Today, I want to talk to you about your people. Your tribe. Your for better or worse. Your minions. Your cheerleaders. Your critics. Your roommates. You know the people I’m talking about. A home is just a house if there aren’t any people, so let’s get really real about those folks.
Now, if you are reading this and live alone, don’t you click that “x” to close this window, I have words for you, too, so stay right there.
If you are a parent and photographer like myself, you probably have 847 infinity photos of your kids (have I told you lately how good I am at numerical figures?) I totally get the mom-kid struggle of also being a photographer, but today we are going to look at how you can photograph these people, whether they are your overly photographed kids, or your spouse, or roommate, or great grandma that you look after, or, wait for it, yourself (GASP!) in a different way.
As a documentary in-home photographer, I shoot people as they are, where they are. I don’t pose or manipulate in any way when I’m in a client’s home, and as can be expected, this has transferred into my personal shooting. 99% of this rings true for my photos of my family as well, but I can be guilty of encouraging playtime to happen in better light or planning some fun activity purely motivated by the photos I can take. Don’t tell my kids that though, they just think I’m super fun and random.
If you’ve shot your people way too many times and the idea of getting them and their squishy faces in the frame seems like the same old story, I’m going to share two top not-so-secret tips on how you can see these amazing people in a new way and feel inspired to shoot them.
Let them be.
Not to be like the shady drug dealer on the corner pushing their poison, but if you are used to posing and throwing out the “say cheese!” line, trying some unposed and unplanned documentary shooting with your people is a great exercise. They might look like snapshots at first with no rhyme or reason, but keep practicing and shooting, it gets easier. Just like when you tried shooting the stuff in your home, the first couple tries aren’t going to yield much, but that’s ok. Let them be in their favorite spot in your home, not yours. The light might be all wrong, but work with it. Remember, this is for the process, not the product.
Embrace their weird.
Look at all of the photos you’ve taken of your people…do you see them? Like, really see them? Their habits, their quirks, and all of their weird? My husband does this thing when he’s telling a story where he rubs his hand across the top of his head. I don’t remember him always doing it and chances are someday he won’t, so I know the time to capture it is now. I haven’t taken the perfect photo of this but I’m bound and determined. Take the time to write down all of the weird parts of your people and try to get it in the frame. Make it a scavenger hunt and make it fun and lighthearted for everyone involved. Don’t worry about composition or focus or nailing your white balance, worry about the content.
There’s one other person we are overlooking and they are totally worth mentioning: YOU! Yes you, person that mostly hides behind the camera, I have things to tell you. You are part of your life and your home. You might even be the mastermind behind everything that goes on in that glorious place. You need to get in the frame. We are probably a lot alike here with how that makes us feel, a little nervous, a little dreadful, but it’s so important. And, not to brag (much), but I’m sort of a self-proclaimed self-portrait queen.
Just like you want to remember how your people exist in your castle and all of their weird parts, they want to remember how you exist and all of your weird. Plus, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel, it’s seriously a hoot to do. Nothing makes a bad day better than setting up a tripod and seeing the funny faces you accidentally make while drinking coffee the 2 seconds after hitting the shutter. Just like you looked at your space and the people differently in the above points, do the same about yourself..and take those pictures.
Happy people re-seeing and I’ll be back soon with the last secret to using your home as your creative inspiration!
Ashley Manley is a serial personal project shooter with a love for documenting real moments on her small farm in Central Illinois. Aside from her family, the loves of her life are her fuji X-T2, fujinon 23mm lens, helping other photographers to stay inspired, all the black and white things, and wine in a box. She left social media at the beginning of 2017 but she loves new friends, so visit her website and shoot her an email already!