1. Get prepared
Think about where you’re going to take the photo or video (in your garden? the park? a cycle path?). Wherever you choose, make sure that it is safe for them to cycle there. Work out where your child will cycle from/to and the path they are likely to take.
You’ll need to make sure there are no obstacles for you or them to trip over or run into. Lastly, wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes, you’re going to be running about trying to photograph them riding their bike and you want to be able to keep up.
2. Pay attention to the location of the light
Our eyes are amazing at coping with a range of light. Unfortunately, cameras, especially cheaper ones, can’t cope well when there are strong areas of light and dark. So shooting in bright sunlight is tricky.
It’s usually a lot easier to take clear photos in softer, more even light. If you are shooting in bright light make sure you’re not taking photos of people against the sun as they’ll just be silhouettes.
3. Chose the background wisely
Think about what you can see in the background of your photos. It can give a nice context but can also be very distracting. If shooting in your garden you may want to clean up any distracting items (toys strewn around) from the background.
Conversely, if the background is quite dull you may want to add a splash of colour or something of interest. If you’re out and about then simply by turning 180 degrees and photographing your child from the other side can be the difference between a busy road in the background or the row of trees on the other side of the park.
4. Try continuous shooting
If you have the option on your camera try using the ‘continuous shoot’ or ‘burst’ mode. This will allow you to take a rapid series of photographs (usually by pressing and holding the shutter when this mode is selected). You then have the luxury of selecting the best from a series of photographs.
One way to use this feature is to start out a good few metres from your child and slightly off to the side of their intended path, crouch down so that you are at eye level with them, as they start to ride towards you push and hold down the shutter - you should get lots of photos of them as they pedal towards you.
As they ride past you can turn and get a few shots of them side on and then from behind as they keep pedalling.
Before you start shooting pre-focus by half-pressing the shutter button. And remember to pan as smoothly as you can, keeping your child in the display as you turn.
5. Communicate clearly
More important than any technique or equipment is engaging with your child and putting them at ease when you photograph them. Everyone responds differently to being photographed and you’ll know whether your child likes having their photo taken and, if they don’t, how to get them to relax.
Don’t get lost looking in the little display screen or at your phone, instead, look around/above the camera, look your child in the eyes, smile at them, lighten the mood by telling a joke, whatever works best.
Why not try video?
Most smartphones and many digital cameras come with an option for recording video. Capturing the whole thing on video is an excellent option and you can share the video with relatives who weren't able to be there on the day.
Or if you have a Go Pro why not strap it to your child’s handlebars, pointed back at them, and capture their smile as they ride their new bike for the first time?
The most important tip of all is not to get so absorbed trying to get the perfect photo that you forget to experience what’s going on in the moment. Photo or no photo you’ll always remember their look of joy as your child tries out their new bike for the first time.
If you really want to avoid distraction you could hand photographer duties over to a friend or relative.