Are you interested in how to become a documentary photographer? With these photography tips you’ll learn How to Take Good Documentary Photos through projects and ideas with the Mom Movement Project.
How to Take Good Documentary Photos
Hi Everyone! I am Stefanie Endres, and I am a Maryland girl, and family photographer who specializes in Documentary Family Photography, and founder of The Mom Movement. I started this journey into photography with super styled and posed newborns, but quickkkkkkkly realized that was not my forte. I liked the pictures of the moms holding the baby…not the wrapped baby stuck into the bucket. As much as I still love those pictures, I just didn’t love taking the pictures. I wanted more of a challenge. I wanted the challenge of capturing a family in its real moments.
I did a complete 180 with my photography and switched to doing mainly documentary work. I needed a few families to photograph to build a portfolio, so I decided to gift 10 documentary family sessions to different families in my area. I sent out an application to a few local mom groups on Facebook, and quickly got almost 200 applicants. Almost all of the applicants were mothers who wanted to be seen and noticed in their own family lives. They are all behind the camera, and rarely in front of it. That is when The Mom Movement was built.
What is The Mom Movement? It is a movement that helps to empower moms through documentary photography. Moms can feel under-appreciated, over-worked, and stretched thin with all of their daily duties and responsibilities. The one thing that they don’t realize is how appreciated they really are. Moms often feel like their daily duties go un-noticed. Little hugs when your toddler falls and cries and wants his mommy, rocking the baby to sleep in her nursery, and feeding your kid the 1,000th snack of the day, are all mundane routines that aren’t ever remembered. Of course, you can remember them NOW, but can you remember little things like that in 10 years?
The ultimate goal for The Mom Movement project is to physically show moms the proof. They are needed, they are wanted, and they are such a huge part of the family.
Documentary Family Photography Tips
The sessions I do are typically done at my client’s home, but can also be at any location they frequent, or anywhere they go. This summer, I’m stepping away from the normal routine of visiting a family at their house, and instead am going to fun different summertime locations. Sweet Summertime is a little project this summer where I am documenting families in pools, at amusement parks, eating snowballs, going to carnivals, playing at playgrounds, fishing in their local pond and building sand castles at the beach!
Family photography doesn’t have to be posed portraits, or even lifestyle. It is fun to be able to capture actual family moments and real life togetherness of families. Sometimes is fun to think outside of the box!
2- How I do Documentary Photos:
How do I do it? I arrive at the family’s home, or fun meeting place and give a brief rundown to all participants. I tell them that I will be like their long lost Aunt for the day. I chat, I laugh, I play, and I take pictures. The kids show me their toys, and the parents tell me about their hardships with parenting. Sometimes the kids call me Miss Stef, and other times they make up nicknames like Stef-con!
3- I go everywhere they go- unless…
I let them know that I will follow them everywhere, but if they don’t want me to go somewhere, just to let me know. Some children want total privacy in the bathroom, and some moms want total privacy when putting their child down for a nap.
4- From Laughs to Meltdowns:
I let the families know that I’m there to document- so I will continue snapping away when meltdowns happen, when kids are crying, and when messes are made. If something looks dangerous, I keep taking pictures. If something looks life threatening, I will obviously intervene!
5- Be intentional:
I try to shoot with intention, and look at the surroundings over my camera before shooting with my camera. I look for a great composition with a clean-ish background, or fun background. I position myself where I can get those awesome shots where the clients are in good light.
6- Tell a Story:
At homes, I look for a background that helps to tell the story. For example, if there are toys everywhere and a meltdown is happening, I want to make sure to show all of the toys. If we are at a carnival, I want to position myself to show the family with the ferris wheel in the background, instead of all of the port-a-pots. As contrastly.com says Documentary photography is telling a story and tell it well.
7- Keep the lines in:
I’m a girl who likes a lot of lines. When I make a picture, I like to have awesome lines- whether diagonal or side to side, I love lines. I love it when lines frame pictures, and when lines help create a focal center point.
8- Choose the right lens:
My 15 mm fisheye lens makes the best lines! (My bag contains a Sigma 15mm Fisheye, and a Sigma Art 35mm). I find that the fisheye is great for one or two subjects in the center of the frame, and the 35 mm is best for whole family shots.
I hope this helps you to make great pictures of families near you. Embrace the crazy, embrace the mess, and embrace the typical family life. And create a Mom Movement of your own! #empowermoms