Advice from the Frontline - Mel Ham How to Photograph Your Children
posted on July 10 2017
How did you discover your passion for photography?
When I was growing up, my father had a Cine film recording system and was always making classic home movies and recording holidays etc where we would watch them back and laugh/cringe at our hideous voices and poor acting skills. He also had a fabulous Polaroid camera that took instant images that my sister and I were occasionally allowed to get our hands on. It was really my sister that introduced me to photography about 10 years ago as she takes excellent photos of her family and I wanted to be able to do the same and it built from there. I bought my first ‘grown up’ camera about 8 years ago but never took it off Auto as it was intimidating and scary. If I took enough shots, I’d have a few keepers but I enrolled in a local course and was forced to move my camera onto the dreaded Manual mode and from there I was able to be more creative! I’ve never looked back or used auto again…
What about photographing children and families, how did you come to build a business in this space?
Being a family person myself and having 3 young girls it was what I naturally gravitated towards. I know how lovely it is to have a simple and natural shot of your family to mark that point in time and to look back on. Living in this beautiful green country of ours, I am always seeing new places to shoot using either the natural environment or a more industrial location, for example, the docks and Titanic Quarter where a client wanted more edgy shots. The business has grown organically and mostly through word of mouth as people have, very kindly, recommended me.
Her inspiration grew from her family, Mel here with her three gorgeous daughters.
- Photographing fast moving kiddies must be tricky, what are some tricks to get a good picture?
First piece of advice is to get down to their level. It always makes a more pleasing image if you can see their face front on. This isn’t to say you can’t take a good shot from other angles. Let creativity be your friend. You also want good natural light. Mid morning or late afternoon low light, is a photographers best friend as it stops harsh shadows forming across little faces. If shooting on a camera phone, the shutter speed will be determined by the amount of light around you. The brighter the light, the faster the shutter speed will be and the crisper the image and movement will appear frozen. If you’re using a camera phone or basic camera, you are at the mercy of its capabilities, but, if you have a DSLR then my next piece of advice would be to be brave enough to take it off the Automatic setting and onto Manual. Don’t panic! Your camera won’t break! Don’t worry too much either, about what lens you have as they can be expensive but concentrate on a fast shutter speed – you want a fast shutter speed (1/500 and faster) as it freezes motion. From here it can get a little techy and you’re best reading up about it!
They grow so quickly, any suggestions on how to make a documenting plan? Take a picture every month, every year?
I’ve done my own photo series with my children and I love looking back on it to see how quickly they’ve changed. With newborns the change happens before your very (weary) eyes and I’d recommend a month by month photo series. You could dress them simply and put them on a beanbag or something to prop them up. Use this same beanbag for consistency to give you an idea of comparative. From 12 months I would recommend doing it yearly but, again, using the same format (eg, standing against the beanbag, or near a chair).
What about displaying or organising pictures— what are some ways that you have seen work really well?
Fortunately, gone are the days where you have to print out hundreds of copies and make 1980’s collages in plastic frames, using tape to stop them from sliding. You can buy a simple frame, with dividers from most large homeware shops, but creativity packs a punch so go for big and bold! I still love a collage presentation and I have an entire hall covered in framed images from important moments of my life. I’ll often stop and look at them. It transports me to my happy place. I’ve seen all sorts of clever presentation ideas involving twine, clips, ribbon, painted vintage windows on Pintrest. I love their creativity who has the time? I can print images onto key rings, mugs and jigsaw puzzles, which are very popular gifts. As for organising pictures I am a bit fanatical about it and have various hard drives, Dropbox and iCloud all set up as the idea of loosing them terrifies me. I give my husband an iBook every Christmas with 200 of my favourite images of the year which he cherishes. They are very user friendly and you don’t need to be a photographer to have a fabulous book.
Any lesson learned on balance between yourself and being a mom that you can to share?
It’s a wonderful thing being self-employed is I never have to miss the school sports day, speech and drama festival or piano recital. I had a full time job until my second daughter was born and although I loved it, I was having to make choices I didn’t like, and my evenings were spent rushing homework and a stressful bedtime. We’ve all been there and that glass of wine can’t come soon enough. Now, I am more flexible doing a job I LOVE and learning all the time and developing my business. I think it’s really important to have an interest, hobby or job that you can continue to grow as your children become independent. As a mother to 3 young girls I feel it’s crucial for them to see me working and contributing to the financial aspect of family life as having a role model to look up to is crucial to their development and self-belief. I want them to grow up believing they can be anything and go anywhere.
Teach kids the wonders of the camera: