I sometimes get asked, “What’s the best age to have my children photographed?”
To which there’s surely no right or wrong answer (some practical considerations aside) and I reply along the lines that the right time is usually straight away - particularly if putting off the moment risks the whole idea getting shelved until it’s too late.
However, trying to make some sense of my photo library recently caused me to reflect on whether there were indeed any “golden” moments in growing up. Having photographed almost every age from one day to 21 years and being a parent myself, are there any particular years that merit capturing over others - a sort of “if nothing else, get these” collection? I think there are. Regardless of whether you are consistently recording everything or one of those families who only take a few photos on holiday, if you single out a few choice images from each of these ages and make a point of printing them you will end up with such a worthwhile record. Ideally, have a professional help record at least one or two and have an album made.
So here are my golden ages; they are quite broad and general and of course every family is unique! See what you think - what are your golden ages?
Here’s the obvious one to start:
0 - 9 months
Irresistible. All the attention and excitement towards a new baby mean that he or she will often be showered in photographs. It is an age of big changes too - try and do some naturally lit portraits that show off eyes and hair, which often change colour, and those first front teeth. It’s worthwhile to make a little album as young children love to see pictures of themselves as a baby and nothing beats the tactile quality of turning the pages too.
The Terrible Two’s, really!
My first instinct was to write off the 18 months to three years bracket, obviously haunted by memories of arriving at a portrait shoot to find a full-scale meltdown in progress. Looking beyond the teething and tantrums, I am reinstating it for being the age of that big milestone, the sense of independence that comes with those first steps of walking. It may take patience but it’s rewarding to capture that world of discovery.
“The Sweet Years” 3 - 5
I often think this period is the most heavily imbued with nostalgia. Eyes are big and inquiring and everything is magic, from fairy tales to dressing up to Father Christmas.
“The Adventure Years” 7 - 9
Pirates, beaches, football, horses, bikes… The energy goes up and the shutter speed on the camera gets ratcheted up a notch to keep up with the action.
“The Last Years of Childhood” 11 - 13
This is one of my favourite ages to photograph. Optimism and enthusiasm, often tempered with thoughtfulness or a little apprehension result in some of the most natural portraits. Not yet grown up but no longer a child.
“Out Into The World” 17 - 21
Suddenly, they have learned to drive and gone to South America or Australia before heading off to university and the wider world. Where did it all go? Do you have a record? A real, tangible, printed record?
The next photographs will be at their wedding and the cycle starts over…