Posted on June 30, 2012
Recently, I was talking to a potential client. She was telling me, as people often do, that she has been wanting to get professional photos taken of her family for a long time, but that between their busy schedules and energetic kids, she just never seemed to get around to it. I nodded my understanding. She leaned in, touched my arm, and said gravely, “You would have to be very patient. VERY patient.” I smiled confidently, “I am.”
Funny how I had to remind myself of this last night. I’d been wanting to have a quick photo session with my girls for the last couple of weeks, but there was always a reason not to. On this night I decided it was now or never. For many reasons, I knew that if I didn’t put my foot down, it may be months before I was willing to try to again. Yes, I love to capture images of my family going about the ordinary chaos of our lives; but sometimes I want some dedicated photography time. For me, this means a tiny window where the task at hand is clear: get some good photos of the family. No guilt about why do I have a camera in my face when I should be on the floor playing, or starting dinner, or making sure the baby doesn’t endanger herself while I’m looking through the viewfinder.
The key terms in the last paragraphs are patient and tiny window. The patience came in when T came home later than expected and thoroughly distracted by a crazy day at work. Meanwhile, the oldest child insisted on matching her sister’s outfit. (This is not my favorite choice, and I could expound, but I wonder if anyone is still reading at this point anyway.) I had not even thought about dinner, and then the middle child launched into one of her epic and uncontrollable fits of madness.
When I thought all was lost, I remembered that if this were someone else’s family, I would step back and wait it out. I give my clients a short guide before our sessions; where I tell them that I’ve seen it all, that tired cranky kids (and dads) don’t phase me, and that if we need to take a break, for whatever reason, we will. I stress flexibility.
What is it about doctors making the worst patients? For a moment, I was the mom whose rigid expectations were going to be the ultimate downfall of this photo session. I needed my own medicine. I took a breath. I let the oldest put on her outfit but took a change of clothes with us, T took some calls that allowed him to tie up some loose ends at work (at least for a little while), and meanwhile the tantrum burned itself out and my three year old was herself again.
Here is where the tiny window comes in. By the time we’d settled down, dinner time was looming. My husband often says that it is playing with fire to let the Mendoza girls get hungry. There were potentially more tantrums coming if we did not eat very soon. We packed up the van to get some dinner, and on the way stopped in a green space a couple blocks from our house. I checked the time stamps on my images, and I literally spent one second shy of 20 minutes getting the images you see here, and then some; with cars zooming by, bugs everywhere, a wardrobe change, and a random kitty who decided to join us.
All this is to remind myself: Don’t sweat it. Don’t think you have to be the perfect family on the perfect day or else it is hopeless. In art and in life, what I tell my clients is true. Flexibility is key. You can’t know exactly how it will go, or exactly what you will get from it, but often that is when the results will delight you the most.
Like this one.
Posted on October 25, 2011
A fun family I spent a recent cool morning with, in one of Atlanta’s great old neighborhoods. I lived there myself, a decade ago.
Posted on September 30, 2011
As the title suggests, this is the second part of my exciting trilogy of tips for parents wanting to improve their family photography. Part 1 of the series is below or here.
I hope the first three tips were helpful and inspired you to try new things while taking photos of your kids and family this week. Here are a few more ideas to think about.
4. Go towards the light. This one assumes you are using an automatic setting and on-camera flash. If this is too basic, you’re ready for #9.
If you squint when looking at your pictures, do you see the people as dark silhouettes on a light background, or bright white faces on a black background? This is caused by pointing the subjects away from the sun (or light source), or popping a flash right onto the subject, leaving everything else in the dark. Whenever possible, use natural light to your advantage. An old trick is to hold your hand out flat but turned with your thumb up (like you’re going to shake hands). Notice what side of your hand has more light, and turn your subject’s eyes toward that light. If it’s noon on sunny day, you will want to put your family in the shade, but try to keep the background shaded as well. If you have to use the flash, back up from the person/people so the flash falls around them and not just on their nose, cheeks and forehead!
Bright sunny day at the beach. Great for tanning, not so much for photos, so I took these cuties to the shady side of the lifeguard station. The images in the center and on the right, would still be challenging when you’re using the auto setting, but they illustrate how bright it was that day. Simply turn towards the shady wall, and the one on the left would work for most cameras.
5. Take a look around.
Before you click, look all around the screen or viewfinder at the entire composition of your photo. Is there a lamppost sticking out of someone’s head? A random tourist strolling by in the background? Are Junior’s feet cut off? Is Dad’s arm missing?
Here, I turned and found a cute moment between cousins. In my rush to not miss it, I snapped once and cut off a leg. Then I took a step back and got the image on the right.
Taking a second to be thoughtful and purposeful can make all the difference between a snapshot and a good portrait. And that leads me to my next point…
6. Shoot less.
Switching from film to digital has liberated many of us to experiment and enjoy taking many more pictures than we would have in the past when we had to worry about wasting precious film. However, it’s also given many a parent license to take a jillion photos of the same event with the thought that, “one of those will come out.” But that leaves you with a jillion images to cull through later and still sometimes not one of those is a keeper. Tips #5 and 6, will help you to follow #7 and 8…and you’ll have to wait until next week to get those last ones!
Have a good weekend, everyone. If you are in Jacksonville, the weather is supposed to be beautiful, so get outside and enjoy it. Keep these ideas in mind as you take photos (but not too many)! If you have questions or some success you’d like to share, email me. I’d love to hear from you. Finally, check back on Tuesday for the last few tips.
