Somewhere in the long days of quarantine, I remind myself that what we’re experiencing right now is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. We’ll look back on these days as history and for all you Hamilton fans, “History has its eyes on you.” I like the idea that while this pandemic is making me anxious and worried, my kids are living their best lives at home with the whole family, everyone together, creating memories. So I urge you to not let those memories just fade away, but rather use this time to document your family history right now. Spend time photographing your kids so they too have memories to hold onto forever. And maybe let these tips guide you a little too…
1. Put away your phone.
Perhaps it’s an unpopular opinion, but I like photographs on ANY kind of camera better than on my phone. Yes, I have the upgraded phone with the new camera and I still stand by this. If you want to up your game, put something in your hands that lets your brain know you are creating art. You’re not just getting whatever you can snap quickest; you are taking the time to position the photo or frame the photo or maybe even work on the exposure. Keep it locked and loaded all the time with a charged battery and memory card (or film) so that it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. Of course, if all you have is your phone, that’s fine too.
2. Open up all the blinds.
I do this first thing every morning; letting all of the natural light in brightens my spirits. You’ll find that the light shines inside your home in very unique ways throughout the entire day. Play with it! See how a photo is different in one room in the morning versus the evening. I love to play with the light streams! Below you’ll see both of my kids in the same space just a few minutes apart. One is further away from the light than the other and I love how it changes the photo drastically. If you see light spilling in, sit your kid down in it and let them do something they love!
Any room that has windows doesn’t need artificial lights on. Have you ever noticed orange skin tones in photos? It’s a pet peeve of mine! Call me crazy, but I think your skin needs to look like your actual skin color. Do a quick google search for Lifestyle Family Photos and you’ll see they are dramatic with light dripping in all the right places. That’s because they used the natural light in a really good direction to highlight just the pieces that need it! Artificial light has no place in my photos at home. And while you’re at it, turn your flash off too.
When you see your kids doing something sweet and precious, hide. Hide behind a bookcase or a door frame and let it become a part of the forefront of the photo. It gives the photo dimension and makes it look like you were spying on this moment from somewhere unknown. And guess what? You probably are. It tells people looking at the photo that this is a moment that needed to be captured because of what was going on, nothing else. It helps tell the story!
I like to challenge myself to use one lens a day even though I have all the camera equipment. Sometimes that means one day I only use a 35mm lens and the next I only use a macro 100mm. But if that’s not what you’re dealing with, and most people aren’t, set your own parameters! Tell yourself today you will only take close up photos and the next are wide angle photos. I know that this will help you find all of the little moments you may have otherwise missed. Or it will help you embrace the mess and chaos or find beauty in the simplicity.
6. Do things out of the ordinary.
My husband likes to tell people I’ll do anything for a good photo! And it’s true — even if it means making a mess at my house. Let the kids jump on your bed, splash bubbles all over the bathroom floor, get covered in paint, etc. Capture the joy like it’s your job, because let’s be honest, these are not ordinary times!
You know what makes beautiful photos? Beautiful colors! Coming out of the winter into spring is the perfect time to add color everywhere and the more color, the better. Chalk art your entire driveway, build Legos, do crafts, paint — all of these things brighten your photos just by the many colors you will use. I haven’t done it yet, but one of these days on a rainy day I plan on hanging as many different color streamers I can find in a doorway and turning on a fan and letting my kids laugh in the craziness of it all. I can’t wait!
If you love the Lifestyle Photography I mentioned earlier, you’ll love turning your photos into black and whites. It definitely gives a photo a feel of documentation. I tend to hang black and whites on my walls because there is something artsy about it. It works really well for those serious, concentrating faces you capture too.
It’s ok to photograph the hard parts of this too. It’s not all sunshine and rosy anywhere right now. It’s hard for people to not be able to work and it’s hard for people putting in endless hours. It’s hard for those who have homeschooled forever and those of us just beginning. It’s no doubt terrifying for those that are working in healthcare or in our grocery stores. It’s hard if you’re single and it’s hard if you have 10 people living in your home. It’s just hard. But document that too! Ask yourself: What do I find beautiful about this time and what do I find really hard? What new things are we doing? What ways are we bored? Are there ways we are helping others? Photograph it all so when your children want to look back at this time, you can show it all to them. Photograph them zooming with their friends. Photograph the tears of cancelled events. Photograph the joyful run after days inside from rain. Photograph the new ways they talk to family members or the school set up you created. It all matters!
And just remember, all that matters is that YOU love the photo. It may never win a photo contest and your best friend may even think it’s a terrible photo, but if it makes YOU feel something and it’s something YOU will treasure forever, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.