No matter how long you’ve positioned yourself behind the lens, whether it be a DSLR, compact camera, or trusted iPhone, there is always room to get closer, be more vibrant, and capture more of the memories you wish to hold dear in years to come.
As a photographer, I immerse myself daily in noticing life’s everyday details, and I believe this is something that we all can do effortlessly with a little practise and mindfulness. When I first started shooting, it was clear to me that there were rules, and that rules were meant to be broken. It has always been important that my images tell the most authentic stories and evoke feelings of nostalgia and connection.
The aim of this article is to open your mind and bring you that little bit closer to believing in yourself, and ditching the rules of what you think photography is really all about. My aim is to get you to pick up that camera or iPhone and shoot from the heart!
Here are my top photography tips for getting more soulful images!
1) Details Matter
There is nothing that fuels me in a shoot more than the minute details in life. When I lived in New Zealand a few years ago, I had a huge awakening in being able to really see and feel life on a completely different level around me. Photography was the catalyst in bringing this mindful awareness into my being. I used to only notice the bigger picture, feeling I was the only one who had a busy life and was more concerned with the grander scheme of things, rather than focusing on all the minute building blocks that make life special and unique. Once I had my first DSLR, my vision began to expand to places I had never knew existed. Colours seemed more vibrant and textures exploded before my eyes. I started feeling on a much deeper level which I believe translated into my work as it evolved.
Get close to your subject. Notice the textures and the way the light reflects or gets swallowed whole. Don’t worry about the entire image being in focus, just focus on the details that pull you in.
The details that magnetise me…
Sand, water, and the lines that map our journey in life on our skin…
Wisps of hair that dance like fire…
The grit of the earth and the textures of nature…
2)Use of Colour of Lack Thereof
Colour is so much more than a visual. It’s a feeling and an energy that can be evoked even through a Black and White image. “Really?” I hear you say….”Yes, yes, and YES!” is my reply. Image processing is readily available to us all with the use of our smartphones these days. It really comes down to individual choice and feeling as to how you will process an image. Some people swear that life should only be seen in colour, while others believe monochrome is the only way to go. There really are no hard and fast rules, although I will say that generally less is more when it comes to processing. The use of colour can help to set the mood, in the same way that a black and white shot can create an impact in the absence of colour. Set yourself a challenge and photograph a different colour everyday for a week. Start with red, then yellow, blue, green, and so on. See how limiting yourself to one colour can push you out of your comfort zone. Then shoot a few days only with Black and White. Which do you prefer? What do you feel when shooting each colour and why?
Personally, I am a great lover of colour and am particularly drawn to magenta’s, turquoises and yellows. I feel that colour can create the most incredible assault on the senses, while black and white allows me to create more impact in textures and stripping an image to it’s most authentic and purest energy.
When it comes to capturing children, there is never a lack of inspiration when it comes to finding colour. They almost seem to leave a never ending trail of it!
Experiment with shooting different items that are just lying around at home.
Sometimes even the slightest hint of colour can make a huge impact on an image.
And yet when I look at this image I see pink, despite the lack of colour. The image also looks great in colour, but keeping it in black and white allows the purity of it to remain the same while still giving off a sense of vibrancy in each child’s personality.
3)Every Emotion is Valid
If there’s one thing I do know for sure, it’s that the idea of capturing an image of a child will often involve someone trying to coerce them to smile at some point! How boring would a family album be only filled with big, false, toothy grins? Of course those images are valid too and have a place of pride in any home, but capturing authentic images involves telling the whole story, even if at the time if sits outside your comfort zone. You can never go back and capture that moment again, but you CAN delete the image if you feel it doesn’t sit right with you. Some of my most cherished images of my children are of them just being themselves, in all their glory, grumpy, sad, frustrated, and scared. These are memories I am sure to hold tight to in the future, and I encourage you to experiment with capturing a wider range of emotions in your subjects.
One of my most favourite emotional images….my daughter had fallen over and my husband scooped her up to comfort her. This image reminds me that we are fragile, and yet, we are unbreakable….
Of course there is beauty in the simplicity of knowing that we are all human, and that not every moment is filled with joy and bliss.
And of course, joy in it’s purest and unstaged form is blissful and beautiful too!
4) Use Nature as a Frame
This is one of my top tips in giving your images that extra feel good factor and allowing the true nature of your subject to shine! Framing with foliage (as I like to call it) is one of my favourite techniques and adding interest to an image. There are so many beautiful and vibrant natural settings around us that it becomes hard not to incorporate it after a while! Go out in your garden or find a space near you outside. Find a bougainvillea bush and think of the many ways that you could use this to make your subject stand out. Whether it’s a bush, a patch of grass, potted plants, the turquoise of the sea, or the golden dunes, we are constantly supported by our natural environment. Using nature as a frame is a great way to add more life and authenticity in your images.
Experiment with textures and colours. The results can be visually stunning without taking away from your subject.
Getting inside a bush or behind a tree can allow breathing space for the person being photographed to just “be”. Practise this with your kids and see how your photography improves dramatically!
5) Let it Be, Let it Be, Let it Be!
Embrace the truth and the imperfections of it all. Allow your life to unfold and be proud to capture life as it really is! Life gets messy sometimes, we make mistakes, and things turn out how we didn’t expect them to. This is all part of our story and our journey. Will you be proud of the beautiful mess that is your life, or do you want to fit the social norm of staging, planning, and executing a life that is not authentic? I can guarantee you that in years to come, those mistakes, blunders, bloopers, and mishaps will be among your prized and treasured images…that is if you accept the challenge to capture them!
So let the mishaps begin!
When I woke up one morning and realised that the pile of hair in my bathroom bin belonged to one of my kids I was furious, confused (whodunnit?), and hysterical with laughter all at once. That didn’t stop me from pulling out my camera for the interrogation process. Every good detective needs tools to record the evidence! The proverbial DIY haircut will always continue to go down in history as something we can joke about in the future. I’m glad that Lily had such confidence to think that her hair looks amazing like this, but also grateful that I recorded it. We will talk about it for years!!
Who Dropped the Baby??
They did!!! And you know what? It’s ok! In life we fall, drop, spill, break, and blunder. It’s part of what makes life interesting, and thankfully in both of these images the children laughed and enjoyed their moment in flight! I love both of these images as they are interesting, and again will be a talking point for years to come! How beautiful! Get out that camera and capture it all!
The scratch on Ruby’s arm, coupled with her filthy fingers (I did wash them before she ate before you judge) are a constant reminder to something that is a constant with her. It’s common for her to have bruises, and it’s common for her to be filthy dirty. It’s just what she does and who she is, and what a fabulous reminder in finding beauty where you wouldn’t expect to find it?
No matter how unlikely a photo may seem, I urge you to have a go at it anyway. Telling your story is one of the greatest gifts you will ever have, so why not challenge yourself to step out from the conventional and you’ll be amazed at the beauty you will find in unexpected places….
I run workshops for those who are interested in expanding their horizons outside the norm to produce exceptional images. The courses are non technical in nature, although I do offer assistance and guidance in this area. The aim is to use your camera as a tool for mindfulness in coming into the present moment to increase awareness, gratitude and love for a life less ordinary.
Pictured here is the last group of ladies who enjoyed this course!
If you are interested in the upcoming course schedule, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.