Posted on September 27, 2011
I recently put together a list of photography tips for a group of moms that I am a part of. I thought I’d share them here with you as well, with examples of some of my own family photos.
As a family photographer and mom, I get asked often, “what kind of camera should I buy?” My stock answer is stick with what you have and make the most of it, or buy a good (but not necessarily top of line) version of whichever of the most reputable brands that you prefer. With the quality of affordable consumer cameras out there, it’s not the camera that makes good photographs, it’s the photographer.
Here are a few of my tips for parents who want to take better photographs of their kids and family.
1. Tell a story.
We don’t look through old family photos just to see what our ancestors’ faces looked like, but to learn something about them and the times and places where they lived. Take photos of your kids, not just in their Sunday best, in the most formal room in your house, but in the clothes they live in every day, doing the things that mark this particular day or stage or of life. Even if you just want a great head and shoulder portrait of your son with his gaptooth smile, you could take it out in his treehouse, or on his bike, and it would tell even more about what stage of his boyhood he is in. Also, think about taking photos of the objects or places that help tell your story, such as the beloved lovey, or their seat at the dining table, complete with highchair and sippy cups.
This captures the dynamic between my daughters when they were 2 and 5. The oldest clowning for the spotlight. The youngest smiling adoringly at her idol. Things have gotten more contentious since then, so I’m glad to have this to remind me.
2. Look them in the eye.
It’s a cliché for a reason. Eyes really are a window into one’s soul. I NEVER ask subjects to smile or say cheese, but I will ask, coax, or beg to get their eyes toward my lens. Of course there are exceptions, but eyes are usually the essential element to good portraits.
Camping out under the dining table on a cold morning.
3. Skip the cheese!
As I mentioned, before, I never ask directly for a smile. I might joke, dance, or make a fool of myself, but I never say, “Smile!” Want to loose an authentic expression on a kid in no time? Ask them to say cheese. And yet, we are conditioned to do it. Even my kids sometimes say it and I always cringe and ask them not to, as if they’ve just cursed in my presence.
Here’s one that my husband caught of me (pregnant, early this year) with my girls. We were enjoying the winter sun in St. Augustine. We know he’s taking our photo, but he’s just talking with us and not asking us to stop and smile for the camera. I love how relaxed we are, even myself, who is sadly the worst in front of the camera.
Try these out, and stay tuned for more tips later this week!
Posted on September 15, 2011
This is what loved and happy looks like, in the form of a three month old baby boy.
Posted on July 11, 2010
For this family, the baseball field is a second home. So it was a natural location for their portraits. We braved an impending storm, and a not-thrilled to be photographed ‘tween, and managed to squeeze a fun session into their busy as usual day. This group had such a great dynamic about them. They are a team unto themselves.
Posted on July 10, 2010
Honored in 2009 as an Outstanding Alumna of UNF, Jen is passionate about giving back even while she works tirelessly for her business and her family. What I love about Jen is that she is so positive, encouraging, optimistic and yet real. She acknowledges challenges yet looks for possibilities. I always enjoy talking with her and getting her perspective on art, business, family, and the intersection of the three. Jen reminds me that focusing on relationships is the key to surviving, and succeeding, in both business and personal life even during challenging times.
It was a joy to photograph Jen’s three beautiful kids. Each of them has a distinct personality which I hope I captured. We met at a friend’s riverfront condo which provided colorful, amazing backdrops to these equally colorful kiddos.
To find out more about R. Roberts Gallery:
Located in Historic Avondale
3606 St. Johns Avenue, Jacksonville FL, 32205
Posted on June 12, 2010
After many moves myself, I believe the title above is so true. I imagine military families would especially understand this. The crew of the USS Vicksburg were able to make it home just in time for Memorial Day. The G family were one of the many anxious to be reunited. Here are a few of the “befores”.
They arrive! Everyone has to strain to find each other, and then wait several exciting and torturous minutes while they go through safety and ceremonial procedures.
Finally, hugs and kisses for everyone.
Congratulations, G family. I hope your Memorial Day was wonderful, and that Father’s Day will be even better.
Posted on June 10, 2010
Be warned: this is a LONG one!
Between the beginning of summer and the near demise of my computer, I have let the blog sit idle lately. I thought it was worth backtracking a bit to share some of the images from one of the most amazing photographic opportunities I’ve had so far, capturing the birth of a child.
This was mama’s first baby. She was so sweet and concerned for all her visiting friends and family that she barely got any sleep for herself before the main event. I was a little worried for her. I kept thinking, “Sleep! This might be your last chance to get decent sleep for a long while.”
In addition to her husband, doctor, and great nurses, mama had a doula to guide and care for her.
I needn’t have worried. After finding the strength she needed to push for 3 HOURS, baby boy arrived with the sun.
I sometimes think that I overuse the word honor to describe how I feel about being invited into the homes and lives of my clients. In this case, I’m at a loss to think of better word. What an honor to be there, to be asked to capture this monumental moment in a family’s story. I’m still amazed.
Posted on May 4, 2010
First a little business…
ATLANTA DATES: I will be available for sessions in and around Atlanta from June 14 to 18, and again from July 5 to 11. Call or message me if you are interested in discussing or reserving a time slot!
MOTHER’S DAY is THIS Sunday. Do you have a present yet? Gift certificates are available in any denomination and can used towards session fees, or prints (for future or past sessions).
This grandmother called me a few weeks ago in anticipation of her daughter’s visit and her two grandchildren being together at her Ponte Vedra home. I’m always thrilled to get to photograph not just one, but several branches of a family’s tree. Lots of family means lots of pictures, here are a few of my favorites.