Wednesday, March 28, 2012

{photography amongst the bluebonnets: a beginner's guide}

As any Texan will tell you, it's rather a tradition around here to take family portraits in the wildflowers that grow alongside the roads. Justin was away, but Tilly, a few friends and I took a little road-trip down to the town of Independence one morning, to frolic, picnic and take photos in the fields.

This is what happened when I tried to sit Tilly down in a nice fat clump of flowers, as I could see the other families were doing:

Major scowls... and then attempted escape! So, as perhaps there are other families who can't magically produce smiles out of thin air, these are the things that I found did work for getting a semi-decent photo in the bluebonnets.

1. Find a spot far enough away from any roads that you can let the children run free. No matter how good your photos, no one wants to remember the day little Suzie was squashed by an eighteen-wheeler.

2. Wear your running shoes. As your children run towards something -- a butterfly, a family member, someone's discarded lunch -- sprint ahead, quite far ahead, and then turn and get a shot of them running towards you.

3. Accept, and work with, the back-of-the-head shot (from behind, no one can see them scowling, at least). Try to angle yourself so that the wildflowers fill in the background, and it might look as if your child is gazing thoughtfully across the meadow (when they might really be turning away in a sulk).

4. Find something for them to hold onto. A fence, a tree trunk, a flower. A large enough prop will prevent them running off so quickly, and the little props serve to hold their attention for a second, while you snap away.

5. Remember, one good shot is enough. You're probably not going to wallpaper your house with this roll of film -- just one, lovely photo to frame or save is all you need.

6. But... take lots. My 400 photos yielded less than a handful that I really liked.

7. Try something different. Lie the child down and take a photo from above (if it isn't too muddy). Throw them in the air a bit to get them laughing. If they're a little older, perhaps let them try a self-portrait?

8. Bring help. Bonny and Jonathan, who joined us, were a wonderful help, serving as safety officers, entertainers, photographers, subjects, and, perhaps most importantly, navigators to actually get us there.

And for those of you with children who will sit and smile, well, perhaps there is a secret that you could share with the rest of us?