A few months ago I was contacted by Deeply Rooted Magazine to shoot a feature for them. The request came in last minute due to the unique need related to the photos and so I only had a matter of days to find some models and a place to shoot. Lucky for me, I was put in contact with Laura Hartmann, a talented stylist and blogger, who was nice enough to add polish to the photos with her creative eye. She even modeled for me with her son Clive! I’m happy to share some photos from the article and also some additional images that didn’t make it into print.
Here is a snippet from the article:
Have you ever heard your child say, “I don’t like this?” I am sure there is not one parent on the planet who hasn’t heard this one. Unlike my husband, who will eat anything, I can fully relate to my kiddo here. I was not raised eating fruits and vegetables, and I often purchase and prepare foods that I eat only because I know they are beneficial to my long-term health. I find little enjoyment in consuming an apple, but reasoning with myself is much easier than reasoning with my son.
-Excerpt from “Mealtime Reflections” in Deeply Rooted Magazine by Miriam Bowers
The 10th issue of Deeply Rooted, called “Sojourner” is available now! I hope you get a chance to check it out!
Shot on Mamiya645af | Kodak Portra 800 Film | Scanned by Photovision
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Being a small business owner is a challenge and I struggle sometimes with doubt. It puts you in the direct line of critique and you will most certainly fall on your face. If you are anything like me, you may still get nervous before weddings even after many years behind the camera. I read that Adele cries before and after big performances because she is nervous, sometimes overwhelmed or just worn out. Her job is way more intense than mine but the principle of it made me feel less crazy. I wish I wasn’t sensitive but I AM – it’s how I’m made. So when I fall, I fall hard and it hurts.
Us creative people, we doubt ourselves a lot. It’s probably because our brains are too full of emails, invoices and attempting to please the SEO gods when we’d really rather be twirling in a field somewhere. We can even make it look like that’s what we ARE doing everyday thanks to Instagram…when really we are editing photos in our sweatpants eating top raman trying to save for a lens upgrade. Oh you don’t have that problem? Good! Me…..either….ahem…
The second we turn on our phones, we are hit with amazing imagery from all over the world and it’s hard not to feel like you are behind the game. When I’m in a battle such as this, the cure is usually creating photographs that come from my own vision. Finding people who are “my tribe” and getting my film camera out will usually leave me re-invigorated, not to mention with better skills for working with clients.
That is why I love this family session so much. It did not fail to inspire me.
Nikita and Nabyl are super cool, super patient and super in love with their daughter Katara. What more can you ask for in a client? I was so grateful they allowed me to take my time, experiment and totally guide them. I really tried to ease into the moments and spark the natural interactions and joy I love on camera, but I also gave myself permission not to press the shutter if I wasn’t totally satisfied with the shot. This lead to around a 90% keep on 5 rolls of Kodak Portra 800. If you are a film photographer you know that is pure GOLD. I also only shot pretty consistently at F/4 or even f/5.6 — which I would never do with a digital camera. This helped me solve the soft focus issues I’d been running into. With more practice (and maybe a camera upgrade) I believe I’ll be back down at F/2 again.
Here are a couple things I’ve learned about dealing with creative self doubt this month:
Feelings always come and go. It’s okay to let the yucky ones sit with you for a bit – they don’t linger forever.
If you can’t freakin’ focus your film camera, shoot at F/4 or F/5.6 for awhile.
Find your “tribe” for practice work…learn to turn everyone into “your tribe” on camera.
If you need encouragement, seek it out.
If you can’t handle seeing beautiful hipster people doing beautiful hipster things on Instagram, just log out for awhile. They will SURELY be there when you return.
If you feel un-inspired, put a little shoot together that will bring your life energy back. There is always a way to do it without spending money.
There is my two cents – hope you enjoyed the photos!
