Thursday 23 September 2010

Not-Wordless Not-Wednesday

When I decided, back in the mists of time, to try this photo-a-day thing, the website that told me about the project had a warning: You will reach a stage where you want to give up. Don't do it!

Friends, I have to tell you - I have definitely reached that stage. The last few weeks around here have had that low-level hum of slight unhappiness that comes from being at slimefest and two babies' sleep needs rearranging themselves in a decidedly un-synchronised fashion. There have been some lovely moments, but some very hard days.

The last thing I've felt like doing is documenting it.

To add irony to the situation, this was about the same point that I started writing my series on how to photograph babies. I have to keep reminding myself that this is exactly what that series was supposed to be about - getting pictures of what's really going on around you, in the midst of your ordinary life. So I'm telling myself that the fact that I don't actually feel like picking up a camera at the moment doesn't make me a fraud. It just puts me in a good position to remind myself of my fourth point:

4. Take Pictures All The Time
This point has already been mentioned by Annie in a comment after my first post in this series. She said: I keep remembering the words of a famous children's photographer who when interviewed said, "The best way to get good photos of children is to take a LOT of photos." This couldn't be more on the money. Partly this is about statistics: if you get a decent photo 5% of the time you press the shutter, you're going to have to press the shutter lots of times before you get anything worth keeping. But there's actually a lot more to it than that - taking photos all the time should increas the quality of your photos, not just the quantity. I'd say there are three main reasons for this:

Your children will get used to it and ignore the camera. This one is self-explanatory.

Taking lots of photos keeps the stakes very low each time you get your camera out. If nothing works, no big deal. Put it away. Try again tomorrow. However, if getting out the camera is a big occasion, something that only happens rarely, you're going to want results. When you don't get them, you're going to get cranky and frustrated and your children are going to start hating the camera. Don't let this happen to you.

Taking good photos is a skill, and skills need practice. I'd done quite a lot of photography before the babies came home, and found it a bit surprising that it wasn't immediately easy, but it wasn't. Each type of photography is a new skill, and child photography was one I didn't have. Kids add a huge element of unpredictability to everything. I've done a bit of wildlife photography, and photographing children is far, far more like that than taking a portrait of an adult. The main reason for this is that the adult wants the same thing you want - a great photo. Babies? Not so much. They don't care about your stupid photo. They are more like rhinos - they want food, and an opportunity to wreak as much havoc as possible. Minimise the havoc by getting lots of practice.

So, how does this fit in with what I said last time about photographing purposefully? How can you stay purposeful if your camera never sees the inside of its case? Well, I'd say that it's all about frequency rather than volume. If you find that taking pictures all the time means you're clicking aimlessly and your camera is beginning to sound like the wings of a hummingbird, set yourself limits. Take pictures every day, but only allow yourself to take ten shots at each session and THINK about each one. Ten minutes of practice every day makes much more of an impact on your brain than two hours every two weeks - at least, this is what my mother kept telling me when I refused to practise the piano.

For putting this into practice, I can't recommend project 365 highly enough. If I hadn't started doing this, I would have only a tiny fraction of the photos of the babies that I do now. When they first came home, I was always so exhausted that it never felt like the right time to haul out the camera - and when I did I wanted something really GOOD. Needless to say I never got it. Now, because I do it every day, I get out the camera even when I don't feel like it and I'm often surprised by getting something that is much nicer than I was expecting. Not always - obviously - but often.

So while I definitely do feel like quitting right now, I'm not going to, and here's the evidence.

Who is the fairest one of all?

no! It could be contaminated!

I thought I already WAS working it!

danger of imminent starvation temporarily averted

I thought you said this was going to be fun.

now THAT's a head of hair

baby I with our neighbour

you can try to blind me with your death ray, but I will not lose my iron grip


see? Wildlife photography.

quick.... I'll cover the entrances. You take sector 12.

(and when I say low stakes, this is a photo of his feet and they aren't even properly in focus. Looooow stakes).

all non-essential agents, evacuate immediately! They're multiplying!

sadly, she had to throw this one back

Take my hand! I've found a gap in the force field!

