People ask me for photography tips with kids, so it was time to pass some questions on your questions to Leigh and to get to know a bit more about Leigh Benson – the lady behind the lens in our professional kids photoshoots.
I get asked what to look for in a photographer when one wants to invest in a professional shoot for the family and more specifically when you want to get good pictures of the uncontrollable, unpredictable and “Don’t tell me what to do” little ones.
So here’s how to find the perfect photographer for kids photography:
Firstly, don’t judge the photographer on technical skills only. One can very often find portfolios of photographers online and see the most magnificent pictures in a mountain setting or dark clouds with the most beautiful rainbow and colour bursts…BUT…when you start searching the faces and emotion of the kids they can appear to have been a bit “off-ish” on the day of the shoot. A seemingly grumpy child in an otherwise perfect picture is not ideal. It’s the moments with our children we aim to capture, not the mountain and its perfect shadow. When you properly search the emotion of the child in the picture and you see the genuine joy, you are probably looking at the picture from a photographer who has personal skill with children.
When these kinds of photographers arrive on the day, they generally don’t reach straight for their camera. They take some time to connect with the child and almost say “Hey little one, I’m your mommy’s friend today, would you like to have fun with us too?”. That’s not necessarily what they say, but that’s the vibe they give, you know what I mean. It’s just like any other service you pay for – when you take your child to a dentist who gets straight into “the process” with needle in hand – as opposed to another dentist who goes down to the child’s level to have a chat about his favourite food – you are going to get two very different results from the child’s reception and boom, you get an attitude from the child as if it was his idea to rock the gig.
Secondly, with the amateur cell phone pics – don’t create an expectation of what you want a picture to look like. In the nature of content creation, I often end up taking 20 pictures of one thing my baby is doing and work with what she presents to the camera instead of some unrealistic expectation. I then choose the one that speaks to my heart instead of the “best” one. And as all parents know, the cutest things happen when there is no camera close enough and even if you got up to get it, that particular moment cannot be recreated.
Thirdly, print some of your pics. Trust me on this one. Saving images in the cloud is for that one day that never comes and IF it does come it’s close on impossible to find what you think it is you’re looking for. Even if you save them in albums in the cloud, consider how many pictures you take in a month and then imagine being in your seventies and wanting to find a picture among the thousands of files from 35 years ago. I came across a blog post the other day titled “The most photographed generation will have no pictures in 10 years”. You can read it here.
For our Poppet Patch Events and Product Shoots, Leigh Benson is our official photographer. We like her because she consistently delivers on technical quality but more importantly, she vibes with the kids and they adore her.
We asked Leigh, from Leigh Benson Photography a few questions so you guys can also get to know a bit more about what makes her so special to us:
Leigh, tell us about yourself with only 5 keywords?
Creative, enthusiastic, loyal, outgoing, tea-loving!
Where did you grow up and tell us a little bit about your early childhood?
I grew up in Weltevreden Park on the West Rand of Johannesburg. I had a teddy named Pinky that went with me everywhere – Pinky still sits on a shelf in my bedroom!
I remember that the first house we lived in (until I was six) had plum trees and nectarines and peaches. There were frogs in the garden and my Dad once set fire to a snake in our garage. Can you believe it, right in the middle of suburbia!
We stayed in our second Weltevreden Park house for 18 years – my sister and I used to spend school holidays playing in the garden pretending we had horses. We were a lot fitter then!
Can you share a favourite memory with your mom as a little girl?
Once, my mom had her hair permed and when she came to fetch me from nursery school I told the teacher she wasn’t my mom and didn’t want to go home with her! That story still makes us laugh. My mom and I have always been extremely close and my favourite thing was her reading to my sister and I from E. Nesbit and C.S. Lewis.
How did you get into photography?
My granddad had an old Kodak Instamatic camera that didn’t work. He gave it to me as a toy and I remember taking a million pretend photographs. I always loved drawing and took Art all the way to Matric, but even with my pretend photographs I hadn’t considered photography as a career path. I was accepted to Rhodes University to study Fine Art, and it was in my 1st year that the photography bug really bit. My hours spent in the darkroom developing film and watching my photographs come to life are some of my best memories from University. It was an easy decision to choose Photography as my practical major for my degree.
When I moved back home to Johannesburg, my first job was in a family portraits studio and that’s where I really found my passion. It was (and still is) such an incredibly rewarding feeling to be able to capture such special moments between family members and friends.
What do you love most about Photography?
The ability to capture emotion and connection. A smile, a laugh, a cuddle, interactions between people. We don’t have any formal family portraits of the four of us (my mom, dad, sister and I) from when we were younger so it’s so important to me to be able to share this gift. I love that I am able to give people a lasting legacy of themselves and their families – photographs that will be treasured for generations to come.
What is your biggest challenge/dislike in Photography?
I feel that photographs have lost their value in this digital age. I promote photography as an artwork and encourage all my clients to exist in print! I feel that there is the assumption that digital photography is cheap, but I put as much work into processing digital images as I did when I was shooting and developing film.
What are your top Photography tips for parents?
Firstly, let your kids be kids! If you are planning a professional shoot or even taking photos of them on your phone, don’t force them into anything. The most natural and beautiful images I have taken are when I’ve been able to capture honest moments.
Secondly, allow yourself as parents to be in the photographs too! Believe me, your children or grandchildren will look for those photographs one day!
Thirdly, print your images. Hard-drives crash, phones get replaced, technology you use now may be obsolete in a few years time.
What is your favourite book?
My love of reading I absolutely got from my mom – whenever I have some downtime I love escaping in a book. I read anything from classics like Catch 22 to crime novels to sports autobiographies. Very hard to pick a favourite!
What is your favourite movie?
An animated film from 1980 called Animalympics – I’ve watched this movie so many times and know all the songs by heart, even though the film is older than I am!
Tell us about the shoot you enjoyed the most and why?
I have been taking portraits of my friend Sarah long before she became a mom. When she had her daughter, Bella, we started a tradition of doing a November photo shoot for her to send out photos as Christmas gifts. We try to do something different every year and every shoot becomes an adventure for us. This year will be our 7th Christmas shoot. Sarah is an incredible mom and I love being able to capture the bond between her and Bella.
If you could go and shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be and what kind of shoot would it be?
Gosh, there are so many places I would love to go – Iceland, Alaska, the Grand Canyon, the Shetland islands…I would love to photograph a beautiful maternity shoot with a striking landscape as a backdrop!
What do you like most about working with Poppet Patch?
It’s so energizing to be around a team that has such a genuine passion for all things parenting. I also love that Laetitia brings the honesty of her everyday life into her blog.
You have such a wonderful energy with the kids. Do you have any thoughts on having kids of your own one day?
Let me get my wedding out the way first (laughs) In all seriousness though, thank you – I love being around children because they are always unapologetically themselves. I think we as adults can learn something from that!
You can follow Leigh on Instagram and Facebook Leigh Benson Photography where she has also shared tips like why you shouldn’t be afraid of using your pics when they have a bit of blur in them. To learn more about Leigh you can view her portfolio here.
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With Love and Gratitude,
*This is not a sponsored blog post but Leigh Benson Photography is the official sponsor of Poppet Patch photo shoots and photography competitions.