The Colorful Childhood: Creating Magic out of the Ordinary | by Jenna Sefkow
I LOVE color. This trend was born for me while we lived in Puerto Rico last year. Color was everywhere and easy to capture. Now that I live in Minnesota (where color goes on a long hiatus in winter), I’ve made it my mission to continue creating colorful images despite the white and gray I’m surrounded with. Today I’ll share some tips on how I achieve this with my own kids!
First things first. Getting cooperation from your kids.
I get asked often how I get my children to cooperate for photos. A large part of it is that they simply are quite use to this whole camera gig. Here are some quick tips to keep children engaged and having fun rather than making them feel like they are amid a long portrait session.
Capture play and limit direction. Encourage them to play where there is great light or a fun background but let them lead and do what they want to do. The most direction that I will give my kids is to stand in the “ideal” spot or repeat things a few times. For instance, while playing outside, I showed them the general area to stay in that gave me that perfect sun flare over my home. Meanwhile, my youngest LOVED throwing the ball at me over and over. Sure, they knew I was taking pictures, but I wasn’t halting, changing, or redirecting the activities they were already doing.
Educate them and show the final image. My children LOVE seeing the final product. It’s important to
show them what they “worked” for and when I do this, I make sure to educate them on my WHY. I show them the pretty light I may have caught, or the fun movement of a twirl, or a ball flying towards my camera. Showing them the “why” gets them excited for the next “session” and teaches them to see
through your eyes. You may find THEY start to come up with ideas. My girls RAN down the stairs once to tell me how their dresses were causing sparkles all over their room and that I HAD to come take a picture. In the rainbow image below, I drew the rainbow, not knowing quite what I’d do with it. My son added the flames and my middle daughter exclaimed “I’m going to ride the rainbow road like in Mario Kart!” I also encourage them to be my helpers. One daughter will happily blow bubbles into my other daughter’s face, while my son will help me float a scarf in the air.
Stay clear of burn out mode. Everyone knows their own kiddos’ limits. Stay clear of burn out mode.
Once you reach that, chances are they will less than thrilled, and the emotion and expression might be
forced. Most importantly, they probably aren’t having fun anymore. Keep things simple and switch
things up when you feel burn out creeping in.
Where to Find Existing Color in Your Environment
Brainstorm locations that may have pops of color your kids would enjoy. Easy ones that come to mind
are a field of flowers, ice cream parlor, playground, or arcade. I frequently google image search different locales to what might be “fun” inside, so I’m prepared and bring my camera. Research your city for fun walls/buildings, nature areas/flowers/etc. that may give you the color you are looking for. In Puerto Rico, the street of umbrellas was a favorite along with the yellow splash pad.
Adding Color to Your Environment
If you luck out finding existing color, add it in yourself! One of the easiest ways I do this is by stocking my kids’ closets with clothes that are more colorful. We own all things bright, rainbow and sparkly for a reason. Don’t forget about swim suits, jackets, rain boots and other accessories! Winter gear and accessories was the easiest way I was able to pop color into everyday winter images of my kids.
Toys and Props
Add colorful toys and other props into your repertoire that your kids want to play with. In Puerto Rico, I had a smallish collection of pool floats. It was the perfect colorful accessory to add to my underwater/pool images and my kids LOVED them.
Moving to winter, we kept that obsession alive with snow tubes. My kids had the time of their lives
every ride down our hill. Remember to choose things your kids are interested in and gets them excited.
You’ll get more real and raw emotion that way. We also have recently played with colorful tents like the Airfort, ribbons, scarfs, bikes, balls, hula hoops, bubbles, and chalk.
Creative Composition and Lens Choice
Get creative with your composition! Get up close and go wide! One of my favorite things to play with is movement. You can see it up above with the scarf. You can play around with movement with ANY of those prop suggestions. Try new angles. Chances are, you might create some wicked magic when you think outside the box. One of my favorite creative images from this past year is the below image of my husband and daughters. I held the go pro up as high as I could and removed EVERYTHING in the scene later in editing so that it appeared they were flying into that water.
My favorite lens for fun shots is the Sigma 15mm fish eye lens. It’s fun to play with the distortion and try unique angles and perspectives. It captures color and skies amazingly and for that I love it for outdoor images. For anything under or IN/near the water, the Go Pro is my number one. If I’m not wanting the distorted wide angle but still want to capture the whole scene, the Canon 24-70 is my typical go to. I can get the whole scene at the 24 end, and if need be, I have the flexibility to zoom in.
Whenever I’m feeling uninspired, I remember these tips and how many of my favorite as of late are of
my kids just being kids. Choose one thing to concentrate on when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Try
focusing on one color for a week. Chances are you’ll find it in places you least expect and find a way to create a unique image you otherwise wouldn’t have. Create goals and prompts to keep you pushing
yourself! Oh, and don’t forget to try to get yourself in the frame, too!