Documentary and lifestyle family photography are fairly new genres of photography. In my next two blog posts I will explain the difference between the two, my approach to them, and what I love about them.
Documentary Family Photography
Documentary photography is easily compared to photojournalism. There is no posing or creating moments. The photographer is an observer to the events around him/her and attempts to capture the feeling of the situation. The photographer tries to blend into the environment and gain the trust of those being photographed. There are no additional lights, backgrounds, or props. The photographer will change position to get a shot rather than adjust lighting or move objects. Editing is minimal; usually just adjusting lights and shadows. There is no cloning or Photoshopping.
What I love about it
What I love the most about documentary family photography is that it allows families to simply be themselves! The pressure is on me to make a beautiful image, not the family. There is absolutely no asking for smiling faces, the perfect head tilt, or coordinating clothing. Taking pictures in-home is comfortable for everyone: the rules and expectations are known, extra supplies are at hand, toys and surroundings are familiar. The relaxed atmosphere allows for genuine interactions and personality. This genre of photography attempts to capture the true personality of each person and their feelings toward each other. So often I feel studio pictures fall flat in showing who a person really is because it focuses on the perfect light and pose, and in the end those pictures are really very meaningless as there is no story to go with the image (at least for those that do not know it.) In documentary photography, you can see a story within the image, you can begin to see how the subjects are connected, and how they are feeling at that moment. This genre of photography is perfect for any situation. I can capture daily routines, holiday traditions, or even the birth of a new baby; anything in your life you value and want to remember for years to come.
When I meet a new family, I schedule a pre-consult to meet all the family members face-to-face. I do not send e-mail questionnaire or even just talk over the phone. Like I said, I need to gain everyone’s trust so they are comfortable with me in their home taking intimate pictures of them. The best way to do this is to be able to look someone in the eye and have a real conversation. I bring my camera with so young children are used to seeing me with it and to take the “newness” out of it so it is not so distracting on the day of the photoshoot. During the pre-consult, I ask about their daily/weekly routine. Do they have special activities they do together regularly? I ask about each person’s personality. What do they love about each person? I ask for a tour of the home. Are they any items or rooms that hold significant meaning? Lastly, I ask what they would like to do with the images. This helps me have the end products in mind while shooting. I have found that these questions often lead us down a different path and vision for the session than we first discussed. The new vision is so much more exciting and meaningful!
On the day of the shoot, I am simply along for the ride. I don’t give any direction or suggestions. If you ask my opinion, I will give it, but it is all about what is happening at that moment. Sometimes the vision for the session changes (uncooperative weather, one activity takes longer than anticipated, get distracted, etc.), and that is fine. I take pictures of the moment because that is what is important right now. Life happens. It is real, and it is beautiful.
When I edit, I do minimal editing. Some cropping, adjusting shadows, and minor color adjustments to bring out true colors. I will do minimal cloning if I find an object extremely distracting and it is not part of the story I want told in that image.
I create a photo album for every session. In a digital world, there is nothing like holding memories in your hands: being able to feel the weight of the book, the texture of the pages. This makes the moments real, tangible, and stronger. In this audio I did with my husband, we talk about the power of print between the 12 and 18 minute mark. I feel so strongly about it, every session includes a photo book, no exception.
Then, I visit the family again to show them the images. They are able to view their images on their walls and choose the sizes and layout they like best. They are able to preview the album and suggest any changes. Lastly, I hand deliver the album and prints when they are ready.
If you would have questions or would like to schedule a pre-consult to create a vision for your documentary session, contact me today.
Stay tuned next week where I will discuss lifestyle family photography.