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Through the Gadling Lens: photographing the children of the world
"Why don't you talk about taking photographs of kids?" he asked.
"Umm, I really try to keep this column about travel," I explained gently.
He looked at me like I was stupid. Well, as much as one can look at someone else on instant-messaging.
"Karen," he said patiently, "people travel with their kids. Besides, there are children all over the world. Children make great subjects. You should share how you capture kids on camera."
Well, duh. He's right, of course. So this week, with the additional help of some fantastic images in our Gadling Flickr pool, we'll talk about how to capture the essence and innocence of childhood while traveling. A couple of points to remember, before we begin:
1. Be sure to ask permission before you snap any photos, particularly if the children are with their parents or other adults; and
2. Remember the rules about shooting strangers in general (you can see some general guidelines here).
And so now, let's get to it:
I think one of the main reasons that most people are drawn to photographs of children is the way that they tend to be so honest with their emotions -- it's not usual that you meet a child who is really adept at hiding his or her feelings. Because their expressions tend to be obvious, their faces make for great subjects. Here are few great examples:
These angels were captured by LadyExpat and shared in our Flickr pool. She writes: "Mabul Island was full of children, and they all loved having their photos taken. I love the looks of delight on these two young ones. "
Man, so do I. This is a great shot. Notice how tightly the image is cropped, which exemplifies the number one rule of portrait photography -- don't be afraid to get in close. Because of this tight image, there's nothing extraneous that competes with the light in their eyes or their wide smiles. Very well done.
Here's another example of a great portrait of children, this time far less posed:
This photo, aptly titled "Fragile Innocence," was shared with us by photographer madang86, and was taken in Vietnam. In this case, the children seem unaware of the camera (the best way, obviously, to get a natural shot), but what makes this photo particularly stunning is (a) again, the the tight crop on the children's faces, and (b) the masterful use of colour -- children's clothing almost blend seamlessly into the background of the photograph, allowing their brightly coloured collars and their lovely faces to be the focal point. Again, well done.
Then, of course, there's nothing like getting a kid to ham it up for you:
This great shot was shared by fiznatty in our Gadling Flickr pool (and by the way, get used to that name -- this is a man who clearly gets how to capture photographs of kids. This is the first of several I'll be featuring in this post). He writes: "School children beckon to have us join them in their classroom." Obviously, the lovely beckoning hand and engaging face of the young boy to the right of the picture is pretty hypnotic, but after you stop looking at him, notice the laughter on the face of the boy to the left, partially obscured by the window! A really great image.
And now, the second of fiznatty's images:
Words really can't describe how much I love this image, captured in Rwanda. Fiznatty writes, "Despite being dressed in drab, second-hand clothing, [the lead boy] exuded a confidence that I feel reflected his countrymen as a whole." And yes, I would agree that the boy's confidence (bravado?) is probably the first thing you notice in this image. And I particularly love the choice of shooting the image in black-and-white -- it conveys the starkness and difficulty of life in war-torn Rwanda. Wonderfully shot.
In addition to their wonderful expressions, probably the characteristic most notable in children is their inability to sit still -- they always seem to be on the move, which can often make it difficult to capture their photographs. In my experience, the best thing to do is just go with it -- capture images of children doing what they do best. To wit:
This beautiful image, shared by jonrawlinson, totally captures the exuberance we can only imagine this young boy must be feeling as he leaps into sea off the coast of Gibraltar. The feeling of freedom, conveyed by the boy's outstretched arms, is only enhanced by jonrawlinson shooting the image straight into the sunshine, which emphasizes the boy's silhouette. Great shot.
And again, by the ubiquitous fiznatty:
This image, also shot in Rwanda, is of "probably the most enthusiastic member of the dance group" -- and if this, I have no doubt. You can just imagine this young girl swing her arms with abandon, and her face registers pure joy. This girl lives to dance, no question. Seriously, can you even look at this photograph without feeling really happy?
3. With parents
Sometimes, what you might find you want to capture is not just the expressions and movement of the children, but their relationships to their parents -- their helplessness and dependency, and the love of the parents for them. Here are a few great images:
This image, shared by Un rosarino en Vietnam, positively took my breath away. It's a classic example of how the way you shoot an image can sometimes convey far more emotion that the subjects themselves. In this photograph, the faces of the subjects aren't even visible -- and yet, somehow, you get the distinct impression that this parent (Mom? Dad?) is quite devoted to his (her?) young child. By removing the colour from everything other than the central figures, the aridity and dustiness of the region in Cambodia is beautifully conveyed. Well done.
And taking another look at the parental relationship, look at this lovely image:
This image was taken and shared by uncorneredmarket, photographed in Burma. I love the wide-eyed curiosity of the baby, and the wary, protective expression on his mother's face. She seems to be saying "Yessss.... I *suppose* you can take his picture ... but just one." And really, is there anything more lovely than witnessing a mother's protection of her children?
4. The condition.
Finally, often nothing conveys the standard of living of a community than its children. And the following image conveys this concept so powerfully:
This image, as you might imagine, stopped me dead in my tracks. This photograph, captured and shared by lecercle, is of a child worker in India. Photographer lecercle writes:
Suresh works in this purgatory six days a week.
Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.
The dust on Suresh's face, the darkness of the industrial building behind him, all help convey the "purgatory" of his situation. Amazing image.
How about you -- do you tend to take photographs of the kids in the locations where you visit? If so, feel free to share your best in the comments below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom - and I'm happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.
Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.