seeing the photos of herself!

  9. 11

    says

    I use an EOS 600D and a nice little Olympus P&S that I picked up duty free in the states which is waterproof so great for days when I just want some casual happy snaps and the weather may not be so good or I don’t want to risk the good camera and lenses. I’m always looking to learn as much as possible to improve my photography and just basically love photography in general, the amount of photography books I own is a little ridiculous but I love looking at the images and reading the stories behind them.

  10. 13

    says

    Your writing is beautiful Dani, you shouldgive yourself more credit!

    I have a DLSR canon 400D that takes beautiful shots – won first place in camera club first month I entered. yet apparently it also takes crappy shots as I received a miserable 4 out of 10 earlier this week :o the camera was banished to the cupboard until I recover from the blow!
    Meanwhile Ive been using my sad little iPhone (3GS) that wont even allow me to access Instagram anymore… A sign perhaps??

  11. 16

    Jennifer says

    I use and love my D90. It has been well-loved and serves me well. I will upgrade someday, but for now it’s me and my D90. I also have been playing with film and bought a Nikon N80 from ebay for $50. It’s been fun shooting film again. Waiting to see your images is so fun! Would love to win the ebook. Looks great!

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