6 Pro Tips For Photographing ‘Real Life’

When the new year rolled around in January, I didn’t set any big lofty photography goals this time around. A 365 project felt too daunting, a 52 project felt a bit restrictive as well.

But one thing I have wanted to play with a bit more is the lifestyle/documentary style of photography.

There have been several family activities or events that I’ve been dreaming of photographing as Brielle gets older. I’m also realizing the importance of documenting not only the milestones, but the hum drum days we spend at home too.

This is a project I’m able to schedule and complete on my own terms, and it’s also one that’s helping me fight my urge for perfection behind the lens too.

My husband has quite the sweet tooth and is in love with breakfast. Pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, etc…he’s in heaven. Oh and donuts. Mmmmmmmm. Food allergies keep me from enjoying them so it’s been YEARS since we’ve set foot in a donut shop. So, for Valentine’s Day we decided to introduce our little girl to the deliciousnesses of these special treats with a ‘daddy daughter donut date’. The images below are the result of their outing.

If more compelling storytelling is on your list of photography goals this year, not only am I leaving you with this set of images today, I’m leaving you with a few new tips to add to your bag of tricks too.

DSC_8090edit copy1) Have a camera nearby

So many moms I meet keep their cameras locked in a closet or high up on a shelf so ‘their kids can’t break it’. But that saying ‘out of sight out of mind’ is so true and we can easily fall into a trap of taking too many photos with our phones or not taking any photos at all, simply because the big camera is not nearby. Keep your camera close for a day and notice how many more photos you snap! DSC_8102edit

2) Look for light first

You may find that your locations for lifestyle images are not always ideal. They’re likely full of people, clutter, or distracting colors. By finding decent light for your photos first you’re eliminating one huge distraction, poorly lit images. By taking shots that are exposed correctly, your viewer will be drawn into the subject and the moment instead of your perceived distractions. DSC_8104edit

3) Don’t direct, encourage

One of the most important tips for lifestyle photos is to just step back and watch a moment unfold. Most of my documentary style shoots don’t have anyone looking at the camera lens on purpose. That isn’t to say I completely become a fly on the wall. Sometimes there is an action I want to capture (‘hug your daddy’ or ‘say cheers!’) but I’m more encouraging a behavior that fits the activity instead of directing the entire shoot. DSC_8123edit

4) Let go of technical imperfections

It can be so easy to beat ourselves up over the littlest technical flaws. Was your white balance off? Edit the photo in black and white! Was your aperture too low and wide open limiting focus? Embrace some creative bokeh! Did you end up with motion blur from a slow shutter speed? Allow that blur to help tell the story! Sometimes those technical imperfections are what make lifestyle photography feel so ‘real’. DSC_8125editbw

5) Shoot in continuous mode

Look for the icon or setting on your camera that looks like a stack of papers and switch your camera to turn that setting ‘on’. In this mode, when you depress the shutter the camera will continuously take a series of shots. This mode can help when you have a fast mover on your hands. The hope being that one image out of a series will turn out! DSC_8118edit

6) Constantly change perspective

If there’s one secret that helps changed my documentary photography immensely it was this! I move A LOT when taking pictures. I stay in one place for a few shots and then I move to a difference angle, spot, or vantage point to shoot another series. This adds variety to the session and allows be to capture wide angle views of the big picture and close up details that help enhance the story. DSC_8116edit

7) Remind your self that not every shot has to be a winner

To often I find we as moms beat ourselves with guilt for the things we don’t do. This happens just as much for our roles as moms as it does in our photography journey. Don’t beat yourself up for the photos that don’t turn out. Celebrate the ones that do! Create a slideshow to share what you document, create a collage in Picmonkey, or hang a favorite on the wall. I usually only consider 20-30% of my photos from a session keepers. The rest are simply practice and a great tool to learn what went wrong so I can improve the next time around!

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