If you are like me the last month and a half has been overwhelming, exhausting, and a flood of other emotions. The days crawl by and at the same time I feel like they go quickly in a haze of my own anxiety about the world & chaos of 4 kids at home ALL THE DANG TIME. The injustices that exist everyday in our world have been even further revealed in this crisis and there is much to do. Many of us are at home right now left wondering what does helping look like? What does this mean for our neighbors and ourselves and how is the best way to love others right now? What does staying sane look like? I am wrestling with this all as well and while we are all in this together we experience it is very different ways and there needs to be space and grace for that difference. I have very few answers to the pressing questions right now but what I do know is that RIGHT now is worthy of capturing for this story is messy and beautiful. Maybe you sense the importance of right now too? Maybe you need a distraction right now? Maybe you have always put aside that camera “for the right time” to learn more? Maybe you sense the weight of all that is happening and want to tell your story? Some people write to process, some speak, some paint or draw, and I capture images. I am a storyteller and this lack of connection with my amazing clients has confirmed for me how valuable my work is to me and how capturing stories can help us all gain meaning from what we are experiencing. I want to help you in practical ways so if you are ready to capture your life right now let’s do this:
First treat the ordinary moments throughout your day as beautiful & messy AND worth capturing. I think this is actually a really healthy practice for mental health as well. Slowing yourself and focusing on what is happening can help us process and be grateful- or really feel sadness- all of which are good to feel. Being real with how you are feeling and seeing your right now through a lens can help you make sense of it.
Have your camera (or phone) near you so you can capture the moments of your life right now. The best camera is the one you have with you right now: use your phone if that is all you have OR grab that DSLR you have not dusted off in a while. I challenge you to get out of Auto mode! Try shooting in P for Program Mode or if you are braver try M for Manual mode and experiment.
Don’t worry so much about the “perfect” camera settings. To capture personally-meaningful moments and stories choosing the real and raw moment or series of moments is far more important than getting the perfect settings on your camera.
We learn by making mistakes, by falling forward so don’t be afraid if most of your images are not incredible at first (#sameteam) because that is the beauty of digital photography; you can keep capturing and adjusting and learning. You might end up deleting a lot of them but this practice is what helps you train your eye and skill to capture what you deem as worthy of story. The “secret” to becoming better at photography is no secret: just practice, reflect, and practice some more. You will learn what you like to photograph in this process as well. For me I LOVE capturing people, connection, and emotion over landscapes and I learned this just by trying different things. Don’t despise the small starts: just try and learn. I have also taken several online courses here if you want to dive in more.
Here are 5 tips to help you tell your sorry right now:
1. Decide what stories are worth telling during this season of lockdown: first, decide it is a story worth telling. Seriously. Stop for a moment and think through your day and ask what is different or unique? Think through the mundane that you are noticing more in this season. For me this included: cooking with the kids, family game nights, zoom meetings with family, friends, and teachers, “Corona” cuts we are doing at home, Abishai learning to rie his bike, Easter celebration via zoom, remote learning, & planting. I am sure there are things you are doing right now that are different from your norm: capture those. Make a list of a few moments from the last week that made you laugh, cry, feel surprised, frustrated, or be grateful. Add to the list. Ask yourself what images will help me tell this story? If I could not explain what was happening with words but only show this image (or series of images) what should I include? What do we want to remember about this day?
2. Find the light: light is the main artistic tool in photography. It determines not only the darkness and lightness but the mood, vibe, and tone. Turn off the lights when possible and find the natural light. Even ordinary light can illuminate your subject in a beautiful way. Window light is great! But you can also play with unusual light; incorporate shadows, patterns reflected on the wall, backlight, or other light sources like a candle.
3. Focus on your people: Especially focus on capturing their real expressions and emotions. For me this usually means shooting multiple frames of the same thing and being patient. Most of us will tense up or “chessy smile” when a camera comes out but if you shoot for a while your kids (or subjects) will relax and be more themselves- that is where the magic happens! Be patient and wait for it. It you are capturing kids or movement be sure your shutter speed is 250 or above to capture the expressions without motion blur. Quick tutorial on Shutter Speed here.
4. Change up your angles: Capture a few images then shift YOUR position. This can make a huge difference in your images. I try to rotate in a circle around my subjects for family images to see what different angles do to the images. Try shooting from a birds eye view, from behind, from below. This can really help your storytelling. If you are capturing your child reading get on their level an you might surprise what a difference it makes in your images.
5. Focus on details: the details or our lives are often what we forget later and that is why I love capturing them. Detail images can be part of the larger story or stand alone and just tell part of the entire scene or story. When I look at baby pics of my kids I just cannot get over their chubby hands and feet- it is the details that draw me in to when they were that little. Think: a sprout growing in the garden, little hands holding a pencil, dirty fingernails working in the garden, the unkempt hair blowing in the wind, a favorite toy running across the couch, the position your child sits in on the floor while engrossed in a book. Take images of the smaller details that often go unnoticed because they can be beautiful and help tell the story.
I really hope you find a life giving way to help capture your right now because it is messy AND beautiful and a story worthy of reflection. I am right in this with you and would love to see your images-tag me @hawaimages I am so excited to see what your capture and I cannot wait to get back out there and capture you all because your right now is a worthy story friends.
Grace and peace to you friends in this difficult time. Be well friends.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.