A while back I wrote a post about how I use my phone to capture family moments. Back then we were a family of three with Ivy ruling the roost. Since February 18 we have been a squad of four, with Penny being the new recruit.
And just as your family never stops growing, so does the family photo album you carry around in your pocket. So I thought it was a good time to update the post with how I've been shooting from the hip, and my advice for capturing those family moments when your camera is not to hand.
(All the images were taken on a Google Pixel 2 smartphone using Adobe Lightroom Mobile to edit)
Now the chances are you are a bit taller than your kids. They live life from a 3ft perspective and see things very differently. Often the tell tale sign of a photograph from a camera phone is the adult height perspective. Often we whip out the phone quickly, hold it in front of our face and look down at the moment leaving you with a top down photo, distorting the subject (big head, small legs). Now this may be the look you are after or maybe you really were having to act fast as the moment (insert funny predicament here) happened. But if you have the chance, get low. Get down to their level, especially for a portrait.
If you were taking a photo of your other half you wouldn’t grab a ladder and tower over them, you would photograph them at a similar level. By removing an obvious sign that the photo has been taken spontaneously and on a phone, you can begin to create more natural (and interesting) portraiture.
Embrace the imperfections:
If we are talking in technical terms, the camera on your phone is never going to be as good as a dedicated camera (albeit the difference has slimmed massively over the years). But to be honest, good family photography has nothing to do with the maths and the figures, it’s all about the feeling and memory you are preserving. So if your phone is limited in its quality of output, embrace it. A blurry image due to the lag in the phone capturing the moment doesn’t really matter if what you are photographing is meaningful to you. With the apps available these days (Lightroom mobile, Snapseed, Instagram) an image which may seem lost due to lack of ‘perfection’ can be redeemed as an interesting post or physical print.
Composition is Subjective:
The way you frame your subject within the image is important but there is no right or wrong way to do this. It is often taught that you should use the 'rule of thirds' when anchoring the different elements within the frame. But to be honest, rules suck! If you want to put your subject heavily to one side of the frame, do it. Don’t be scared of the empty space, sometimes more is less.
In this image of Penny, I had to lock her in wall mounted seat so that I could sort Ivy out after swimming. What made me laugh was how stranded she looked (I was right next to her before you begin to worry) and yet so content. I had to take a snap. When I composed the shot, I placed her in the bottom corner. The empty space made for a much more interesting image than had I put her central. Every time I look at this I imagine her thinking “You gonna get me out of this or what…?”