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 Rebecca Hunnicut Farren’s May image.
There's a short period in babyhood (aren't they all short periods?), where you can plop a baby down with minimal interference (and a few toys or pots and pans) and he'll entertain himself for some time. This times comes when he's safely sitting up on his own but hasn't quite learned that he can go places with those little legs and arms. This picture is that time. In pretty light. 😁
When I'm considering making an image, I have three key elements in mind: light, composition, and moment.
Light - I love the afternoon light that comes through our front windows. It casts beautiful shapes on the floor that stretch and very in intensity as the sun sets. I exposed for those highlights here, resulting in deep shadows around the rest of the frame. This technique is useful to minimize any clutter that's lying around your subject. Always a hazard with kids in the house.
Composition - I stood on my tippy toes to shoot from this perspective. I knew I was shooting for deep contrast and I wanted to incorporate the patterns on the rug to add visual interest. I also used the lines of the light/shadow to lead to my subject.
Moment - Once I was positioned, I only had time for a few frames before my son crawled away. This one was my favorite because it shows movement and I love how his hand and legs are touched by the light.
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 would have liked to bring in a chair so I could get higher and shoot directly down. Or alternately, I would have liked to see more of his face as part of this moment.
I look forward to sharing more of my process behind making storytelling images next month!
Want to learn how to document your family's everyday? 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.