Friday, February 24, 2006

Photographing Uncooperative Subjects

By Christina VanGinkel

My two-year-old grandson was recently sprawled out in the middle of my living room floor, with a blanket we keep in the room for those evening snuggles all of us enjoy, wrapped up around him, his head on a throw pillow that originated from the couch, and a book about raising dragons held up on his chest. It was one of those picture perfect moments, which would have captured his early love of reading flawlessly. The minute he spied me approaching with my camera though, he tossed the book aside and pulled the blanket over his head! I would not say that he is camera shy, the opposite is actually true, as when the time is right (read this as when 'he' thinks the time is right!) he can be quite cooperative.

Children are not the only subjects that can be uncooperative when trying to capture their photo, pets are notorious for being just as hard to photograph. There are steps you can take to make the process of getting the perfect shot of whomever, or whatever your subject is, seemingly effortless.

Be Ready

The reason my grandson even knew I was going to take his picture, is because I had to fumble for my camera in the first place, and then when I turned it on, I realized I had to change the batteries. By the time I had everything set to go, he had too much time to become aware of what I was doing, and in that time, he made the decision to become uncooperative. If my camera had been in a convenient place for those quick but unexpected shots that are so common with children in the house, and I had taken the time to change the batteries when I last used it, I would have had a much better chance of getting the snapshot. He simply had too much time to question himself on whether he wanted his picture being taken in the first place.

I should have known better, as I had a similar experience just a few days earlier with a few wildlife subjects that were in our yard. We have a flock of wild turkeys that have decided to make our yard home this winter, and several fox squirrels too. They all think they can fit on the bird feeders we have placed about to feed the songbirds. As I walked outside, I realized that we had two full-grown turkeys and two fox squirrels all on a single bird feeder, looking very much like a bad cartoon for a busy restaurant scene! By the time I even found where I had dropped my camera the last time I used it, the moment was long past.

Each time you use your camera, take the time to place it in a convenient spot that is easy to access on a moment's notice, change the film or free up space on the memory card, change exhausted batteries, clean the lens, etc., so it is all ready to use at a moment's notice the next time you need it.

Be Considerate

Children and pets may not always want their picture being taken, even when you know that the shot of a lifetime is just a button press away. Learn to be considerate, but stick with your goal to get that shot. Do not expect either to sit still, get them occupied doing something else, such as playing with toys, or divert their attention to somewhere or somebody else, while you work on taking that perfect picture. I once had my youngest son sit and blow bubbles out in the yard, while my young grandson ran around chasing the bubbles. He was so intent on what the bubbles and his Uncle were doing; he paid the camera and me no attention whatsoever. I have employed similar tricks when trying to take some portrait shots of our family dog, who is getting up in years. My son sat amid a pile of leaves several seasons ago, and would toss them by the handfuls into the air. She was so mesmerized by them all; I ended up with a portrait of her that will remind us of her and her gentle ways for many a year to come!

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