Picture pointers

Booking a photographer is a big – and potentially expensive – decision. Take a moment to prepare before you take the plunge


What kind of image do you want?
Check out the websites or pay a visit first to get a feel for a photographer’s style. Decide whether you want a traditional, formal pose, a quirky, arty shot or an image that captures the moment.

Who do you want in the photo?
If you have your heart set on an image of the entire family, stick to it. Photographers will offer to take loads of shots of your brood in various combinations which will all, we assure you, be gorgeous, and only make the decision process more difficult. Of course, the reverse is also true: if you don’t know what you want, get a variety to choose from.

What or who are the images for?
If you want to make an impact with a striking canvas, choose a photographer who specialises in the entire process from editing, photo-shopping and printing to guarantee you’ll be happy with the finished product. If you’re looking for a selection to send to family back home, go for a studio that offers high-res images on a disc. Think about where the pics will be displayed. A quirky Andy-Warhol style montage of your brood may look great on your vast magnolia walls in Dubai, but a natural or traditional image may sit better among granny’s chintz.

Can you have too much of a good thing?
Yup. The shoot may seem good value, but do you have the willpower to survive the viewing? Set a budget beforehand and – however tempted you may be – don’t blow it. Your kids will grow and you’ll want to update the images in a year or two when six whopping poster prints of Johnny at 18 months, however stunning, may suddenly seem like a foolish – and expensive – overindulgence.

Wash your face and comb your hair!
Don’t just rock up and expect the photographer to work miracles. A blob of tomato sauce can easily be photo-shopped away, but a snotty nose is far more difficult, and mum’s dodgy ‘do’ nigh-on impossible.

Be happy
Book your shoot for a time when your kids are likely to be cheery and amenable. If they’re sick, re-arrange the shoot for another day when they’ll feel, look and perform a lot better.

Dress for success
Decide on a couple of outfits. White tops and jeans look good, but you may also like a splash of colour. Make sure you coordinate or, at very least, don’t clash, and avoid busy prints and stripes.

The viewing
Most studios allow just one viewing session and expect you to make a decision and part with your cash. Be warned, it can be a pretty emotional sell, but remember: refusing to buy every single photo at vast expense does not make you a bad parent. Leave the kids at home if you can – they’ll be bored senseless and you’ll need your wits about you.

Do it yourself

In these digital days, there’s no reason why you can’t get a good shot of the kids yourself. Dad of two and professional photographer Nick England shares his tips for perfect pictures.

Always have a camera ready Even if you’re just having lunch at home, if they start doing something funny, or covering themselves with food, it’s great to capture that moment. Make sure your camera battery is charged up and there’s a card in it.

Natural is always best The best shots are usually taken in a nice, bright room. I always prefer to shoot with available light and without flash, which can often ruin a picture if you use it too strongly, or you get the dreaded red-eye. If you must use the flash inside, and you have an external flash on the camera, try pointing the flash up and bouncing the light off the ceiling. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, always use the anti-red-eye feature. If you’re outside, though, and it’s bright, do use the flash to fill in the shadows, and direct the flash more at the face. Most importantly, just experiment!

Kids are really quick ‘Why are my shots all blurry?’ you say. Well, kids move around really quickly, even if they’re sitting in their chairs. I use the shutter priority setting on my camera when photographing kids, with the shutter speed set around 1/125th or higher (depending on the light available) to freeze the action. If you need to, increase the film speed up in the camera (the ISO) to help get a higher aperture number and give a sharper picture. Get in close Focus on the eyes and be bold with your shots. Always try to fill the frame with what’s going on. If you are taking a close-up portrait, and your camera allows you to set focus points in the viewfinder, do it, and set the point for the eyes. Out-of-focus eyes ruin a picture.

Choose your time If you’re going to take some posed shots of the nippers to send to the grandparents, choose your time carefully. You know what time of day your kids are at their best. A tired, hungry child won’t want their picture taken and certainly won’t cooperate with the general hair brushing, clothes changing and face cleaning that goes into preparing for such sessions.

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