(by the way - this photo is an artistic writeoff but a VERY BIG DEAL. It took a long time for baby girl to realise that sippy cups were not The Enemy. This was a major milestone).

vaccinations. Ouch.

.... and that's when I met Elvis.

I can see the humanoids approaching. We do'nt have a second to lose.

There are very few supplies left. We'll have to be very cautious.

It's big, but I think we've rendered it harmless

Mission successful. All the prisoners are accounted for and we have neutralised their contaminants. Over and out.


  1. Clap clap clap! Bravo! Love your inspiration and your photographs. Okay, I'm starting today. I just decided after reading your post, I walked into the dining room and snapped a picture of E, aka Rosemary, and it's going up on my blog today with my 365 days of photo announcement. I want to be a better photographer. I want to document my time with the girls. Thank you for sharing your art and your joy. :)

    Theresa (even though google thinks I'm still all about them only, pfff)

  2. I want to comment on each and every picture but only have time to say this: I LOVE your blue shoes.



    What the heck google? Don't you like me and eastopians?!

  3. These photos are so beautiful! I cannot stop looking at them.

  4. Beautiful! Please come take pics for me!

  5. Like the other commenter, I also LOVE the shoes.

    I love, love, LOVE pics like that - I'm thinking of taking pics of my feet the entire month of Oct. But since I have boring shoes, I don't think so...

    Also, love all the captions - will have to show hubby tomorrow - it will make him laugh too.

    Sippy cup - BIG DEAL! Well done Baby!

    And the one of you and her laughing - oh, priceless

  6. The pants worn in the "And that's when I met Elvis" photo....OMG! WE HAVE THOSE! Those were (I almost typed 'are' then realized that she's finally grown out of them and I can't even fake it anymore) our favorite pants. I found them in a second hand clothing shop and DD wore those all of the time. *sniff sniff* I am getting all nostalgic.

    Anyway, the project is awesome. Your photos have a real lightness that I covet. You may feel like stopping, but I promise you that for the rest of your days you will be so thankful that you did this.

  7. some inspiring fun stuff there girly. LOVE it.

    i hate when the bum is in focus and not the feet. ;) i just received the good word that my camera has been resurrected. i can't wiat to join you on my hands and knees and capture some life around here...

  8. LOVE the pics! They are great, really they are! The mirror kiss and the cardboard box are my favorites.... I think.... they are all so cute!

  9. As always, breathtakingly spectacular photos! And your description of babies as rhinos--hilarious.

  10. Oh! Sippy cups already... Time does fly. Thanks for pictures. Please give them extra kisses from Auntie A in Texas.

  11. Sigh....I am so jealous!

    I started Project 365 but sadly did not get past the first month....but once the wee dude is home I shall have my inspiration back to try it again.

    Gorgeous definitely have a keen eye for composition...and a witty sense for captions ;)

  12. good grief they just get cuter every blog post! Love the teeth! And btw...nice ScFi theme you got going there :-)

  13. about flash and lightening please. That cardboard box photo--gorgeous. But if I took that pict (and I've tried) the box would be so bright and white and the baby would be dark, dark, dark. Which is actually the same problem I have when it comes to photos of white daddy and black is way too white and bright. I got a flash defuser but so far I can't tell a difference.

  14. You are eviscerating my heart with those photos, woman. The heart bursteth, spilleth... Such intense beauty, hypnotic even. Your babies are beyond gorgeous.


  15. I thought I commented on this already but I must have just thought about commenting. Kind of like every time I try to have an adult conversation and only get half way through a thought before I have to go chase after someone. Anyway, amazing photos. Where'd you get those blue shoes?? And your babies are so cute and growing up so quickly!!! You make me want to be a better photographer. Thanks for these posts.

  16. Awesome photos. What do you shoot with?
    Pic #4 is lit brilliantly. :)

  17. I love the captions under each of your pictures! Hilarious!


Over to you!