Today’s interview is with Molly Flanagan!
When did you first become interested in photography and why?
It wasn’t until my son started crawling that I decided to save up for a DSLR. I was so frustrated with how slow the lag time was between pressing the shutter and the picture actually taking on my point-and-shoot. After I bought my first camera (Canon Rebel Xti) I was on a mission to learn how to use it without depending on the flash. I quickly became obsessed with taking better and better pictures. And, well, the obsession has yet to end!
How has your photography evolved since you first started?
When I first began taking pictures for other people I was convinced I was going to be a newborn photographer. I bought a bean bag chair and stalked Etsy for cute hats and blankets. Not having a studio of my own I went to client’s homes to photograph their newborns. While I was there I found myself drawn more toward what was happening in between poses. A new dad working hard to fight a onesie over the baby’s head. The overflowing diaper pail. Tiny baby bottles drying in the kitchen. I have a tremendous amount of respect for posed newborn photographers, but I’d much rather tell a more holistic story for a family.
You seem to have a pretty even mix of colored and black & white photographs. For you, what determines if a photo should be black & white or color?
I think black and white helps you pay attention to the emotion in a photograph. I like this quote by Ted Grant:
“When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. Bu when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.”
My decisions are not always that deep though. Sometimes I am just lazy. On those days, I have some b&w presets by Kellie Hatcher Photography that are amazing and so easy to use.
How do you pull yourself out of the dreaded ‘creativity rut’ and get inspired?
I never have a good answer to this question. The solution is always different. For me, it usually involves a change in season or the earth rotating a bit allowing the light to pour through my windows differently. In all honesty, I am fine with feeling uninspired from time to time and taking a break from my camera for few days (or weeks). The uninspired times make me appreciate the inspired times so much more.
How does being a mother influence your photography?
Since I started shooting when I began having children, being a mom has completely influenced my photography. It is a way for me to express the ups and downs of being a mother and to document the story of our life. It isn’t about finding the cutest photo-worthy outfits and posing my children perfectly. I want to capture their personalities, just being themselves doing the things they love. As far as my client work, my desire is to do the same thing for them. To give them REAL images of their families so they can look back years from now and not just see how their children have physically changed, but what life was really like.
Since you’re a lifestyle photographer, how long does a session typically last for you?
Generally 1.5 – 2 hours. But I am there to be an observer and that can take place over any length of time, so the time of a session can vary greatly depending on what the client would like covered.
How do you manage to get your subject to relax and behave normally while you’re photographing them?
I have yet to find one thing that works for everyone. Each client is unique and comes to the session with different expectations and insecurities. I do try to prepare them as much as possible in advance. I love to photograph families in their homes doing things they normally do, so before their session we will talk about ways they enjoy spending time together and come up with some ideas for their session. As time has gone on, I have begun to attract clients that are excited about my style of photography. It has gotten much easier to connect with them and not have to explain why I would rather photograph them playing a board game than have them pose and stiffly smile at the camera.
You clearly have a love for photographing families. What are the most challenging aspects of family photography and how do you overcome them?
One of the most challenging things about family photography is dealing with so many different ages and personalities. You might have a cranky two year old, a sullen 10 year old, a dad ticked he is missing the football game, and a mom worried about the baby weight she has yet to lose. You often don’t know what it is going to be like until you get there and it is easy for me to become overly concerned with analyzing people’s moods. How to overcome? I try to come into each session with no preconceived notions about the family. As I travel to their home, I pray that I will be able to see them the way the Lord sees them and that the experience and the images that follow would be a blessing to them. While I am shooting I try to let myself get swept up in the flow of life in their home and just document what I observe. I try not to give too much direction, but I may move a distracting piece of furniture, open blinds, or ask a client to move slightly if they appear awkward.
You welcomed baby #3 into your family in June and your eldest turned 5 a few weeks later, how do you organize your time so that you have plenty of time to focus on being a mother, a wife and a business owner?
The thing about life is you can ALWAYS do more in every area. The house is never completely clean, dinner could always be a bit more creative, the kids are never well behaved enough, and of course there are always pictures to edit. I love this little quote by CJ Mahaney: “Only God gets his to-do list done each day.” As a Christian, it is reassuring to know that I am a sinner saved by grace, not by my good works. No matter how much I strive I will never be perfect and will never fully complete my to-do list. So, I do my best to stay organized and make progress on my never ending to-do list, but I don’t sweat it when the progress is slower than I’d like. And I thank God for the times I am able to cross something off the list!
In your April 14, 2011 blog post where you featured your ‘Heart of the Home’ contest winner, you said, “Before having kids, our house was just… a house. A place we stored our things, a place to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But these past 5 years as a mother have shown me that my home is place bursting at the seams with life. So many amazing things happen here and I am honored to have the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of our little family.” You obviously love your home very much. Do you have a favorite room or space?
Our bathroom! We only have one. It is very tiny, and has the ugliest tan palmetto tree wallpaper. But the light is amazing! And there is always something going on in there. It is like Grand Central Station: potty training, bedtime baths, globs of pink and blue toothpaste and so on. I greatly anticipate the day we have a bigger home, but I think part of me will miss the craziness of sharing a bathroom!
What are your photography based goals?
My first goal is to bring God glory through the gifts he has given me. Making money is pretty sweet, but I’d much rather use my talents to share Christ’s love! I also want to be able to look back each year and see growth in technical ability as well as growing confidence in my unique perspective. And finally, while I love taking pictures for clients, it is exciting to be able to bless my children with a collection of pictures they can look back on and hopefully FEEL what life was like growing up.
Inspired to take some lifestyle images of your own? We’d love to see them – please share with us in the comments!