Nevertheless l have found the following tips helpful in aiding my photography progression over the last two years.
1. Use models that can’t move when practicing your technical skills. l know you want to capture amazing pictures of your children and they are often your biggest muse but whilst you are learning the technical basics, stick to stationary objects. This will lead to a lot less tears from both you and your children. If you don’t think that sounds interesting, just check out this wonderful project, ‘for the love of toys’, by CM Mentor Melissa Gibson.
2. Recognize that working with limits is an aid to creativity. The limits l was working under used to frustrate me. Things like being stuck in the house for weeks on end or just having no time to work with. But since a lot of those limits were not going to change for quite some time, l decided to embrace them and ensure they worked for me. Yes l have very little time to practice. What this means though is that l am a lot more focused when l do have time. l keep a note of all the things l want to/need to learn and work through them one by one. l find l am much more productive when l limit my time on social media and when l have an action plan of sorts to work to. Instead of seeing being stuck in the house as a limitation, l saw it as a challenge and worked towards understanding as much as l could about light in every single room in my house. l practiced taking the same picture in the same location but at different times during the day and found myself understanding a lot more about light.
3. Set yourself mini projects. Over the course of the last two years l have worked on many mini projects from self portraits to ‘movement’. Focusing on one theme for a period of time can really push your creativity and force you to develop new skills. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Photograph your breakfast every day for a month.
- Photograph cutlery in as many ways as you can to try and find something compositionally and visually interesting.
- Photograph your child(ren) but do not include their faces.
- Take one object in your house and shoot it in a different way, every day for a month.
- Choose a colour theme and seek out images of things with that colour in it.
- Shoot only with artificial light sources such as an iPad, computer screen, light from the fridge, nightlight etc.
- Seek out the shadows. Can you make a mini project out of only shooting shadows in your home?
This is just a very quick prompt list but there are a number of ways in which your photography can improve by following a theme like this. Choose one that works for you and your lifestyle at this current point in time.
4. If you get any non mummy time, instead of using it to study the technical language of photography, check out local galleries/exhibitions near you for inspiration. One of my son’s favourite places is the library so when we visit there l get a chance to peruse for all matter of books that l feel l can use as inspiration. l tend to stay away from specific ‘how to’ photography books and instead head for the creative section. Currently l am reading a book about flower arranging through the seasons. Just viewing the images alone in this book has motivated me to start a new personal project in my garden.
5. Take advantage of opportunities you may have to shoot other people. Once a year my cousins visit. They are much older than my son and therefore take direction. I prepare by drawing up a list of 5 poses that l want to start with and take it from there. l get practice with subjects that listen to me and they get nice pictures. Win, win!
6. Learn when to put your camera away and just indulge in family time. This is important so that your children don’t become sick of your camera. If you still need the time to practice, wait until they have gone to bed and practice your low light skills.
If you are going to shoot your kids, then try these tips for a smoother, more enjoyable learning experience:
7. Create fun activities for your kids to indulge in when you want them to be ‘models’ for you. I let my son jump on our bed or l get the bubble machine out. What’s your child’s favourite activity? When they are engrossed in a fun activity, they will be less focused on you and the camera and much more cooperative subjects.
8. Practice storytelling. Here is an opportunity for you to just photograph your kids and concentrate on the moment in hand. Try a day in the life project or just take pictures of you and your kids carrying out an activity (e.g. baking a cake, making a card for grandma, getting ready for and then splashing in the bath). There are so many opportunities here for wonderful storytelling that can be made into family album keepsakes come the end of the year.
9. If you do want your children to model for you, then make sure you have everything set up and that you have taken test shots to check your settings prior to ever getting your children in the frame. This can help avoid many frustrations. In the following image (taken in my bedroom), my son was playing with his toys on the floor whilst l readied the scene and took a few test shots of a teddy bear. My son will do anything for chocolate raisins so l told him there were some chocolate raisins on the bed (which there were) and l placed him on the bed next to them, took another test shot and asked him if he could see the bird flying past the window to get him to look to his left and towards the light source and SNAP.
Above all, enjoy the journey and understand that there isn’t a final destination with photography. It is a lifelong learning journey in which the more you push yourself creatively, the stronger your work will become as a result.
Katrina Stewart, Scotland
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Katrina Stewart lives in the north-east of Scotland with her husband and son who was the initial motivation behind her learning photography. As a passionate hobbyist who loves natural light photography, her work is heavily influenced by the weather conditions in Scotland. Oftentimes, this means embracing low light and black and white photography. Outwith photography, she loves to travel, in particular to South East Asia which she says is a dream photography destination.