I have a secret to tell you. Photography isn’t always fun. I started taking pictures because I loved the way it made me feel to see beautiful images of my children and to be creative. But once it became a job, some of the joy disappeared. I felt pressure to always get the perfect family photo so I stopped thinking outside the box. I played it safe.
Then one day last summer I made a change. I promised myself to be bold. To take chances. And I started with one of my favorite families. I’ve been photographing this lovely family for a few years so we are already pretty comfortable with each other. I was confident that I was able to capture some great shots during a family session last summer, but there was something nagging at me towards the end. There was a really pretty creek at the bottom of a hill and I kept thinking how beautiful it would be to have the kids feeding the ducks in the water. They had brought some bread in a basket and were throwing crumbs from the top of the hill, but I just kept imagining the little girl with her bare toes in the water, one hand holding her dress and the other hand holding the basket of bread. Or the little boy picking up rocks.
They were dressed so nicely and I felt bad asking the parents to let them in the water. Plus, we’d have to climb down a little hill so there was potential for someone to fall or get hurt. As I was packing up my camera and thanking the family, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting something more. I knew that as long as we were careful, I could get some amazing shots. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask and they agreed!! I was so excited and thankful because these shots are some of my absolute favorites. So the next time inspiration strikes, don’t be afraid to indulge a little. But before you do, consider these tips.
1) Get the most important shots first. Especially if this is the first time you’re working with a particular client. This way you’ve got all the shots you need and that the client hired you for. After that, you can take a few minutes to be creative and try something different. If it works, it’s a bonus. If it doesn’t, you’ve still done your job. Waiting until the end will also give you time to build trust between you and the client and they’ll likely be more open to your crazy ideas.
2) Consider their age. You may have the coolest, most amazing idea for a shot, but you have to make sure that your subject is able to pull it off. I was comfortable asking this brother/sister duo to climb down a hill because they are a little older. I wouldn’t ask a toddler to do this unless mom and dad were in the shot with them.
3) Be careful. Think about how you want to execute the shot before you get everyone into position. For these shots, I got down in the water first to see if it was slippery. It helped that the parents were on board so they made it sound like an adventure. I also made sure to set my camera so that I was ready when the kids came down.
4) Explain your vision. Talk to the parents and explain the shots that you are hoping for. I did this for 2 reasons - to give them an idea of how much time it would take and also to set their minds at ease about how I would accomplish those shots. I also made sure to include the kids. I told them how I wanted them to pose.
5) Be flexible. Kids will be kids. You have to be able to go with the flow. Once they were down in the water all they wanted to do was feed the ducks. I was afraid it might take too long, but I also didn’t want them be unhappy. While they threw crumbs, I snapped away. Even those it wasn’t my original vision, these shots ended up being super cute! The only problem was they emptied the basket. I didn’t think it would look right for the little girl to be holding an empty basket so we filled it with some flowers that mom picked. Her dad helped her over to a good spot and I told her to lift her dress with one hand. The final shot was even better than what I envisioned! There wasn’t much posing involved with little brother. He was happy to crouch down and explore the water. Typical boy!
5) Don’t forget the details. Even though the shots I had in mind were of the little girl in the water and her brother picking up rocks, it’s still important to tell the whole story. I made sure to get a shot of the bread basket, the ducks, their feet in the water, etc. Details shots would be great for a storyboard or an album.
The next time your are photographing a child or family, try at least one thing different. One thing that makes you think outside the box and stretch your creativity. You’ll be a better photographer for it!
About Stacey Mae Photography
I’m a working mom with 2 young girls who keep me super busy. One is in middle school and the other second grade. Most days you’ll find me in my car driving back and forth between school, the grocery store (I’m there almost every day!), and playdates. I love my girls and torture them with my camera whenever I can. My husband, on the other hand, would rather be watching football. If I get an hour or two by myself, I’m usually watching a movie, flipping through a magazine (because my attention span can’t handle a book anymore), or browsing Pinterest for recipes I’ll never make.
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