Something I have been musing about on my photography journey recently is why I started this journey in the first place. I feel it is a constant struggle in this industry not to lose your way and staying true to your authentic voice. To be caught up with trends and other peoples expectations and lose sight of what it was that really made you tick and had you running for your camera. For me this is and always will be documenting our family moments. I have found (like so many people do) the busier I am getting work wise the less I am shooting for me, and my first love. This has been slowly sucking my passion and I am just trying to bring back a bit of a balance.
I thought I would share my tips as a reminder to me but also for anyone else out there who wants to document their family moments. These are the things I have learnt along the way.
Do Walk Towards the Light!
I have to mention this first. Find the light. Light adds so much to an image. It creates mood, gives shape, dimension. It makes you feel something. This used to be one of my big stumbling blocks. I had so many excuses! My house used to be too dark, then we renovated and then it was too light! There is always interesting light. You can find it, you just need to observe and take note. It really is everywhere. I am still finding different pockets of light around my house that I hadn't noticed before.
Play with the light. Open or close curtains, use artificial light. There are more options that you realise.
If you are going to document your family you do need to respect some boundaries. More so as they become teenagers. My kids have gone through lots of different phases when it comes to having their photograph taken. My youngest went through a stage where if I asked her to do something for the camera, she would take great pleasure in doing the exact opposite. I have found that it really works best if I don't ask them to do anything most of the time. I just observe and wait for the moment to happen. Occasionally I will ask if they will do the same thing they are doing but in a particular area (one with gorgeous light usually) but thats about it. Mostly I work around them. If they don't want me to take a photo I don't take it.
This is a work in progress for me and something that I struggle with in general. I am usually busy so am often focussed on a task and tuned out to everything going on around me. I actually find that when I take photos of my family, tuning in and taking notice comes as a by product. I actually find that it is a bit like a form of mindfulness. It helps me slow down and appreciate whats going on around me.
Being open to moments throughout the day is something you need to practice and become in tune with so that when you see something you can act. Which leads me to my next point...
Be Camera Ready!
Having your camera charged, SD card ready to go and out where most of the action is, is going to go a long way to grabbing those moments when they happen. Those moments only last for a fraction sometimes and if you have to go searching for your camera they can be missed.
Drive in Manual
I'll keep my next point brief. Learn to shoot in manual. You wont regret it. I know it seems overwhelming but it will totally pay off in being able to create the images that you have in mind to tell the story of your family. Tricky lightling, shooting in shadows, all these things will require you to know your cameras settings for shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Learning how to control these settings will give you the freedom to be able to document your families story as you really see it.
Don't Just Look for the Photo Worthy Moments
It's easy to think about creating an image when your kids are in good moods, smiley, playing nicely, the sun is shining and everything is alright! Yes agreed, but only looking for these moments is not going to give you the complete picture of your family. And you want to remember everything right?! Don't forget to document the everyday mundane grind of everyday life. That's really what its all about. That is the stuff you think you will never forget but will be trying so hard to remember in years to come.
So this leads on from the " Be Camera Ready!" "Drive in Manual" sections. Try and make an image everyday. Its not going to be an amazing image everyday, but being intentional about creating an image everyday gives you so much practice in all those skills required to make those amazing images. Practice finding the light, practe framing/composition, practe noticing, you get the idea. I used to learn piano as a child and I hated playing scales, I just wanted to play Mozart and Beethoven! I feel like shooting everyday is like scales. You have to put in the hard work in seemingly repetitive and sometimes uninspiring ways until it becomes second nature, automatic, so that you can then make your masterpiece.
When you see something happening and you want to capture it don't just stop at one view point. Shoot the scene from all different angles. Shoot through objects to add depth and add to the story. Climb up on something and shoot down. You can tell a completely different story by just changing things up.
Keeping it Real
I don't think I am alone in saying my house is, at the best of times, chaotic. If I waited for everything to be perfect I would never even pick up my camera! Embrace the chaos and capture it. These are the moments that will speak to you about what your family was like more than anything else.
Get in the Frame
Last but not least, get on in there! You are part of the family and they will want to remember you being there too. I know how hard it is and I don't get in the frame as much as I should. It is a work in progress but I am happy for the images that I have and am so glad I made the effort when I did.
At the end of the day have fun! If you aren't enjoying what you are creating something is off. If you aren't enjoying taking a photo, chances are your kids aren't either and they will end up resenting the camera. Try to keep it lighthearted, don't take it too seriously and put the camera down occasionally too:)