This past fall, I was honored with the opportunity to go stay in a beautiful yurt semi off the grid in New Hampshire. I was tasked with photographing 5 families in two days in a mini-shoot fashion (more on this topic another time). I am calling this my powershoot weekend. I learned more in 12 hours than I learned in an entire year. That is why I am so grateful to the families who took a chance on me and allowed me to deep dive into family photography, which is something I have been wanting to do for a long time and up until now had only been intermittently doing over the past five years
Working with these families was a magical experience. I was eager to be there and I was honored to capture the bonds they shared.
What I Learned From the Sessions
Golden hour on the first evening did not disappoint, and I had a great time playing with the kids in my first and second sessions. Everyone was genuinely happy to be there and enjoyed the experience. After all, a beautiful 80-degree walk with your family in late October is virtually unheard of, right?
Day two from the first to the last shoot was incredibly challenging due to bright light. Open fields, not a cloud-in-the-sky kind of scenario. This was possibly the best thing that could have happened for me from a learning standpoint. But even those who have been around the block once or twice before know that this is challenging for any photographer. What I learned:
For mini sessions: pick and choose one or two locations and focus on capturing moments in those two places. If you only have a half hour, you only have a half hour, there is not enough time to hector with light and place.
I have been way overdelivering photos to my clients. I know at first they love it and often even ask for it during the shoot, but in the end, it’s just overwhelming and, well, I hate to say it because I especially am still struggling with this: you are only as good as your worst shot to the viewer. There’s nothing that can be done about that. I need to pick a place to set the bar and stop overshooting and over-delivering. I can’t say for certain, but this might be my most important lesson in business, at least for me to date.
What I learned about the creative process of photographing families on this trip:
- I love working with and photographing children. There is a real fleeting beauty in every child knowing that they will never again be as they are in that moment.
- Photographing families and the love they share is an honor and a blessing, but it's scary because knowing that fact just makes you want to do an even better job.
- The light doesn't always work in your favor; neither do the kids, and sometimes even the adults on rare occasions (which luckily didn't happen during these sessions).
My advice to new photographers starting, it’s the advice I wish I had learned a bit earlier: there’s no perfect time to put yourself out there. To get work you have to take work. Not every shoot will be perfect. Kids won’t always want to sit, the light might be casting dark shadows on your subject and you don’t have the right equipment in your bag for an impulsive shot, time runs out much faster than you were anticipating and you feel like you didn’t get “the shot.” You know the one I’m talking about. The special “shot of the day” that you are the most excited to get home and edit. My point is, that it’s not always going to be perfect, but when it’s not, that is the best time to grow as a photographer and as a person.
What I learned about the importance of rest in the creative process and beyond
When I first scheduled this trip I felt like I was going a hundred miles an hour running off fumes. Like I was a ball of dried-up creativity. I barely shot at all this summer and being creative at my work (my day job work) was so hard. I felt like that was the end of my creative journey forever. I thank God for the gift of prayer during this time. I realize now that this was a time of reflection about work, creativity, and life. Where were my priorities over the past few years? What was I doing, who was I helping, how was I serving God and people? I was confused, stuck between two paths, and all the while my hometown started to turn towards the worst, first with the shootings and now all the flooding, and friends and family of friends dying.
I drove away from all of this mess and when I got to my destination, you wouldn’t believe it.
Amazing. Of all the living things, I loved the sheep the most. I couldn’t stop from going over to them and just saying hi. That made my heart happy. You can laugh if you want, but it’s the truth! My heart was filled with joy at the site of these soft, sweet, silly little creatures.
On my second family shoot of the first evening, as we were walking by, I could tell that the family seemed to love the sheep as much as I did! Because of this, I was able to incorporate the sheep into some of the photos. I got to enter into the space and meet them firsthand. Even the ram seemed okay with us being there.
I guess it’s not surprising then that during my early morning walk before the sun got too high and it was spraying its golden light over the spot where the sheep slept, I had to walk over. I approached them, and as I did so these words:
The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me to still water: He restores my soul
At that moment I was able to hand over my anxiety, my frustration, and my wanting. Some things are out of our control and that’s okay. The world is a place filled with darkness and sometimes we must be able to rest in the arms of our Creator. It’s the only way to survive in the darkness.
For several months leading up to this trip, I started searching for peace in my work life. I decided to pursue what I love no matter what. But there were still questions (there probably always will be to an extent), but once I arrived home, I began to find focus in my business like I never have had before. From outside the shadow of my life, which for a time felt like nothing but failure and blackness, purpose stepped forward holding in its palm courage and intention.
Of course, I still have my job and a family to serve, but it is my life, the one that I chose and have chosen to put in God’s hands where it had always been, but I just didn’t realize it.
Merry Christmas (belated) and Happy New Year to you all, thank you for reading and supporting me and my journey. 💜