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5 Steps to Creative Storytelling in Pictures with Your Kids

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Creative storytelling in pictures need not be daunting nor time-consuming. You can easily set up something really simple at home to take pictures of and at the same time make new memories with your kids.

The actual shoot must be kept really short, so as not to exasperate your kids too much, especially if they are very young, and therefore have relatively short attention spans. The real work is in the planning and thinking ahead.

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The first rule to telling a good short story in pictures, is to keep it simple. Think of a singular plot: beginning, middle, and end. You can then fill in the gaps with interesting takes and angles. The biggest, and best, tip I give to anyone before taking on any creative project, is to imagine the emotion and feeling you want to evoke at the end of the project. Then work your way backward.

Start planning and decide on a theme. Take for example a simple back to school theme.

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Step 1. Plan ahead

Think through the story you want to tell; decide on the details, picture the sequences in your head, and feel the story. Think through the items and characters that play a major role in the shoot. Half the battle is won by good meticulous planning, even if it’s just in your head.

What is the overarching emotion, look, feel, and colour of the shoot that you want to achieve? Pare everything back that doesn’t fit in with that look and feel. This shoot below had three requirements: golden, sentimental, and rich in bokeh (background blur). So I planned everything to achieve those three specific requirements.

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To get rich bokeh, you need to shoot with a wide aperture, between f/1.2 to f/3.2, if you have normal shorter focal length lenses. For longer lenses like 85mm upwards, you can stop down a bit more, as the longer the lens, the more compression there is in the background. Using a 200mm lens, for example, would still give you nice background bokeh even at f/5.6.

To get golden images, use a gold reflector, and wait for the golden hour when you can get soft diffused yellow light. Golden hour usually happens about 1-2 hours after sunrise and before sunset depending on where you are in the world.

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Step 2. Coordinate colours and props

Reign in the colour palette, go for a family of colours like blues and greens, or reds and purples, or warm yellows and oranges. You can add a splash of contrasting colour for focus. But it is always good to reign in the colour palette keeping it to 3 or 4 colours maximum.

Props need not be bought, or expensive. Use what you have at home; fruit, books, toys, cushions, quilts, etc. Just make sure they are colours that complement your chosen theme.

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Step 3. Don’t be over ambitious

Keep goals simple when it comes to photographing kids, especially if they are your own. It’s one of the most difficult things to do. Keep it short and sweet by focusing on one or two actions or scenarios, and make them super easy like reading a book, hugging, or laughing at a silly joke.

A plot is not always necessary, you can even just aim for capturing some interactions between your kids. The props are to create some new context for them, hold their attention for a few short minutes, and keep them engaged during that time.

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Step 4: Plan a beginning and end shot

The beginning and the end are crucial to a story because they bring the theme together. Make sure you have an establishing first shot, and a feel good last shot. Details are always a good idea for a contextual or establishing shot. They not only enrich emotion, and reinforce a story, but also strengthen memories. Interesting close-ups, and expressions or unusual crops are also good for closing shots, and stay in the viewer’s memory for a second longer.

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Step 5: Edit your images with a plan

If you edit your photos, edit them according to your vision. there is no one else to please but yourself. The photoshoot you planned is for you and your family, so be true to your original vision and be brave, then sit back and enjoy your creative story in pictures.

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Have you taken images that tell a creative story of your kids at home or more tips to add? Share them in the comments below.

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Lily Sawyer is a wedding and portrait photographer based in London. Her absolute favourite past time is going on "mummy" dates with her kids and husband. Other than that, as a homebody, she is content curled up on the sofa, hot chocolate in hand, watching films with her family whenever she has a free weekend. Check out her work on www.lilysawyer.com Follow her on her fave social media platform Instagram.

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  • Umesh Nawathe

    Very nice article. Simple and can be worked out at anytime. Thanks for sharing.. Cheers!

  • Lily Sawyer

    I’m glad you found it useful, Umesh. Thank you for your comments!

  • You Kee Mui

    If the background is a beach, what colour palette should i use ?

  • Lily Sawyer

    Hi! I think your editing depends on what look you’re after and how you have taken the photos – some like the background really soft and blurry and hence very pale pastel colours especially if the skies aren’t defined and they blend into the horizon, others like the crisp defined look, clear sand clear blue sky. Just perhaps get to a starting place where the beach / sand is a good colour as close to it’s true colour as you can get and then edit to taste from there, like warming it up etc. It also depends what time of day you shoot, if it’s late sun the beach will have a golden feel to it. You want your subjects to also look warm. Hope this helps.

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