As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words…and if your goal is to give the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, a photo that captures the feeling of love will speak volumes. Whether you’re trying to convey romantic love, the love between a parent and child, or love between siblings, these photography tips can help you capture love and true emotions with your camera of choice.
1. Make sure your subjects are comfortable
Grip-and-grin photos—you know, the ones where people pose awkwardly with goofy grins, often shaking hands at a ceremony—have their place, but it’s not in your Valentine’s Day card or custom photo book. You want your recipients to feel warm and fuzzy when they see your card, so make sure your subjects feel warm and fuzzy, too:
- Choose the right setting. If the kids are going to behave the best in their own playroom, take your photos there rather than dragging them to the park.
- Select appropriate dress. Don’t pick sleeveless tops for an outdoor photo shoot if it’s 50 degrees outside. It’s hard to relax and feel joyful if you’re freezing.
- Set the right tone. If your family is laidback and outdoorsy, don’t set up a photo shoot at an art museum or other formal location. If you feel stiff and posed, your photos will, too.
2. Distract your subjects from the camera
Most people feel mildly uncomfortable having their photo taken. Do your best to help your subjects forget what’s happening. Begin the session with a casual, low-stress conversation. As you progress, encourage them to forget you and the camera are present and focus on interacting with one another. Which is more interesting: a posed portrait of an engaged couple, or a photo of said couple walking hand-in-hand and chatting? A mother and child staring at the camera, or a mother gazing down at her child while rocking her to sleep? A pair of siblings lined up on the couch, or the same brother and sister quietly playing with building blocks?
When it comes to shooting photos of your own children, practice makes perfect. If they’re used to you shooting photos of them as they go about their normal routine, they’ll pay little attention to the camera when you’re looking for a key shot.
3. Shoot in between poses
In the age of digital photography, a photographer really has no excuse not to capture multiple kinds of images. Your only limitation is the size of your memory card, after all. Don’t take a posed shot and move on—start clicking photos before, during, and after poses. Often the emotion immediately after a shot is the most relaxed and genuine. With children, the moment after they say “Cheese!” will probably generate the best results.
4. Shoot everyday moments
Expressions of love don’t always come in grand gestures. Capture love with your camera by photographing everyday occurrences. Brainstorm settings and experiences in which families and couples show their love for one another. Think about photographing:
- The family cooking dinner together. Preparing a meal is an act of love.
- The same family eating dinner together and sharing stories from their day.
- Parents reading bedtime stories to their kids.
- Parents brushing their children’s hair.
- A couple interacting with their pet.
5. Don’t miss the details that capture love
Observe carefully, and you’ll see many signs of love that don’t necessarily involve a complete view of your subjects’ faces. Think about one spouse’s hand on the small of his or her partner’s back, or the way parents tightly grip their children’s hands in a crosswalk. Focus on these details. Whether they take center stage in your custom photo project or simply play a supporting role, a detail can easily symbolize love.
Another tip: Focus on your subjects’ eyes with your camera. Smiles can be faked; the look of love can’t.
When you start examining the world through your camera lens, you’ll find many creative ways to capture the essence of love through photography. A single moment caught on camera can inspire joy for years to come.