With our quarantined Mother’s Day fast approaching, I wanted to reach out and say, I see you Mamas. I see you giving your all to keep your world afloat. This is hard. Some days I'm barely holding on. Still, between the uncertainty, fear, and exhaustion, there have been some really sweet moments. And if you're anything like me, you love documenting those moments.
For me, photography has always been about telling a story; of weaving together the moments of our life in a visual narrative. Right now we're living history. Capturing our story during this time is more important than ever. The problem with being the family documentarian, however, is that more-often-than-not I'm absent from the images. And I'm guessing I'm not alone in this.
So, this Mother's Day, I challenge you to GET IN THE PHOTO. I know you need a haircut. I know you haven't worn real pants in months. But your kiddos don't care. They only care that you are with them and when they look back at the images of this time they'll want to see you. You are their entire world right now and a huge part of their story always. And I promise you, when you look back years from now, you won't see your messy hair, you'll see the smiles, the joy in the small moments, and the fact that you were there.
To help you with this challenge, I’ve put together a list of tips for your quarantined Mother’s Day photo. This list focuses on shooting in your house, which is, after-all, where you're spending more of your time these days. However, if you're lucky enough to have a backyard, porch, or even a pretty spot you can walk to, you can also head outside (I'll adjust the tips for a great outside photo at the end). It may not represent the Mother’s Day you expected, but it will be a true testament to your current life.
1. Choose your camera. It can be a fancy one, your phone, or anything in between. The best camera is the one you have with you. Sure, better equipment takes a better photo, but the most important thing is that this photo is taken, not how perfect it is.
2. Find a window. Choose one that does not have direct sunlight coming through at the time of your photo. On a cloudy day that could be any in window in your house. On a sunny day, avoid windows with direct sunlight, unless that direct light falls somewhere other than on your faces.
Set up your shot in front of that window. You can stand, sit, do an activity, just make sure there is window light illuminating the area where you’ll be. Bedrooms and beds are often a great place to shoot, as they usually have a large window to the side and give you a lot of space to play around.
3. Turn off artificial lights. You want to shoot with only natural, outdoor light. So turn off any and all artificial lights in the room or adjacent rooms to where you are shooting. And I mean all the lights. If that desk lamp in the corner, or the hallway light that leaks into the room is on, it will detract from your photo.
4. Declutter. No need to clean your whole house (who has time for that!), but do attempt to neaten the area in which you’re shooting. Perhaps throw all that junk on your bedside table into basket. Or better yet, shoot toward a blank wall where the only mess may be a few greasy handprints.
5. Use an interval timer. (Or have someone take the photo, of course) Unlike the standard timer on your camera/phone, which only takes one shot per set-up, an interval timer takes a photo every few seconds for as long as you set it. This is a great way to get awesome interactive photos. Set up your interval timer, scoop up the kids, stand in front of the camera (by a window!), and start interacting with them. Tickle them, kiss them, sing, do an activity. Do whatever you can to elicit some real smiles and real interaction. Your timer will shoot every few seconds and hopefully will capture a perfect moment. And if you have someone taking the photo, tell them to keep shooting. Have them take a shot every few seconds just like the timer.
If you have a fancy camera, check out your manual, it may have an interval timer included. If not, you can purchase a wireless shutter release that has an interval timer.
If you’re using your phone you can download the Photo Timer+ App
6. Capture your family in action. Children have no need to sit and smile pretty for a camera. And even if you can get them to pose, that won't capture them as they truly are. I prefer to capture my kiddos in action. I'll set up an activity (in some good light, of course!), turn the camera toward us with an interval timer, and go about the activity as normal.
If I want a more portrait style image, I scoop them up, stand in front of the camera, and tickle or kiss them, while the camera clicks away. I rarely get photos of everyone looking, but that works for me. I prefer capturing the real moments.
If you're heading outside, you'll still want to follow all the tips above.
Choose whatever camera you have available
Avoid direct sunlight on your faces. On a cloudy day this is just about anywhere, but if it's sunny out, you'll want to find a shady spot to stand, where no sunlight hits your face. In general, the best outdoor light is in the morning or evening when the sun is lower in the sky
Turn off artificial lights that might be in the photo (porch lights, garage lights, etc.)
Declutter your background (no cars, garden hoses, etc.)
Use an interval timer to capture more than one image at a time.
Capture the action. There's lots more room to run around outside; so take advantage of that! You can have the kiddos jump with you. Or run into your arms. Keep them moving and active and you're sure to get a fun, real moment.
So there you go. A few tips for getting in the photo this quarantined Mother's Day. But, hey, if you find you're too overwhelmed with advice on how to handle life right now, no worries, ignore my tips, I know I've had to ignore tons of advice thrown my way. But please, still, for you and for your kids, remember to GET IN THE PHOTO.
And send me your images! I'd love to see what you capture!
Happy Mother's Day. Stay well <3