My family loves to explore cities through public art — whether we are in our hometown of Nashville, visiting beloved U.S. cities like St. Louis, New York or San Francisco or wandering the streets of Greece, Portugal or Central America! I am drawn to public art because it conveys a vibrancy and a story of the community where it exists. My kids are drawn to it for its color and larger than life visuals. Plus, I love that street art is accessible to everyone!
My girls often tease me that when we’re visiting a new town or even just in our own neighborhood when I see a piece of street art I frequently stop and pull the car over to photograph them in front of it. Sometimes I ask them to pose and sometimes I just capture them playing in front of a sculpture, a wall mural or an interesting building or overlook.
I have found that some parents are tentative to do this or struggle with how best to photograph their kids without too much posing – especially in front of public art. Here are some best tips from a couple of my favorite photographers when photographing your kids anytime and especially in front of public art:
Get Low and Back Up
Mary Craven Dawkins with Mary Craven Photography in Nashville says her best tips when photographing kids in front of street art is to “get low and back up.” “By getting low, you get on their level which helps you see how they see it. It also makes them the focus of the frame even if they aren’t looking at you.”
Dawkins goes on to say “consider how you want to scale them to the art…and then watch them explore. Wait, don’t direct. Kids are resilient, lighthearted and curious. Even a sunscreen break while taking in art on a windy day in the Texas desert makes for an interesting photo.”
“The in-between moments, the real moments are what you will cherish. Art is interpreted differently by everyone, including the fresh eyes of a child. It’s a golden nugget opportunity to capture the innocence of childhood through a photograph.”
Dawkins also shares some technical tips for photographing kids with public art:
- Line up the horizon so it’s straight.
- Use the tools on your phone – in Instagram and other apps to find your own style.
- Contrast, vibrancy, and shadows can all be played with to make it your own unique view.
- Be original, like your kids!
Don’t Pose Your Kids
Samantha Nelson who writes at Those Crazy Nelsons adds “Don’t pose your kids. Shoot around them. Don’t ask them to stand and smile for the camera. If you have to tell them to smile they’re not having fun. Capture them admiring the art…running into the art. Let them be themselves. When you capture the feeling of your kids interacting with street art, you will get a better photo.”
Make it Fun
Again, I love to photograph my kids around street art (see some here and here) and as an amateur photographer, I would simply add: Make it fun: does your child want to do a handstand in the picture? Let them! Are they grumpy? Capture it! Feeling quiet and introspective? Sometimes these make the most beautiful images! And finally, tell a story through your pictures – show your kids’ personalities – again, grumpiness, silliness, curiosity – and the picture will come alive!
Discover more pictures by following along on Instagram: @Marycravenphotography, @ThoseCrazyNelsons, @TheWanderingRumpus & @TheFamilyBackpack for more family-friendly images with street art and beyond!
Mary Craven Photography photos are all taken in Marfa, Texas.
Those Crazy Nelsons Photos are all taken in Knoxville, Tennessee
The Wandering Rumpus photos are taken in Nashville, Tennessee except the lion picture was taken in Gdansk, Poland.
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