Documenting Your Daily Life
For the past 3 years I have done a 365 Project to document our life and tell our story. It isn't always easy, it isn't always pretty, but it is OUR story. I am left speechless when my kids drag out the boxes of images and settle down into our floor with the numerous photo books I had made. Some days they remember and it makes me so happy to hear how THEY recall that day. There's laughter, happiness, and watching their little fingers graze over the images, touching them as if it will help them go back to that moment, makes this project SO worth it. For me, it isn't about making moments, but letting our day unfold and photographing what I see. It's real and some days that means mundane. It's chaotic, and I don't always have the best light, but I take the picture.
When I am long gone, they will open the boxes and remember. Their grown hands will graze over the same images just as they did when they were little and they will be taken back. I'm often asked about what to document, the awkwardness of taking my camera out in public, different lighting situations etc. So, let's dive in.
1. FIND BEAUTY IN THE MUNDANE.
You don't have to be traveling around the globe to capture moments. Most of what I shoot is in my home...my kids laying together, getting into trouble, playing with our dogs, greeting their Dad at the door when he has been gone for work all week. My camera is ALWAYS on my kitchen counter, it's always ready. Most of my favorite images are those of my kids just BEING. While I try to be as sneaky as possible, that doesn't always work, so I just direct them to keep doing what they were doing. Sometimes I just walk into the room with my camera ready. I know the light in my home and what settings will work best with lights on, off, and different times of the day. This comes with practice. Learn the light in your home. Find those pockets of sunlight, take note when the sunset comes through your windows and gives you glorious backlight. Experiment. There is no perfect. All that matters is what is perfect to YOU.
2. BRING YOUR CAMERA EVERYWHERE
Will you get weird looks? Absolutely. Will you care? If I'm being honest, probably...at first. Ignore the looks, push aside how weird you feel. I promise you, that feeling will fade and you won't care about the side eyes thrown your way. Usually I just explain to people that I document our daily lives and people smile and tell me how wonderful that is. This is also a GREAT opportunity to market if you are a professional photographer. I carry business cards with me and if folks seem interested or ask me about my business, I hand them one. Lighting can be tricky when indoors at stores with no natural light. Play with your settings a bit. I shoot using Kelvin for white balance, so I have a general idea of what number I need to be at with fluorescent lights. If you're not familiar with Kelvin or uncomfortable with it, just use auto white balance. This is the safe option, especially when that moment is unfolding and you are in a hurry to grab it. When I am shooting in public, I tend to lean towards composing my images with more of the background in it. I feel it tells a story. With all of this said, always ask for permission when shooting in a store. While I have never had an employee stop me, I'm pretty sure some have questioned, so now I make it a point to find an employee and briefly explain to them what I am doing. I've yet to have anyone tell me I can't shoot.
3. GET CREATIVE
When photographing your everyday, you WILL feel as though you are in a "rut", especially if you are like me and you prefer to stay at home. Step outside of your comfort zone and get funky with lighting and angles. SHOOT FROM ABOVE. For most of my above shots I use live view on my camera and stand on a chair. I also have a Sigma 15mm fisheye lens that I use on occasion. I will go over my gear a bit later on in the post. USE ARTIFICIAL LIGHT. This can be anything from a nightlight, a floor lamp, to a flashlight. Don't be scared of a little grain, this is likely when using one small light source. Another note, just because you are shooting a 365 doesn't mean you can't "set up" what you want to shoot on occasion. For the black and white photo below, I wanted to capture my daughter being strong, "I am woman hear me roar". I guided her into the light, set up the fan and let her have at it.
Images below were all shot from above either with my GoPro, LensBaby, Sigma 15mm or just with me standing on a chair and hoping for the best.
My only light source in the images below was a flashlight, nightlight and a small table lamp placed behind a sheet. These were all taken at night when I had no natural light coming in and all other lights in the room were turned off.
4. GET IN THE FRAME
I get it, this isn't always easy since we are the ones taking the picture, but it is easier than you think! While most of my 365 is directed towards my kids and my husband, I don't want them to wonder where I was. While you can use just your camera and a tripod, with or without a remote, I use the Canon Camera Connect app. If you have a wifi enabled Canon DSLR, you can use this. This allows you to change settings, select focus points and see exactly what your camera sees all from your phone. I put my camera on a tripod and have my phone close by or in my hand. You don't have to get all fancy with it though, simply adjust your settings and hand your camera off to someone else. If your significant other or family member is anything like my husband you will have to direct them through the whole process, but at least you get the shot. Your kids won't care that your hair was in a messy bun and you were wearing pajamas, and if you aren't all about being photographed looking like the beautiful hot mess you are, take the time and do yourself up and then hop in front of the camera. You. Were. There. That's all that matters.
5. FOCUS ON THE DETAILS
That rut I talked about earlier? If you aren't feeling creative, just zone in on the small things. Hands, feet, tendrils of hair, close ups of art your kids have done. I feel like focusing on the details leaves more to the story that needs explained. There's a bit of mystery to it.
6. GET OUTSIDE
Especially during the winter months, it is hard to keep up with a 365 project because you feel cooped up. Bundle those babies up and step outside for 10 minutes. That's all you need. Let them play, explore, and run wild. I bribe my kids, it goes a long way. Don't be afraid to get them out in full sun or on cloudy days ( cloudy days happen to be my fave ). Just go with it.
7. THROW OUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Seriously. Do it now. Your kids won't always cooperate. Lighting will be awful. Meltdowns will happen. I take at least 50 images a day and about 5 of those make the cut. This isn't about being the best or having the perfect image. This is YOUR story. Life is messy and it isn't perfect and it's okay when that comes through in your images. Do you. Document it all and try to have fun with it! Don't stress when you don't get an image for that day. Use this project to further your knowledge of your camera, light, your home. You will be surprised the things you SEE that you normally wouldn't see.
8: MY GEAR
Canon 6D Markii | Canon 35mm f1.4 Lii | Sigma 15mm fisheye | Sigma 24mm f1.4 | Lensbaby Sol 45 | GoPro Hero 7 black
While it's nice to have a variety of lenses, you absolutely don't have to! Most of my 365 images are shot with my 35mm. Use what you have.
*With ALL of that said, always keep in mind this is about the story of YOUR family, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and the most precious of moments. If you have any questions I'd love to answer them! I'm an open book! Feel free to comment below or you can reach out to me via social media.
Until then.....document ALL of it and PRINT YOUR IMAGES.
Sending all the love and creativity vibes your way,