One of my favorite things about documentary family photography is the challenge of telling a story through pictures. Ideally, the viewer should be able to look at the picture and understand what is taking place and/or be moved to some emotion. I love cute pictures of my kids (just check out my Instagram feed!), but my favorite images, and I feel my best images, are the ones I have to work hard for. A great picture is the result of multiple decisions made by the photographer about how to best show the scene they see and tell the story in a way that emotionally connects with the viewer. This challenge is what keeps me pulling out my camera on an almost daily basis.
This post is part of the Storytellers blog circle, a group of documentary family photographers from all over the world, who come together monthly to post one image and explain the choices they made that take it from a simple snapshot to more profound storytelling. Continue the circle by checking out Jen Lucas's July image.
I'm sharing one of my favorite images from our recent vacation. Whenever we visit family, one of my goals is take images that highlight our large extended family. I love showing all the love but also the reality of family life. I'll want to remember both years from now when i look at these images and that's what i want my kids to see too.
When I'm considering making an image, I have three key elements in mind: light, composition, and moment.
Light - The light was what drew me to this scene. I loved the way the table reflected the light on their faces and the deep shadows that hide elements that are unnecessary to the story.
Composition - I squared up the the table and the window behind my mother-in-law and got close enough to fill the frame with them and exclude other distracting elements of the kitchen.
Moment - Once I was positioned, I just had to wait for good moments. I took 20-30 images of this scene and this was my favorite. There's good separation between my subjects and everyone is focused on the card my son is holding up.
What would make this image more successful? Part of improving the skill of making storytelling images is noticing what could be better and factoring that into future situations. In this case, I had an “almost” image of everyone laughing at a funny moment in the card game that just didn't work because my father-in-law has landed back so he wasn't in the frame and the positioning of my husband and baby was off as well. A humorous moment would have been a better connection with the viewer, but the composition just wasn't there.
I look forward to sharing more of my process behind making storytelling images next month!
Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day? Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family. It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.