Friday, 18 July 2014

photo books part four // the thought process behind my photos

Happy Friday Friends! If you are new to this series, then Welcome! It's lovely to have you, and I appreciate that you are taking a little time out of your day to read my words. My plan for this week had been to share with you some of the very basic tools I use for editing my photos, but when I came to write about it, I was just not that inspired. The other posts in this series have come fairly naturally to me, and I have not struggled for the words to write, but the plan I had for this weeks topic? I think it needs to wait for another week. You see, one of the things that I am all about is being flexible. While I absolutely think that planning is an important thing to do, I also think that if a plan needs to change, then change it. I am sure this has been part of my character for a long time, but working with young children definitely helps when it comes to developing a willingness to change plans. So if you have been following along with this series, I hope that you don't mind too much that I am changing tack a bit this week. Instead of discussing apps and editing, I will share some of the thought process that goes into the photos I take and how this then determines the photos that end up in my Instagram photo books.

Depicting life with a newborn
When I started making photo books for our family, I intended to include a variety of photos that told a story about our life right now, rather than just photos of my baby daughter. This was surprisingly hard for a couple of reasons:
1) Newborn babies sleep a lot. There's only so many interesting photos you can take of a sleeping baby.
2) Ruby was born in Winter, which meant that there was a real lack of good natural light to help take good quality photos. (This is a bigger deal than it sounds.)

So I felt like photographing my daughter as a baby challenged my creativity and photographic skills, in order to create images that varied. Looking back at my first photo book, I feel like it gives a fairly clear reflection of what life was like for the first three months of having a newborn in our home. If a complete stranger were to look through the photo book I made from January 2014 - March 2014, and I asked them to comment on what they saw, I would imagine they would note the following things:
- Our baby spent a lot of time asleep in the sling
- Spring was well on its way
- Hannah (me) likes to bake
- Our baby spent a lot of time lying on the floor looking up at things

These themes are repeated throughout the photo book that tells the visual story of our first three months with Ruby. Rather than seeing the repetition as a negative thing, the reality is that life is full of routine and repetition. Sometimes this can be boring, and when it gets this way, we switch things up a bit. I hope that this is a lesson I am learning and able to put into practice when it comes to photography. I also think that this is part of what defines artists - a common theme, style or thread that runs through their art and makes it distinctly their own.

Developing Your Own Photographic Style

When I take photos, there are a few things that I always try to bear in mind:
- is this the best perspective and angle?
- what is the main subject of this photo? (You can determine this by looking at any given photo and noticing what your eye is immediately drawn to. It is not always what is in the foreground.)

- have I given enough context for the photo to tell a story?
- is there enough natural light to make this a good photo? (If you are planning on printing photos from your phone camera, it is particularly important to take photos with enough natural lighting to avoid grainy shots that might look ok on your phone, but will not print well.)

If we take the example of the two photos below, you could say that they are essentially just two shots of a baby in a sling. But I think they portray two different things because of what I have made to be the main subject of the photo. In the first photo, the subject in the foreground is a mixing bowl, which implies that I am making something. You can't see what I am making, but the element of movement in the photo adds an interesting dynamic. I could have just taken a photo that focused purely on the movement of the sugar I was pouring, and excluded Ruby and myself from the shot. But it tells a greater story for us to be included. And the greater story is that I found a lot of joy in the discovery that I could still bake with a newborn baby, while enjoying having her close to me.
A little bit more on Perspective
As I mentioned above, one of the questions I ask myself when taking a photo is about perspective. In the photo pictured below on the left hand page of the book, my initial aim had been to capture the incredible light that was shining on the beach in Rhossili Bay in Wales. It was an incredibly windy day too, and rather than being perturbed that my hair was flying in front of the lens, I used this to my advantage to help communicate just how windy it was that day. An added bonus of this photo was that my husband and daughter were just behind me and I loved the way that my billowing hair framed them into the shot. I also had in mind that as I take 99.9% of our photos, I had to be creative to be featured in some more of them. I realise that this is a rather unconventional 'family portrait', but I love that it tells a story.
In the second post of this series, I talked a lot about how Instagram helps me a lot in the process of compiling my photo books in that the photos I share on Instagram are most of my favourite photos from my phone, which takes a lot of the time out of pondering which photos I want to put into my photo books. Going a bit further into the details of this, my Instagram profile gives an immediate overview of the things that have been catching my eye. When I share photos on Instagram, I try not to post too many similar images consecutively, as I realise this would make for a dull photo book, and an uninteresting photo feed for those people who take the time to look at my photos. You can also see from the thumbnails that I have taken photos from a variety of perspectives:

- from above looking directly
- directly in my line of sight
- looking up
- on the same level as my daughter

A snapshot of my Instagram feed gives the viewer an instant idea of what I like to photograph.

Focus on the details

I love noticing the beauty in the small details of things. From the tightly clustered petals of a peony before it unfolds, to the little dimples in my baby's hands. These subjects can make for striking photos, but I try and use these images in moderation in my photo books. For me, these intricate details are so important to capture (one day my baby will have knuckles rather than dimples and I wouldn't be surprised if this alone made me broody), but they don't tell enough of a story to make a photo book interesting without other photos that have more context to them. Nevertheless, I never shy away from capturing details because this is part of my preferred photographic style. I also like to include the detailed photos I take of flowers and trees in my photo books because it communicates a sense of the seasons, adding to the story that the photos tell. What about you, lovely readers? Do you enjoy capturing the small details with your camera, or do you try and include as much context and landscape into your images as possible?

Next week I will share some basic editing apps and programs that require minimum time and skill to subtly enhance your photos.

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