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Photographing Children

Photographing Children - Ginny Felch has spent her career photographing children. Here's how she produces her images.

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Category : Portraits and People
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Photo by Ginny Felch.
Image which was chosen for the cover of Photographing Children.
Ginny Felch is a professional photographer, a teacher and someone who has a great passion for taking photographs of children. First inspired by her baby son, Ginny started taking photographs while on maternity leave. From here she started taking photographs of her friends' children and eventually she got a job with a neighbour who owned a studio. This opened the door to many opportunities and she eventually met Ruth Bernhard who wanted to teach her about “seeing light.” An experience which opened a new world to Ginny, one she hasn't looked back from.
 
I love the way light reveals and I love the spontaneousness of children. They have an eye for fantasy and romance as do I. It's my style, it's who I am,” explained Ginny.
 
Her love for light and art led her to create a book all about photographing children. She took the artistic side while her colleague, Alison Tyler Jones focused on the technicalities of producing photographs.
 
I think cameras have so many bells and whistles on them and it really frustrates some people. I remove that part. I tell people to start on auto and learn about the light and good composition first. This way, you can really look at your subject and focus more. This is why I teach in baby steps and why my favourite chapters in the book are on light and composition.”
 
For Ginny, having your own style is important and this is something you can learn through practise and exploring the work of others. Ginny has worked with some real photography icons, all of whom somehow influenced the way she works.
 
Look at art books and old pictures and see what you identify with. My wall is full of art books I read and I have a collection of postcards and images I find inspiration in. From here look at other people's work which, at first, you will be emulating but eventually everything will come together, all your influences will merge and you will find your own style.”
 
Films are another area Ginny feels can be a great influence for photographers as they often have great light and composition which, as we've already learned, is something she is obsessed with.
 
Photo by Ginny Felch.
A natural expression always makes a great photo.
A great portrait is a combination of a meaningful expression, magical light and incredible composition. It doesn't always work like this, and sometimes, you may only have one or two pieces of the puzzle, but this is what you should strive for.
 
To get good expressions Ginny doesn't stage her shoots instead she lets the children explore and be free. She plays with them, often handing them the camera so they can have a go at playing the role of photographer. This gives Ginny the opportunity to show the children that she doesn't want them to pose or say cheese for the camera, instead she wants them to act natural and just be kids.
 
Getting down on the floor with a child is key to getting them to feel comfortable with you,” said Ginny in her book. “Distracting their attention away from the camera will also give you time to observe their quirky expressions and movements.”
 
Photo by Ginnya Felch.
 Portraits don't have to have to show the whole head or body.
A smile isn't always necessary either. Sometimes they can look forced and it's better to just photograph the child without forcing them to show a toothy grin. Ginny believes when a child is gazing, observing or thinking, their eyes are generally wide-open, which leaves their face open and relaxed. “You might be pleasantly surprised by the character and soulfulness that comes forth.
 
This soulfulness can also be captured in shots with tight framing. By cropping in close to a child's face and focusing on their eyes, Ginny creates images which are “visually more interesting and intimate.” You don't always have to include the whole head or upper body to create a good picture, sometimes a shot of their face is all you need to make their parents smile.
 
Using light in a sculptural and emotional way is also an important part of Ginny's work, something which she says takes a lot of “attention, presence and practise” to succeed in, but when you see the results it will be well worth it.
 
Photo by Ginny Felch.
Light can highlight the profile of a child.
Light can emphasise shape and form, and can create certain effects, but it can also be a problem.
 
In many places in her book Ginny talks about flash or the lack of it. She sees flash as the high beams on your car as it can illuminate people very well but it doesn't create mood.

I use available light. Reflectors and flash, as well as direct sunlight, can be too harsh. Bright light can make people squint but by moving them into a shaded area you get a totally different feel to the image. Learn to see light, your photography will be enhanced and look so much better if you do.”
 
You could even try shooting on a foggy day as the light is soft and gives images an almost painted feel. The golden hours of twilight and dawn are also good times to photograph children as the light isn't as harsh or direct.
 
It just goes to show that you don't need to know how everything works on your camera to take a good image. Work on composition and learn to love the light eventually the rest will follow.”

Visit Ginny Felch's website for more details.
Photo by Ginny Felch.

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