I love documentation. My very favorite places on the internet are "mommyblogs" with really good photography and thoughtful writing. I also really like blogs that supply good ideas and tutorials for play-based learning activities. One of the things I'm most excited about for my impending teaching career is the opportunity to document children's learning. The whole reason I keep this blog is to record my experiences with kids. And even here, where I'm limited by the "not my kids, don't have photo release forms" factors, I still tend heavily toward including images when I can, whether it's pictures of the kids or of our activities.
I just finished my first couple of weeks subbing at Escuela, and even though documentation is not in my job description as a sub, at El's encouragement I've been reveling in the opportunity to snap pictures of the kids at play.
El already took the Documentation class in our grad program (I'll take it in a few months), and she's given me some really great advice for taking good photos of kids:
1. Fully engaged. Try to capture moments when kids are fully engaged in what they are doing. Often, kids won't be smiling in these pictures. They are learning, they are interacting, they are creating.
2. Story. Select pictures that tell a story without needing a caption for context.
3. Kid level. Get down at kid level. Seriously. Pictures taken at the level of children's faces have the effect of making you feel like you're right there in the kid's world, while pictures taken from above (adult level) looking down on kids feel remote and disconnected. Plus, you miss a lot of kids' facial expressions when you're mostly looking at the tops of their heads!
4. Tight shots. Practice taking pictures with tight framing. You often don't need to see a whole kid -- or even a whole face -- to understand the story of what's happening. To some degree, this can be accomplished by cropping photos you've already taken.
5. Alternate sides. Look for moments that show a different side of a kid than you usually notice, such as a quiet kid yelling, or a high energy kid cuddling calmly with stuffed animals. Capturing these moments will help you keep the whole kid in mind, rather than letting their more dominant characteristics define who they are when you are engaging with them.
With these points in mind, I can already see improvements in the pictures I've been taking of the kids at Escuela, and I've only been at it for two weeks!
So far, most of the pictures I've taken have been on a cell phone or on my crappy point-and-shoot camera. But coupled with my upsurge of enthusiasm for taking good photos of kids is my renewed enthusiasm to learn how to properly use my fancypants dSLR camera. One of my friends who's something of an amateur professional photographer is trying, yet again, to give me camera lessons so I can progress beyond Automatic mode.
I'm very excited for where I can go with my documentation skills.