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Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Now That's Funny!"

Close-up facial expressions are often the most important element of great kids' photos.

Megan Maher, left, and her teammate laugh while taking a break during the Northern Westchester Swim Conference swim meet in Chappaqua, N. Y. (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
My daughter Megan was so busy concentrating and having fun when she was participating in sports, she rarely noticed when I pointed the camera at her. At this swim meet, while waiting her turn to participate, she and a teammate were laying by the pool watching the races, when another swimmer started goofing around to make them laugh. This went on for several minutes, and I managed to photograph several expressions of Megan laughing with her teammate, but this was the best. One key to taking kid photos is getting them to ignore the presence of the camera. Fortunately, none of them -- Megan, her friend, other team members -- paid much attention to me, so I could concentrate solely on finding a great photo. If you station yourself in one place, and wait a few minutes, kids will typically start ignoring you. Megan also had a brief moment of fame when this was published in the local newspaper.

3 Tips:
1) Kids frequently show a wide range of expressions and emotions when doing even simple things like watching their friends.
2) Stand back with a medium or longer lens so the kids concentrate on what they are doing, and not you.
3) If you stay in one place and wait patiently, kids will get used to your presence, ignore the camera, and you can take spontaneous photos.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Low Bridge

Shoot a facial close up during kids' play and you'll have a terrific expression. 

Skateboarder can’t bear to look as he rides between his friend’s legs (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo: 
There’s not usually anything exceptional or interesting about a kid riding a skateboard down the middle of the street. However, as I walked to my car, I noticed a girl jumping into the air as her friend on the skateboard rode under her legs. As he went beneath her, he closed his eyes and grimaced, hoping she wouldn’t land on him. It was a very strong photo because his facial expression was so intense. I had to ask him to do it a couple of extra times to make sure I got the photo right and, without any prompting from me, he grimaced every time he went under her legs. Omitting the jumper's upper torso emphasized the skateboarder's expression even more.

3 Tips:
1) Normal play activity can be more interesting with close-ups of great facial expressions.
2) Look for any compelling expressions -- joy, intensity, fear, etc.
3) Your photo should capture both what the activity is and the kid’s face.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Timing a routine photo just right can often create a completely different meaning.

Three swimmers on a lake in Tyngsboro, Ma. appear to be one person separated into pieces on a hot summer afternoon (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
As three kids happily frolicked in and out of the water to stay cool, they reminded me of the movie “Jaws”, as different pieces of their anatomy protruded at different times, looking like someone had been cut into pieces. I stood on the shore with a long lens, trying to time my shots so I could capture a moment when they looked like one person dismembered. They stopped playing and returned to shore, but I wasn’t sure I had captured the moment I wanted, so I asked them to continue playing. Finally, I directed them a bit to get my photo before they were too tired to swim any longer.

3 Tips:
1) Simple play can often be photographed to convey an entirely different meaning.
2) Watch kids playing for an extended time and from different angles to see if there is an unusual perspective or idea.
3) Swimming photos provide many options for creative pictures as the water hides part or all of the swimmers’ bodies.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Superhero's Muscles

When a superhero with a great facial expression asks you to take his picture, don't pass up the opportunity.

Junior superhero shows off his muscles in Tewksbury, Ma. (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo: 
I was walking to my car, and this young boy was pleading with me to take his picture and put it in the newspaper, but I struggled to come up with an interesting photograph of him. I noticed his t-shirt and asked if he was playing any superhero games. He responded, “Yeah, I was playing Spiderman. Want to see my muscles?” As he flexed his muscles, he gave me this great personality pose with a smile that showed off his missing teeth, and I shot a few outstanding pictures. He got his wish, as his personality picture ran big in the newspaper the next day.

3 Tips: 
1) When the subject looks at your camera, it communicates that this is a portrait, and more effectively conveys their personality to the viewer.
2) Find a unique physical feature, expression, gesture, or prop that illustrates the person’s unique character. 3) Often the subject will display what makes him/her unique for you, so be ready to shoot.