One of the blogs on my feedly is a lifestyle photography blog mostly directed at mothers who want to take better pictures of their kids. I’ve been reading it for a couple of years now and have definitely picked up some useful tips (although I am nowhere near as good as she is).
I noticed this fall that I largely stopped taking photos once E. started JK. I would still get the camera out for major events (like our cottage weekend over Thanksgiving), but when it came to our day-to-day existence, the camera was just sitting on the shelf. I recently (finally) uploaded the photos for the rest of the year to our online album that I share with friends and family and the photos stopped on the 21st of November. I didn’t take any pictures of E. in December before he left. I did take a couple of pictures of his (hilarious) letter to Santa, but I need help from my brother-in-law to blank out the address before I post them anywhere.
Q. is hopeless at taking pictures, partly because his family does not have a strong tradition of taking pictures, and partly because he just trusts I’m going to take far too many. I sent him down under with our point-and-shoot camera, and did try to stress the point that E. will not see these relatives again for AT LEAST eighteen months and maybe it would therefore be a good idea to get some photos of the family because E. and his two cousins will all look completely different by the time they’re next together, but I’m not holding my breath.
Anyway, thinking about our photos (or lack thereof) inspired me to set a couple of photography goals for myself for 2016. I didn’t have any formal goals for this year, but I did take the big step of switching my camera into fully manual mode. I’d been shooting in Av mode for about two years, where I set the aperture and monitored the white balance, but the camera set shutter speed and ISO, and I knew it was time to step out of my comfort zone. I’m still finding it a challenge, especially figuring out how much light I need. I don’t edit my photos or shoot in RAW, so I need to get it right in camera. But in general switching to manual has improved my photos.
This year I felt like I needed something a bit more specific as a goal in order to keep focused. Now that I’m not spending as much time with E., I’m going to have to make more of an effort to keep my shutter count rising. But that’s the only way I’ll continue to improve.
1. Use my new camera
In July (JULY!) I bought a new DSLR body. It is still sitting in a box on my desk. I am completely intimidated by it and I’ve been refusing to get it out because I know there’s going to be a steep learning curve and there’s always an occasion coming up where I don’t want to run the risk of not getting any decent photos because I haven’t quite figured out the camera yet. But here we are, six months later, and I still haven’t taken even a baby step towards using it. Enough. Q. bought me my old camera in 2007. The technology and the capabilities of the new body are incomparable. I need to just start using it and suffer the indignity of possibly having my photos look worse for a time before they look much more amazing.
2. Try a Project 365
I thought about doing this last year and then chickened out. I think because E. was so sick over the holidays I didn’t take any pictures until we were home again and by then I’d missed a few days and I therefore decided that there was NO POINT in even trying a 365 because I’d already missed a few days (there are times when I really hate my perfectionism). I need to learn to use my new camera, and I need to be better at taking pictures of things other than E., and I need to use my camera more consistently outside of the summer months, and this project is perfect for all three issues.
3. Get in the frame at least once a month
This is actually a goal of the blogger I follow, but it’s a good goal for me too. My sister pointed out when I did my huge update of photos that I was maybe in two of them. I know it’s a problem- I have a billion pictures of E., lots of pictures of him with Q., the occasional picture of all three of us, and almost no pictures of just E. and his Mummy. Again, not helped by the fact that Q. really doesn’t enjoy taking pictures. Also not helped by the fact I’ve put the camera on manual, as Q. doesn’t feel very comfortable using it, even if I set up the entire shot for him and tell him where to stand. And if I give the camera to someone else, more often than not the photo ends up blurry. I don’t have a smartphone, so I can’t just whip that out and take selfies with E. I have been meaning for years to form a relationship with a photographer and pay for an annual session to get some gorgeous family shots, but that will only put me in the frame for one month out of twelve! This goal needs some thought, but it’s an important one.
4. Finish a photobook (ANY photobook)
Finishing a photobook was one of my goals for the summer with my Happiness Reset project. I failed miserably at this goal (although I did finish the summer much much happier than I’d started it, so overall the project was a success). It is the same problem I’m having with the new camera. I am paralyzed by the thought that if I make a photobook it might not be perfect and therefore I will regret having made it. What matters though is just getting the thousands of photos I’ve taken off my computer and into a format where we can enjoy them. I have seriously thought about just printing them out as 4x6s and putting them in an album the old-school way, but I love the layout options for photobooks (when I’m not finding the choice overwhelming). I really want to finish an album for E’s first two years before this baby comes so that E. can easily look at all the pictures from when he was a baby (my plan is to print two copies- one for us and one for E., so I don’t freak out if E. rips the occasional page or spills something on it). Sometimes (often) I need a firm deadline in order to get anything done, and you don’t get a much firmer deadline than a baby’s arrival, so hopefully I can
find make the time to make this happen.
Those are my goals for 2016. Long term, I would like to be good enough by the time I turn 40 to submit an application to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (nilmdts), an organization that pairs volunteer photographers with parents who are experiencing the loss of an infant so that the grieving family has some beautiful photos with which to remember their lost child. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve known for a long time now that I wanted to find some way to give back to the infertility and loss community which has sheltered and supported me for so many years. I know I will never be a doula or a midwife or a counsellor. But this is something which I could do, and demand for nilmdts’s photographers regularly outstrips their availability (which is why they can only offer their services to parents losing a child at birth).
You have to be basically at a professional standard to be one of their photographers. Most of the photographers in my region run businesses specializing in maternity, newborn, family shots, with the odd wedding photographer thrown in. You have to be confident shooting in very low light conditions, using auxiliary lighting like a Speedlight. This is exactly the type of situation where I am least confident with my camera. You have to be able to edit your images, and I have resolutely avoided editing my images thus far. So I have a lot of learning to do. But I’m giving myself four years (almost) to practice and learn and practice and read and practice some more. It’s a big goal, but I think I’m up for the challenge.