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 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 September image.
I'm sharing one of my favorite recent images today. I love it for several reasons. I'm in it, for one. When one parent is the primary family photographer, they are usually the one least seen in photos. My husband will takes over the camera whenever I ask him, and I do occasionally, but I also love the challenge of a self-portrait with my kids. This one is all the more dear because it shows something about each of their personalities. My oldest's unbounded energy and enthusiasm and my youngest's quiet curiosity.
When I'm considering making an image, I have three key elements in mind: light, composition, and moment.
Composition - In this case, composition was my first consideration. I wanted a wide shot that showed as much of the room as possible. After setting up my tripod, I used the windows and the walls to create a frame for the action.
Moment - My youngest son and I were relatively stationary. I have several sweet shots of the two of us reading and playing on the mattress. But this one is my favorite because of the element of interruption from my eldest. He's mid-stride, both feet suspended in the air and my younger son and I are both turned to watch him, smiling.
Light - While the light is important here, it is a typical light for me. I can rely on the afternoon light coming through these windows and shoot here often for that reason. I love how it catches my son's body and brings my eye to the action first before other elements in the scene.
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. Here, while I chose a narrow aperture to account for our movement within the frame, we're still not quite in focus. Focus for self-portraits can be a bit hit-or-miss, so choosing a narrow aperture, when possible, helps make missed focus less obvious.
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.