I’ll admit it. As a creative and overall “type B” personality, I am more of a big picture person and not very detail-oriented in my day to day life.
There is an exception to this though, and that exception is photography. When it comes to photography, I become very detail-oriented from what and how I shoot to my meticulous editing style at times.
One day I thought to myself, ‘why do capturing the details matter so much to me when I am shooting’?
I find myself constantly trying to capture the little things both in my client sessions as well as in my personal life. The answer was actually quite simple; because the small and seemingly insignificant details are the things I cherish the most and want to remember years from now when I look back at these images.
When I look at old family photographs, it’s not the memory of where we were or what we were doing in the images that I enjoy seeing most. It’s the expression of pure joy and love on my father’s face when he was playing with me as a baby. It’s the deep-set wrinkles on my grandfather’s hand I held while crossing the street. It’s the color and texture of the fabric on that favorite childhood dress that I wore over and over until I couldn’t even zip it up anymore because I had outgrown it. You know, the one that fanned out perfectly when twirling around the family room.
When I look at these images of days that have passed, seeing those details are what bring me right back to those very moments that were frozen in time and my senses become heightened. I can instantly remember all the smells, sounds and emotions that were associated with a split second that now transcends date and time. This is what is most important to me and it’s what I hope my clients and family will gain from the images I take.
Here are five of the techniques I use that you can as well to make sure all those beautiful details are captured:
1. Shoot with a wide aperture
Shoot with a large aperture (also referred to as wide open) to blur the background and achieve focus on your intended subject. I love using this technique, and honestly, I shoot wide open or very close to it for the majority of my images.
I just can’t get enough of baby feet, so for this image I knew I wanted to highlight those adorable toes as well as the texture of the wrinkles on the bottom. In order to draw the viewer’s attention to these details, I set my aperture to f/1.8 so that only the bottom of her foot would be in focus and the couch in the background would be blurred.
2. Isolate your subject
If you have the ability to isolate the details you are trying to achieve so that there are no distractions surrounding them, then definitely do it! When I shot this image, my daughter was just learning how to crawl and finally becoming mobile, so I wanted to highlight her crawling stance. Since we had just moved at the time, the background had a lot of boxes and clutter, so I decided to lay on the ground so I could take advantage of all the clean, negative space the floor had to offer. By doing this, the eye is drawn up my daughter’s hands and knees therefor highlighting her ability to crawl.
3. Use a telephoto lens
Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the details and cut out the excess ones you don’t want. As many of us know, children love to be on the move, which can make capturing memorable moments tricky.
When my daughter was sitting in the family room the other day, I noticed an amazing lighting opportunity while I was standing in the kitchen. I didn’t want to interrupt her concentration, so I quickly grabbed my camera that was nearby and decided to use my zoom lens to capture her from a distance so she wouldn’t notice me. This also was beneficial, because our entire living room is surrounded by windows and I didn’t want all that excess light in the background distracting from the light in her eyes.
4. Shoot with intention
Think about what exact details you want to capture before you start shooting. What are the aspects of your subject that are most important to you? Once you figure these out, you can visualize what you are trying to achieve, and execution becomes easier.
I love my daughter’s eyes and long lashes, and also love the way she looks and talks to her reflection in the window. I knew ahead of time I wanted to capture these details during the next opportunity I had, so when the time came, I was able to achieve my image easily and efficiently.
5. Include the surroundings
Take a step back and shoot with a wide angle lens every now and again. I often become so fixated on the close-up details that I have to remind myself to shoot wide once in a while. Sometimes the details in the bigger picture are what add to the story or enhance your memory more so than the close ones.
I decided to use my wide angle for this image to emphasize the mess that comes with a baby starting solids and learning to feed herself. What I will remember from this image is not how long it took me to clean up, but how proud I was of her independence. Had I shot close-up, the story behind this image may not have come across as strongly. It’s all about balance!
I hope these tips will help you the next time you are looking to capture the details in your life!