A Few Secrets to Getting More Authentic Photos

The days I cherish most are the ones that are beautifully ordinary. They’re the building blocks of who we are, how we spend our time, who we choose to love, and the foundations on which we grow our family and lives – that is what a Day In The Life session is all about.

To capture not just the small tender moments that are present in the quiet places of our lives, but capturing a feeling of wholeness greater than the sum of its parts.

As a photographer, being invited into someone’s family for a day (and trusted with those most personal, tender moments) is an honor. When that family is the loved ones of another talented photographer, that honor is even greater. The H family is a warm and loving group of 6.

From coffee and snuggles in bed to goodnight kisses, spending 24 hours with them was wonderful in every way.

Here are a few of my secrets to making authentic photos with families:

When you’re with a family for 24 hours, you aren’t just there as a photographer. You need to be there as a guest in their home, too.

Take the time to get to know each family member, and let them get to know you as well.

Don’t be afraid to put the camera down and just talk.

If you’re going to be there for an extended period of time, the pressure to get every, single moment or shot is a lot less. And if you form a genuine connection with the family, they’ll feel more comfortable with you and you’ll get more authentic images as a result.

Play with the kids, make coffee with mom, talk to dad about his work – whatever you feel comfortable with.

When I shoot documentary family sessions, I try to stay as honest to the moment as possible.

With a few rare exceptions, I don’t manipulate anything in the scene. I work with the light that’s available. I don’t ask family members to set up in a certain way or place. I don’t move anything around or clone anything out, unless it’s truly so distracting that it overshadows the moment in a way that isn’t honest to how it felt to be there.

As a result, I often need to get creative with my compositions to tell the story. Utilize different perspectives and angles is the easiest way for me to control a scene that I can’t actually control. Rather than moving an object out of the way, I look for ways I can move myself to minimize or avoid it, or make it part of the story through framing.

I also regularly shoot with settings that are a bit on the “rule breaking” side of the craft. Don’t be afraid of shooting with a high ISO and wide aperture if the light isn’t very bright. Especially during nap time or bedtimes when the light is likely to be low, a little bit of grain and a shallow depth of field can add a sense of intimacy and timelessness to an image that perfectly matches the feeling of those moments.

Know your craft, but don’t be afraid break a rule in favor of capturing the honest moment.

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Writing and photography contributed by photographer, Kate Densmore.

Kate Densmore is based out of Washington. Follow her here:

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest

Author: MarieMasse
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.

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