Erika Kao Photography  |  Bergen County Photographer  |  Wyckoff, New Jersey

Happy New Year, folks!

Back in September, I shared some tips about How to Take Great Photos of Your Children. Now I want to share a little of why that's important.

As I recently disclosed on my Facebook page, I wasn't schooled in photography. I studied English in college and I have a master's degree in social work. But I've always been keen on photography, and in college I took a few courses in film photography, but I let it slip away when everything turned digital and I was faced with having to learn everything all over again. That ache in my heart, though, never really went away. I always felt like photography was what I was supposed to be doing, what I really really really wanted to be doing, but I never fancied myself "good enough" when I saw other photographers' work, and so I just kind of kept it to myself.

Until about 5 years ago, when one little button entered my life, and again 2 years ago, when another little button came along. I figured, hey, you know what? Now's my chance. I wanted to capture my daughters' childhood in a way that wasn't ordinary. I wanted to have photographic documentation of their joys and sorrows. Of their successes and failures. Of their keen sense of style and of the things that brought them great joy.

Like in the photo below, which I recently shared on Instagram. This is a photo of my daughters following a thin "river" of water from the driveway to the street. My husband does what's called a "water dump," when the girls follow the slow trail of water as it makes its way downhill.


This is something he's done with them in the past, but I've never been witness to it until now. And what fun it was! He'd told me about it beforehand, and I envisioned screams and excitement and jumping and running. I set my camera to a super fast shutter speed because I didn't want to miss a second. But the process was so leisurely. It was almost peaceful to watch. Down they walked, the younger one after her sister, kicking autumn's leaves out of the way as they followed the thin river of water pushing its way down the hill.

This. This, today, is one of my favorite photos of them. (I even set it as my desktop background on my computer.)

This photo is so important. And I'll tell you why.

It shows them in a very important location: where we live. No other location is going to be as important to them when they are older and are looking back over their childhood photos. Their home is where they live and breathe; it's where they learn just about everything for the first time. It's where they first learn how to love. (Maybe that's why our childhood homes are so important to us.)

It shows them wearing clothing of their choosing: the younger one in her pink gloves and hat and her sister's hand-me-down Hello Kitty vest, which was a gift from a doting aunt. She's also wearing her "Minnie Mouse" shoes, which were a hand-me-down from a dear friend. Her sister is wearing a new pink polka-dotted hat, her brand new kitten mittens, the blue leggings she loves so much, and a coat and brown leather cowboy boots, which were handed down from a beloved older cousin.

And it shows them doing something they love. They aren't posing. They aren't smiling for the camera. In fact, they probably didn't even know I was watching them, so I was really able to capture them simply being themselves and enjoying what they were doing.

This is my wish for you. Take photos of your children when they don't even know you're there. Don't insist that they look at you, and definitely don't insist that they smile. You don't even need to use the big camera. Use your cell phone. Be a stealth, get down low, and just catch them doing whatever they're doing, and you're going to have a photo that I guarantee warms your heart.

And last but certainly not least, Happy New Year!