7 Tips for Mom to Pick Up Her Camera and Use it
Originally this blog post started out as a post about how to get the best family Christmas photos. Then it morphed into a post about how as photographers it is important to make sure that you get INTO your family photos too and not only take them all. It is so important that we are present in what will someday be memories for our children and grandchildren. So give that camera to someone else for a few frames. I sat down at my computer to look through my archives from the last several years to pull out some example images. I was mentally preparing myself to be very vulnerable–fully expecting to be sharing photos of my smiling self with bed head hair and mismatched pajamas. Oh jeez…did I even put a bra on before we opened Christmas presents last year? But what I found surprised me and it has changed the way I will be documenting Christmas for my family from now on.
As I looked through my images from last year my heart started to sink. Maybe I just have to go back another year…nope…okay maybe another year. You see…I was having a hard time finding much of anything from our Christmas celebrations! Sure, there were a few but most of them lacked thought and intentionality. I am a photographer for heaven’s sake! I should have entire hard drives dedicated to just my family celebrations…right? What happened? And then I remember that feeling of being burned out…overwhelmed…just plain tired. You see, fall is normally a busy time for photographers. In fact, most photographers would say that time of year is flat out crazy times! Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for the busy and the support of my amazing clients and I am sure that my fellow photographers are as well. However, as I looked through my archives I realized that there was another previously unrecognized downside to my fall busy season. By Christmas I am drained. I don’t feel like picking up my camera anymore. There is this negative association that develops when I pick up my camera and my brain recoils from the hours of computer time that it expects will follow. The true consequence of my profession is that far too often my Christmas memories are captured with a cell phone camera…and let’s just face it those things are mostly disappointing; at least to someone who has a full arsenal of professional gear at his or her disposal.
So this year I encourage you to bring the “real camera”. Take a few pictures of your kids making a mess of the kitchen as they bake cookies with Grandma. Take that picture of Grandpa snoring in his chair with a grandkid on each side. Separate your business self from your creative self and just enjoy capturing some moments. Let go of the pressure of perfection! Who cares if the kids aren’t wearing matching pajamas…in our house we are lucky if my youngest is wearing pajamas! Don’t worry about the clutter, or the status of your holiday decor…just capture the essence of what this Christmas is to your family. Silence that voice in your head that tells you that if the images aren’t amazing or artistic or perfect or *insert your adjective of choice here* that they aren’t worth taking. Because the memories created during these times matter and you have been blessed with the gift of being able to capture them…exactly as they are.
Please note: I am not saying you should feel the pressure to pose your entire extended family and create beautiful custom wall portraits…that is work for most of us! And if you are reading this article and happen to be related to a photographer…please…please don’t ask them to squeeze in a quick family portrait session while they are home for the holidays. So I will leave you with a few quick tips for making the most of your holiday memory capturing times.
- Don’t get out the entire arsenal. One or two lenses should cover it. I bring my 50 1.4 and my 135 f2. The biggest thing is to make sure you get the camera out of the bag and use it.
- Bounce flash is your best friend, use it. If you aren’t familiar with it, this is a great time to practice.
- Don’t be afraid to take a mix of candids and camera aware images.
- Look for things that will tell the story about what this holiday was like for your family. The baking, the board games, the presents…whatever it is that makes up your traditions.
- Don’t feel like you have to photograph every. Single. Moment. Get the ones that matter to you and keep the camera handy in case something pops up.
- Try new things! Maybe a new lens or a new flash technique. Even better, maybe Santa will bring you a new piece of gear. Nothing gets a photographer’s creative juices flowing like new gear to explore with!
- Don’t restrict yourself to the 48 hours of Christmas! This year I took photos of our Christmas tree shopping, the kids’ Christmas concerts and our annual trip to have brunch with Santa.
These images are not awe inspiring. They are not even technically exceptional by any means. We don’t match and to be honest…my hair is a hot mess in the one image my husband managed to get of me that was in focus. But…this is us…in this season. These images will make me smile for years because they are real and they are true. So, go out and make some of your own. Share them with the world, or keep them close to your heart…but just make sure you create them.