A friend of mine said an interesting thing describing someone close to her, “By the time most of us are adults, we have learned to be guarded and protect ourselves. But he is just totally open and full of wonder – and to have retained that is amazing in this world.” Do you ever think about what the world looks like through a child’s eyes? It’s full of hope, magic and mystery. Children haven’t learned to keep their joy to themselves or to be embarrassed about what excites them. They have a zest to absorb all the beauty around them and feel no shame in being vulnerable in front of others.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Portra 400 Film | Scans by PhotoVision
PRESS PLAY FOR MUSIC
Our world has a way of snuffing out the light that we all start with. I often scold myself as an adult for being naive or gullible when I attempt to assume the best about people – only to wind up hurt. In reaction I build my boundaries higher and higher until they practically reach the sky (allowing nobody in). We so quickly learn what masks to put on in order to survive this thing called life that it’s easy to forget we all started out fresh faced running in the sun (even if it was taken from us too early).
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of building my fortress. It may keep the occasional un-safe person away, but all too often it steals my joy and isolates me from connecting with creative, wonderful people. I took the photos at my mom’s house, while my niece made bouquets out of “weeds”. She ran each and every dandelion over to her mommy, so proud and excited to share it. It didn’t matter that it was a weed, to her it was lovely…and that’s all that mattered!
I want to be brave enough to declare that I’m excited and joyful about a dandelion or something I created – freely and happily. All too often I find myself weighing the odds and wondering if the people around me will crumple up my art and say , “no, that’s not actually beautiful, you just thought it was.”
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
I love the quote by Thoreau above; I don’t think anyone paints their canvas better than a child. What if it is truly possible to reclaim our wonder and our bravery to be vulnerable and excited about our creations and dreams? Or at least just live our lives a little more open hearted rather than on high alert. We only get to be in this big world just a wee bit of time…it seems to me there is no reason to delay.
It has been so difficult to make a living being a photographer, especially shooting film. In fact, it’s been harder than I ever could have imagined. Even as I type these words the future is unknown due to some personal struggles and financial stressors I’ve been experiencing lately. I never doubt my passion or my drive – my grit…but sometimes I doubt that I can MAKE it happen when so many variables attack my hopes of success.
Does it sound like I’m giving up? Well don’t worry, I’m not. Because getting photos like THESE back from my amazing lab (PhotoVision) remind me that I’m a growing artist and THAT can never be taken away from me. Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing and inspiring little family I had the joy to photograph recently.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Portra 400 Film | Scans by PhotoVision
Emily and Aaron of Hunting Ground Films are a creative duo crafting films for weddings and small business branding. They recently moved to Portland on a leap of faith that they could pursue a creative career and at the same time simplify their life (they sold everything to do so!). Since then, they’ve been successfully making beautiful films for weddings and businesses and Emily will soon be taking her talent all the way to England! They graciously allowed me to take these photos of them, entirely on film, on a bright and golden morning near the Columbia River Gorge. Their daughter Cedar toddled around in the sunlight playing with ferns and giggling at her parent’s “kissy” faces – and didn’t seem to mind my camera at all.
It goes to show you that you CAN do beautiful things with your life if you work hard and keep going when it gets tough. The question of “success” may hang in the balance…but what is success anyway? I unfortunately tend to view success in dollar signs and a full inbox of inquiries. And while I do need to eat and pay rent, I’m learning that success can be as simple and making beautiful art…and sharing it with others.
This was my first 100% film shoot for a family session, which was risky! You have to be very patient while testing light and composing shots while using film, because every frame counts (literally, it’s expensive to develop and scan!). I’ve been afraid to shoot much film with families because kids tend to move so quickly, making manual focus difficult. Film also naturally has a softer look entirely and this can quickly turn into blur if you don’t zero in on your subject very carefully. However, Cedar was the perfect subject…moving just enough to keep things interesting but curious enough of my camera to allow me to nail my focus on nearly every frame (focus is consistently my struggle with film and children).
I’m working on being grateful that I get to even take pictures and trust that there is a space for me in this world of small business owners. It’s difficult to be present and not worry too much about the future! However, Emily and Aaron and their big dreams were such a great inspiration to see in action.
Maybe you are struggling to realize a dream and worry it won’t pan out. It may not wind up looking how you thought, but learning to redefine the plan may be just the thing that will keep you in the game. I suppose I’m describing learning to let go…which is a hard thing to do. Here’s hoping it brings wonderful lessons and more opportunities to create.
A family portrait session can be stressful for parents. It’s hard enough to get your kids packed in the car and arrive somewhere on time, much less get them to smile and do what the photographer says. Having worked as a nanny for years before I became a photographer, I understand (to a degree) the frustration parents must feel when their child finds a mud puddle in the first five minutes of our session. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to help your session go well and ease your anxiety about what shenanigans your kids may pull. These tips will even help your photos simply look better (and you won’t need to spend money on new clothes).
TIP # 1: WARDROBE
I’ll address this one first because it’s probably the number point of worry for clients. Choose clothing the kids are comfortable and WARM enough in. If they get cold, it’s all over and we don’t want that (plus layers can be removed if they get too warm). You don’t all have to match, in fact, I don’t want you to match. Try and pick colors that compliment each other (all warmer tones, or cooler tones – but even that is a loose rule). If mom is wearing a floral print, then Dad and the kids can choose something pattern-free (or visa versa). You always want to balance patterns with simple or solid colors. It’s normal to want the kids to dress up a little but just make sure that they feel like themselves. If they really hate that cute hipster vest it’s going to show in all the photos…and it’s never worth a cute vest if your child is snarling at my camera because of it. Avoid name brands, cartoon characters, most neon colors or anything distracting on clothing. Finally, less is always more. Simple outfits in a simple location always look great.
TIP # 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE COOL TREE
This one may sound weird, but it’s important. I know the bridge at the park is cool, I know there’s a great view of the mountain over that way, and I’m totally aware of the awesome-ness of that certain tree. I’m even more aware how crazy I may appear that I’m shooting in a really simple part of the extravagant park we are in. The reason I do this is every second we spend walking to the cool tree is a window of time I’m losing with your kids. My main goal is to get you and your children’s natural moments in good light. Sometimes even I am seduced by multiple cool locations but I usually regret starting a shoot out with lots of walking around so I try to avoid it.
If we spend the first part of a session in one location, it’s because the light is great and your kids are doing everything I want them to. In those moments, I will knock out as many great shots as I can. Your favorite photos will be the moments that happen organically rather than the posed photo in front of the cool tree anyway, trust me! After I know I have plenty of pictures I know you’ll be happy with, then we can walk around a bit and I’m generally happy to capture any ideas or locations you are really excited about.
TIP # 3: I’ll HELP THE KIDS KNOW WHAT TO DO
It’s really tempting for parents to tell their kids “look at the camera sweetie!”, especially during a classic portrait moment (the one grandma winds up framing). The problem is, when you tell your kids to smile they automatically don’t want to. Even if they do, suddenly Mom or Dad isn’t looking at the camera. I can’t tell you how many great frames I lose to Moms looking down at their kids with a worried face when everyone else is looking right at me. Please know, I am NOT being critical of moms…you have the toughest job on the planet. I know it’s really difficult not to try and manage your kids because you are just doing your job! However, the best thing you can do (in this particular moment) is relax and let me queue your kids to smile. I will do the robot, I may have you stand behind me and make funny faces, I may offer stickers…honestly I’ll do anything to get them to look at me and I’m happy to do the hard work for you. Be willing to let me guide the moment and if I need your super human powers (which you have in abundance) I will absolutely call on you to wield them.
TIP # 4: IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE SMILE
I will always shoot classic group shots with everyone looking at the camera because they are definitely important. However, after we knock those out – we’ll just let the kids play. This will create opportunity for me to be goofy and highlight the natural moments that make your kids unique and special. What is even better is if you jump in and play with them, that’s when really incredible moments happen! The less they think it’s a photoshoot the better. Sometimes the most precious photos are the ones with eyes closed, the back of a head, just hands…it’s all in the details.
TIP # 5: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
Most of the photos featured above had some kind of obstacle we overcame. This included hard rain, a shy child, skinned knees, wet/muddy clothes, tantrums, a tight schedule, difficult light or less than ideal locations. Would you have known that looking at them? I always tell clients that even if it feels like it’s not working, trust me…it’s working! I want your family to be you, including tears and high energy toddlers who won’t stay still. Your family is great and we want to highlight who you are together! So embrace the moment (whatever it brings) and have a blast!
I hope these tips help the next time you plan a family portrait session and thanks so much for reading!