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Photographing a Child's Imagination

Updated on June 17, 2014
From series; Nate's Adventures Used by permission
From series; Nate's Adventures Used by permission | Source

To see a great example of this project visit the site of photographer,teacher and musician David Niles.

He has created a set of images featuring his son Nate and creations from his imagination which are nothing short of amazing and powerful because of their simplicity.

These images make anyone wonder about the power of imagination and perhaps take them back to their childhood through the power of their own imaginations.

A child's imagination can be a powerful creative tool just like adults, but children have a way of imagining and interacting within their imagination in ways that we adults can't or have forgotten how to do.

Can you do a project featuring photographing a child's imagination? Yes you can with some digital savvy, a little imagination and some good photographs.

You can do a photographic project featuring "images from the mind of a child" very easily if you too allow your imagination and creativity to come through.

Apart from creativeness you will also need the aid of a digital editing program like Photoshop.

The process involves joining two images into one, much like the old film technique of sandwiching negatives. One method is old but tried and the other new and exciting. Both achieve the same results.

So what types of images fit this particular theme? Basically any that show the child and whatever other subjects are available real or not. Like it was mentioned before, the best way is to take two images; one of the child and the other of the particular subject which comes from the mind of a child and joining them together. This is known as merging and it is usually done with digital masks.

This is the easy part of the entire project, the hardest portion is to be creative. It is not just merging two photographs, this has been done quite a lot but the secret is to use images that when they are seen by an audience it immediately brings the notion of a child' imagination and playful nature to mind.

Because we are dealing with children the photographs should be pleasing and not in any way suggest that the child is in danger or that the scene is dangerous. Although the audience knows better, and can distinguish between what is real and what is not, posting dangerous looking scenes can often be disturbing to others and it will detract from the overall concept.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

The composition will depend on what the photographer has in mind. The images can be as simple as photographing a child as if he or she were on a field and looking at dinosaurs, aliens and other mythical creatures.

Since there are no monsters, mythical creatures and as far as we know no monsters or aliens, these images will most likely have to be composed from the drawings of talented artists.

So far as what medium;color or black and white, this again is up to the photographer's discretion but the images have to be composed as if the child is somehow interacting with the subjects or at least looking at them.

Other more realistic subjects can be race cars, flying a plane, next to a beautiful water fall, an active volcano, planets, the starts and so on.

Best is to choose a theme and build your photo compositions around it. Although some talented photographers can do many themes at once, if you are a beginner simplicity at first is best.

Does this sound like fun and would you try it?

See results

Other suitable scenarios may include water like a child next to a peaceful river as if she or he is walking underwater or playing with the fish, or walking on the moon without needing a spaceship or space suit.

How about the popular theme of fairies? Girls and little boys playing with fires is not a new concept and in fact this technique was copied many years ago when photography was still in its early phases.

"The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradfordin England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 9. The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, as a spiritualist, was enthusiastic about the photographs, and interpreted them as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena. Public reaction was mixed; some accepted the images as genuine, but others believed they had been faked." Wikipedia

This series of five photographs shows that even with simple materials the project can be done although today it is more fun and the composites achieve a "more realistic" look by the use of a digital format to compose the final photographs.

Another good technique to consider is to use one of the images in color while the other is in black and white or even in Sepia. The contrast in colors draws the attention and the subject matter keeps it.


CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

If you want to try your hand at it and do not either have a digital editing program or are not that familiar with computers but still love to photograph, then there is even a much simpler method although it will lack an overall amount of detail and many other characteristic.

Take a fantasy poster from any provider. Just make sure that it is about a fantasy or a view that is really breathtaking yet seems like an impossibility for someone to be there.

Take a photograph of a child as if admiring what is in front of him. Cut out the child from the photographs, and yes you need scissors and a steady hand, and glue this cut out form to the poster.

Frame the poster carefully and photograph it. Make sure to crop the image so that the edges of the poster do not show.

The final image is very similar in concept to this project. One key piece of information to be aware of is that both the overall poster and the overall image of the child must be similar in their colors and tonality. Alternatively you can use a dark poster and the silhouette of the child.

A monochromatic format eliminates these color variation concerns so it is worth exploring. Better is to do two separate sets; one in monochrome and one in color and judge the results.

Elsie Wright with a fairy Taken in 1917, first published in 1920 in The Strand Magazine
Elsie Wright with a fairy Taken in 1917, first published in 1920 in The Strand Magazine | Source

The resulting images can be used as showpiece in an fine art gallery presentation, as illustrations for a children's book, by greeting cards production, for posters and by general photographic related publications.

they are also very suitable for general children's photography instead of the more formal posed ones and in general they are more fun for a child as well as for their parents.

Innovation and creativity are key in presenting this format to parents when they want some memorable photographs of their children. Nothing says that they must only be used for any of the previously mentioned purposes.

Whether the photographs are done with simple materials or with the more sophisticated digital method they still presents us with a set of fantasy filled images that are sure to capture the imagination of the children as well as the gaze of adults.

Children's photography is a very popular photographic theme and photographs featuring kids are attractive and usually well received.

CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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