Like so many others, I truly started my photography Journey when my kids were born, simply wanting to take better pictures of them... To document their lives. I didn't know what “lifestyle” or “documentary photography” was, but I knew that these tiny humans were my everything... My insides... My purpose. I wanted to freeze every moment in time. So I bought a good ol’ Canon Rebel and started learning. I became obsessed. That Obsession turned into passion and that passion has not wavered for even one second during my journey. I have found my voice in imagery andThe my way of showing my children just how much they mean to me. My personal work was what started me on this path and it Remains the biggest component of who I am today as an artist and a mother.
Shooting and editing for yourself will help you to find your voice. Find the story you want to tell. When I first started my business, I thought I had to keep my personal work separate from my client work. The way I shot my family was vastly different than what I was doing at page sessions. The second I decided to shoot EVERYTHING the way I saw it, my entire world turned upside down and my business took off. Every image that I share, whether personal or client is a little piece of my heart. That's not to say that every single client session I do is incredibly fulfilling artistically and I'm over the moon about every single image. That's just not possible. There are sessions that can cause A creative row and sometimes even make you question why you do client work at all. That is when you go out and shoot something JUST. FOR. YOU. Remind yourself how much you love picking up your camera and making something That no one else could, because no one can see the world, or your children, like you. Personal work will set you free, I promise you that.
Finding the Beauty in Daily Life
The number one thing I ask people wanting to take better pictures of their children is this... What do you want to remember? Document that. Is it how she holds her doll in one hand and her blankie in the other? Is it the way he sleeps with his tush in the air? Is it soft baby curls or chubby little toes? Document all of it. Don't leave any precious details out. You will soon start to see things differently. You will get a glimpse of the magic that only their world has.
The next thing I want to tell people wanting to take better pictures of children is... Do a 365 project. One image, every day for a year. Yes, a seemingly daunting task. But I promise you, it will take you to the next level of artistry and inspiration. There are many parents who worry about their kids getting frustrated with the camera always being out and being in their faces. Yes, this can happen. However, my kids barely notice my camera anymore and they never complain, and here is why. My camera is readily accessible all day, but the average time that I actually spend photographing them is no more than 10 minutes per day, sometimes a little more, sometimes less. Now, when I started my project, this wasn't the case.It took a little while to realize what I was looking for and to have patience until the moment presented itself. Yes, I am a fly on the wall the majority of the time. However, there are those special moments where I actually engage with my children while photographing them. Both Styles work in different situations and both are very special.
For this shot, it was literally silent in my house, so I KNEW they were up to something. Here, I am a fly on the wall.
For this shot, I am playing with my son. He is actually laughing at how silly mama is lying on the ground. Here, I am engaging.
The images I capture of my children are for me, yes, but they are also very much for them. When they are grown, I want to them to look back and review my images as Love Letters to them. I want them to see exactly how I saw them. I want them to know exactly how much they mean to me. I want them to relive the magic of their childhood through my art.
Finding the Light
Capturing the everyday means shooting in every type of light imaginable. Because life happens when it happens, that means shooting even if the light is overhead and harsh, or if the only light available is a table lamp. This is where your 365 project comes in. Practicing shooting in all available light will escalate your lifestyle game faster than you could ever imagine.
1/3200 | 5.6 | 500
This image was shot around 3 in the afternoon. The sun was bright and only slightly diffused by some Thin cloud cover. My kids were doing cannonballs in the pool so I grabbed my camera and waited. I shot about 10 frames to get to this one.
You will become comfortable with the worst lighting conditions and you will discover what your favorite types of light actually are. Mine is absolutely without a doubt LOW light. I love playing with the shadows and I love my light source being singular, usually a window to the side of or behind my subject.
1/320 | 1.8 | 2000
This image was shot right before sunset in my in-laws home. The only light source is the large picture window behind her, which actually has a large block wall right in front of it, blocking most of the light. Because I typically have my camera with me ( I bought a camera bag that is my purse which makes that possible ), I had it handy when I noticed this beautiful sun flare peeking through. I shot 5 frames that day and she probably didn't even notice, but I got this.
1/200 | 2.8 | 5000 This shot is also backlit, but the only available light was from our car's headlights while putting up our tent on the beach.
1/320 | 2.8 | 2000
This shot was my last frame that day. The sun, which is to the right of the frame, set seconds after I took this. This is an example of using low light Outdoors. Because they are side-lit, it makes the image of it more dramatic and emotive.
When shooting in low-light, and if the subject is moving, the higher the shutter speed the better. For moving subjects, I never dropped my shutter speed below 320.
1/320 | 1.8 | 2000
I also typically shoot wide open ( my staple aperture is 1.8). Shooting wide-open really helps when shooting indoors because it allows you to have a higher shutter speed. You will also have times when you need to increase your ISO. When I first started, everything I read told me not to raise my ISO above 800... EVER. I was terrified of having any grain in my images at all. And why? Because someone told me it wasn't what you were supposed to do. That's the thing about photography, it's ok to break the rules. In fact, I encourage you to break all of the rules. This is when you find your artistic Freedom. Over the last 2 years I have not only embraced the grain, but I now love adding it as well in post-processing. When shooting indoors, I almost always have my ISO set at 2000, my aperture at 1.8 and I adjust my shutter speed accordingly.
1/250 | 1.8 | 3200
For this shot, the sun was just starting to come up. My light source was one window that is to the left of the frame. I love what low-light does for skin tones and how it brings up such an emotive quality to an image. Even with an ISO of 3200, her eyelashes are sharp if I was still afraid that a “high” ISO was going to ruin my picture, I would have never captured this.
I know it's ultra cliche to say this, but their childhoods are flying by. Some days I swear I need to stop blinking. Where did the last five years ago? Where did my baby's go? I know you feel the same way. So go capture these fleeting moments to cherish forever.
Written by: Coleen Hodges of Coleen Hodges Photography