ACCORDING TO the folks at Eastman Kodak -- who should know -- 35mm enthusiasts expend more film on their kids than anything else.
Holidays and vacations account for much of that, but there's ample opportunity for good picture-taking of your offspring even when they're not shredding Yuletide wrappings or frolicking on the beach.
One of the rules to keep in mind is that your kids aren't nearly as fascinated by cameras as you are. Let the kids be themselves and capture them at play. No doubt they'll mug or ham it up for a minute or two -- in the belief that's what you want them to do. But if you keep at it, they'll soon ignore you.
You'll need quick reflexes and command of your equipment to capture spontaneity. And your film will need to be fast, too. Even toddlers can make great demands on your ability to "follow focus" and stop subject motion once they get up a head of steam.
An ISO 200-to-400 emulsion will allow you to use smaller f stops for more depth of field, as well as faster shutter speeds to stop subject motion. And negative, rather than slide, film will give you more exposure leeway.
If you've got a moderate telephoto lens, it will allow you to get frame- filling shots of tiny heads without having to work too closely. A zoom lens' ability to vary image size continously makes it ideal for moving subjects.
Don't be afraid to level with your kids. Lowering your camera position magically takes you out of the adult's world and into the child's.
If you're shooting the kids outside, you'll find the best conditions in the soft light of a high-overcast day. Even in late afternoon, illumination is sufficiently diffuse that light levels vary little, no matter where the sun is relative to your scurrying offspring.
On bright, sunny days with strong directional light, watch carefully for harsh shadows on faces. It might be best to wait until your child moves into a broad shaded area before shooting -- but don't let your meter be fooled by any bright sunlit areas in the background; open up a stop or so from the indicated reading.
Another option is to shoot with your child between the sun and the camera, to capture dramatic backlighting on hair and/or profiles. This works particularly well with towheaded tykes.
Open up about two stops to provide enough detail on the near, shaded, side of the face. And a good lens hood is a must, particularly with zoom lenses, to keep bright sunlight from striking the lens' glass elements and robbing the shot of contrast.
Shooting indoors can be a little trickier, given the space limitations. Bouncing your flash off a white ceiling or a white card attached to your strobe will give better "modeling" to features than will direct on-camera flash.
Children's faces often photograph well by nearby window light, as well. Keep an eye out for distracting backgrounds (table legs, chairs, etc.) and render them out of focus by using a wide f stop whenever possible.