So we're in week 5 - the penultimate week of our summer project and I'd like to change gears a bit. So far, we've been focusing on specific themes - like nature or water ( sorry again for jinxing the weather!) or swings and slides or colour. And I have to say, you have taken amazingly to it - the sheer creativity of your images have really impressed me, but if your kids are anything like mine, they and you may be showing some signs of camera tiredness. So this week, we're slowing down and looking at your kids and their summer - and YOUR summer a bit differently.
Every day is an adventure NOT
If you've set foot on Instagram, I'm sure you have stumbled into a myriad of inspirational quotes and someone #blessed will have uttered - When you have kids, every day is an adventure!
Like today when my daughter watched Hey Duggee, played half-hearted game of hide and seek and then we went to Tesco. Her sister is actually away on an adventure but that's by the by.
My point is, however much we might try, kids bring with themselves some high energy days and some very very mundane days when seemingly nothing happens.
Notice my use of the word 'seemingly'
Because as all those non-adventures were unfolding, actually lots of things were happening. Things that are easy to miss when you rush past them to the next structured out-out activity.
Here are all the things that happened on our day.
- While she watched the bloody dog and his band of squirrels, she snuggled up to me, in the way she doesn't often do anymore and I noticed how she absent-mindedly still plays with her hair, pulling on it and stretching it gently. And that lock of hair, that gesture, took me right back to the breastfeeding days.
- We played a little hide an seek game and her impatience in waiting to be found and peeping through her hands when she was meant to have her eyes closed made me chuckle.
- She performed some daring sofa acrobatics - this child is never still, and especially when tired, appears to not be able to keep herself straight, folding over as if her spine was made of jelly.
But you have to learn to look past how 'normal' and unphotogenic this all seems, and let yourself just watch. Connect to their world. Pluck the beauty out of the mundane.
And that's what I want us all to pay attention to this week.
We're not used to slowing down and taking in the little things so if you don't find it comes naturally to you, asking myself a few questions help.
The first question to ask is:
How does it feel?
I'm watching my child. I'm taking my time to let my eyes register what she's doing, how she is, the details and the wider setting - but how does it feel?
How does it feel for her?
And how does it feel - for me?
I am a strong believer that if you feel something, anything - a little tenderness, a lot of love, the wonder, the beauty, the frustration even! - you should photograph it.
If you ever find yourself wishing the moment would stop forever, freeze it with photography.
Pay close attention to what you're seeing and observe all the little bits, and the big picture and make sure you capture it - in one, or multiple photos ( more on that in a moment)
If in doubt, start with a feeling.
The second question you should ask yourself is:
What's the story here?
If you've done any of our courses or bootcamps before, you know that we talk about storytelling through photography A LOT.
To me, a photo that doesn't tell a story feels empty. Good photographs pull you in, make you look inside the image, make you pause and wonder - subconsciously or otherwise - what's going on there. They make you feel.
But I know that the language can be confusing. We hear 'Story' and we think that there has to be some great big narrative, something that shows some big event or action. But that's not it. ( well, it can be if that's your jam, but it certainly doesn't have to be. Your photo needs to simply communicate something. the littlest thing. A sensory experience or simply how something makes you feel.
Storytelling in photography
Visual storytelling is not that different from writing a story. You want the reader / viewer to understand the WHO ( your child – the subject), the WHERE ( location or circumstances of what’s going on) and the WHAT’S GOING ON. Not all 3 will be equally important to all photos. In some cases, the location will be irrelevant. In others, the action is not that key but the WHERE really makes a difference. Pretty much all that stays constant is the WHO – your child.
It literally answers the question - what is this photo about?
But my child is a baby, they DON’T DO Anything
If your child is a baby, you may think – but they don’t DO anything! That may be true but actually, they do. They interact with their environment, even passively. The space around them has a different meaning because they’re in it. You can tell if they’re big or small by comparison with other elements in the picture. There are children’s paraphernalia all around them, there are things you do with them. They have a place to sleep and an eating / changing routine. All those things ARE the story.
From Big to small ( or vice versa)
When I observe my daughter, I often linger on the details. The little bits which always grab hold of my heart, the little quirks that are uniquely her, the little ways in which she does things that might change completely in a week, but that I don't want to forget.
But I also want the bigger story - the where we are? The what's going on? Time of the day? People they connect with?
Photos, where you can somehow fit both the detail and the context, are amazing. But they can also be a challenge to visualize and when you are only just starting in photography, it can feel daunting.
So I invite you to explore a dual approach. I want you to notice both the detail AND the context and capture both. We'll be focusing on how to make the most of this approach on the next page.
It is as simple as it sounds. You take a photo of the detail and then take another one when you expand your view to include more than just that detail. To give context. To place it in time and space.
Or the opposite. If you're grabbed by the scene - capture that first. But then, find something in that scene that's extraordinary, or sensory or just a little special and capture that too, zooming in on it.
Here are a couple of examples
Let's go to the next page to see how to make those detail and big picture photos work.