The Most Difficult Animal to Photograph
What’s the most difficult animal to capture in a good photo? Wolverine? Swift fox? Rocky Mountain tailed frog? Marbled murrelet? Nope, none of those come even close!
This animal is wildly unpredictable, dangerous and extraordinarily uncooperative. Prone to sudden and extreme changes in behaviour, they can go from peaceful to completely animalistic in seconds. Without warning, they may charge — knocking over your expensive camera gear and kicking you in the groin with remarkable force. Their vocalizations include shrieks of such ferocity they can shatter your polarizer and ear drums simultaneously. In the rare situations when you’re actually able to get this animal framed in your viewfinder, there’s basically a zero percent chance they’ll be facing the camera. By now it should be obvious that the animal I’m talking about is children!
In the business of outdoor photography, photos of kids in nature are good sellers, so I periodically brave the challenge to bag a few marketable images. I don’t have my own kids (for reasons described in previous paragraph), so I borrow my best friend’s very cute kids, Savannah and Thomson. Don’t let the ‘’cute” part fool you! Like all kids, they’re astonishingly difficult to photograph, so I’ve developed a multitude of strategies to keep them happy and engaged during the photo shoot. Let me share some secrets.
Bribery: This is the oldest trick in the book. Carry some candy with you and reward them for good behaviour. You have about five minutes before the sugar kicks in, so shoot quickly!
Flatulence jokes: It’s a universal truth that kids respond favourably to any joke involving flatulence. To be completely honest, I still do too! Use this technique to incite smiles and extend attention spans beyond the usual 10 seconds.
The distraction: Have your camera all ready to go, but need the kids looking a certain way for the photo? The moment before you click the shutter, point in that direction and yell, “Look, a monkey!” Never underestimate how smart children are. They’ll only fall for your trick once, maybe twice, if you’re lucky!
Parental control: Have the parents temporarily “stabilize” the kids in place, then dash out of the frame so you can click at the decisive moment. This is an unpopular method with the kids and they will not be smiling, so it should be pre-empted by a flatulence joke.
Sedatives: I’m just kidding! But don’t be too quick to judge me for saying it. Every photographer who’s worked with children has thought about it!
Photographing kids is a great challenge, but it’s also fun. Nevertheless, I’ll take grizzly bears and elephant seals over kids any day. At least those animals are more predictable and safe to photograph!
To read more of Ethan’s columns and other great how-to articles please pick up the Winter 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe!