The other day I taught my very first photography workshop to a group of lovely mothers, who were so welcoming and engaged, it made the whole experience extremely awesome. To say I was nervous would be the greatest understatement of all time, so I was extremely grateful these ladies and their warm smiles were amongst the first I was able to teach. I didn’t snap any photos of the class (due to the aforementioned nervousness clouding my normally forward-thinking brain!), but I wanted to share a bit of what I talked about, especially in regards to being the mama behind the lens.
Mamas, you don’t need an expensive camera or a plethora of lenses to take beautiful pictures of your children. You don’t need advanced photo editing software or model children. I think way too many of us get caught up in getting the perfect image or having the best gear, and we forget that what we’re trying to do is capture a moment. Sometimes that moment needs a little coaching, but often, especially with my own kids, it mostly involves patience.
We are raising a generation of children who have grown up with a camera in their faces. Sometimes this makes capturing a genuine image difficult, because they are trained to cheese it out whenever they see a phone or camera pointed their direction. My own kids have the opposite issue…when they see me coming, they automatically make crazy, cross-eyed faces and refuse to look at me. So I have somewhat perfected the art of sneaking up on the kids as they play and capturing them from afar. I also spend a lot of time in the dirt. Most of the time you’ll find me laying down in the grass or on the sidewalk with my camera in hand, shooting slightly up (not too drastic, or you’ll end up shooting the inside of a kid’s nose!). Shooting at the kids’ level gives images a whole new feel and they are often the ones I like the best, because they really capture what childhood looks like. I also like to find little moments that remind me of my kids, but don’t necessary include them. I take images of their toys in the garden or their shoes by the door, which will be amazing keepsakes and help me tell the story of their childhood.
Most importantly…mamas, we must get in the picture. A few years ago I looked back at the photo books I’d made throughout the years and noticed one glaring omission…ME! There were pages and pages of beautiful images of my children and husband, but I was like a ghost. By controlling the camera and always being the one behind the lens, I had removed myself from my family’s photos. When my children looked through photo books, they’d remark on all the fun we’d had, and then they’d ask, “Where were you, mama?” That wasn’t okay with me, and I started immediately finding ways to ensure I would be a part of the documentation of their lives in a more present way.
Listen, I know “selfies” are supposedly narcissistic, but sometimes a selfie is the only way I’m going to be included in the images of my kids’ childhoods. I’m pro-selfie, for sure, and I refuse to apologize for it! Take those selfies, mamas! If you have someone else close by, hand over your camera. Ask a grandparent, husband or friend to snap an image of you with your kids. It’s okay if it’s not perfect…life is rarely perfect! But you’ll want your kids to look back at the photos of their childhood and see you there. And if you are able, get your photos taken by a professional photographer every year. Yes, it’s an expense, but it will be worth it. Until a few years ago, I assumed because I was a photographer myself, and I take tons of wonderful images of my family, I didn’t need to pay to get my photos taken by someone else. I was so wrong. SO, SO WRONG. These days I ALWAYS hire someone to take our photos once a year. Because for me, it’s important to be on the other side of the lens, and just BE with my family. As a mom, it’s good for me to take some direction and let someone else be in charge for a bit. And I love (LOVE) when I get images back and find that the photographer has captured my family together in all of it’s silly beauty. I’m more than willing to cut back on my daily latte or other expenses in order to have those images as my kids grow up. Because I want to look back at these photos and not only watch my kids grow up, but see MYSELF grow into the mother I will become.
The images in this post were taken with my Canon DSLR and my iPhone (can you guess which is which?), except the last two images, which were taken by Nicole Coleman of Petit Soul Photography and Christina Gepner of Soul Studios.