When I first started talking to the mom of this incredible family of 5 about their session she mentioned she wanted to shoot in their backyard. I love the chance to shoot at a client’s house whenever possible, it really brings a huge personal touch to a session so, naturally, I was excited. I immediately starting running different little activity ideas past mom to help keep everyone active and engaged for the whole session.
Now, people out here in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest have some serious backyards; well manicured, gorgeous landscaping, the whole nine yards. And that’s what I was expecting, perfectly cut grass and flowerbeds. Then, I showed up at their house for their pre-session consultation and mom showed me around. I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t get caught in my throat just a little bit because it was immediately apparent why we needed to shoot there.
Backyard isn’t even quite the correct word. The previous owner of the house had purchased an extra plot of land in the back of the house to prevent further development behind the house. As a result there was a small spot at the end of their drive where a swing set was placed. (This included a rope swing that was hung from a tree branch that was about two and half stories off the ground.) Behind the swing set was an upward slope of untouched forrest which leveled off into a small clearing at the top of the hill where this family had built a zip line. A zip line!!! It felt like I had stepped into Neverland. Then Mom dropped the real bomb. They also had access to a private beach where they wanted to get a few shots as well. I may have swooned a little.
So on the day of the shoot I totally forgot about all those little activities I had suggested. I just showed up and said, “Let’s go play.” And that’s exactly what we did. That little vision I had of Neverland was completely spot on. In between turns on the swing and the zip line the kids climbed trees and showed me their secret paths and hide outs amongst the trees. Then we marched down the beach where we collected shells and watched the sunset.
Even though this style of photography is all about being unposed and capturing life as it unfolds, we all like to come a little prepared. We are still serving clients and we like to make sure we have at least a bit of a plan to ensure we deliver a stunning gallery. But every now and then we can, and we should, just let go and let the kids run the show. Let yourself get lost in their imaginary hideaway and see the world through their eyes for a bit. Just make sure you wear some comfy shoes and some casual clothes because you might find yourself climbing rocks or tip toeing through giant ferns and moss covered logs in the process.
The Specs: The included images were shot on a Nikon D700 using available light with the Nikon 50mm 1.4 and Sigma 35mm 1.4.
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.