I'm the official photographer in my family. But my wife, Susan, is quickly becoming a shutterbug, due in part to the good results she gets with her point-and-shoot digital camera.
Susan is not the only mom I know who is having fun with her camera. Recently, I met a gifted mom, Lisa Bearnson, who has made it a point to turn her snapshots into great shots. Bearnson is founding editor of Creating Keepsakes, a scrapbook magazine, and author of "Mom's Little Book of Photo Tips."
In her book, Bearnson offers advice for almost every scenario that parents encounter when photographing their children from playtime to the first day of school.
Bearnson uses simple terms to explain the technical aspects of photography in a way any parent can understand. She wrote the book with the idea that most readers will be using point-and-shoot cameras, but the techniques can be applied to single lens reflex cameras, as well.
"Women are very practical photographers," Bearnson says. "They want to capture the moment, the emotion. When they're taking pictures of their kids, they're just not interested in messing around with complicated equipment. They simply want to get the shot."
Here are a few of Bearnson's tips from her book that I think parents will find useful:
Use natural light indoors. In most cases, natural light photos are more pleasing than flash photos because the light is softer on the subject. Try to use window light as your main light source. To take indoor natural light pictures, use an ISO 400 or 800 film or set your digital camera to the highest ISO setting. When you use black-and-white film, and when you set your digital camera to the black-and-white mode, you don't have to worry about getting a picture with poor color, which can happen when you mix natural light with the light from household light bulbs.
Document a pastime. Document the hours a child spends engaged in a favorite activity by taking candid shots of the child involved in his or her hobby. Take close-ups and wide-angle pictures of your child. Also take a close-up of a favorite toy (which might be fun for the child to see in future years).
All together now. Add some attitude to group shots by encouraging the children to strike the same pose or make the same face. Duplicate gestures not only give unity to a group shot, but also show personalities.
As a parent since 1991, I have a few photo tips of my own for photographing children. My best one: Don't make a big deal out of taking a picture of your child. Kids, like pets, are not always ready to be photographed when you are.
Keep your camera handy and be ready to capture those magic moments. Even if the picture is not technically perfect, it will be an important record of what's most important to you your child.