Climbing a tree to get the great shot

Sometimes you have to get out and shoot… anyway you can.

See if this sounds familiar: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. You woke up refreshed, and overnight, the bug has bitten – you want to take advantage of the great weather and light, and take some photos. As you’re gathering your camera bag, tripod and hiking boots, a familiar voice pierces the early morning silence:

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“I thought I’d go and get a couple quick shots off at (insert favorite place here),” you stammer.

“We have to make breakfast, the kids have soccer games, and I want to stop at the hardware store and get a new kitchen faucet,” your other half notes. “And don’t forget the planter in the back yard needs weeding, and the neighbors are coming over for dinner at six…”

Your shoulders slump, not from the weight of your camera bag, but from your photography bubble bursting.

For many of us, juggling life and our photography can be an exercise in patience, with a lot of give and take, sometimes giving up more of our time behind the camera, and every day duties of life taking more than we’d like. With many fellow shooters, photography is a passion, and it’s tough when life gets in the way of the camera. It’s a balancing act, but it’s one that can be done without a tightrope.

Make an appointment with yourself to get great shots

Make an appointment with yourself to get great shots

  1. Planning is Key

Just as we plan a shoot, or a weekend away, you need to put your shooting days on a master family calendar, placed in a prominent location (we use our ‘fridge door, as everyone is grabbing something to eat or drink throughout the day). As most of our outdoor photography is done in the early morning or late afternoon, it’s fairly easy to grab shots and get home in time to take the kids to their baseball game. Another option is to designate a particular day which is a monthly “Photography Day,” where you can go out solo, or bring the family along to share in the fun of capturing images.

A friend of mine recently designated the second Saturday of the month as Photo Day, and he regularly takes his 12-year-old son with him, teaching him the basics of capturing light. So far, it’s been a great bonding experience, with son sometimes out shooting Dad.

  1. Be Flexible

Try as we might, there’s no way we can ever control the light or weather outside.  And no matter how well you plan, recitals get rescheduled, and last minute changes happen. It’s times like these that we need to be malleable, and maybe do a little extra breathing (especially if the weather’s been uncooperative, and your shooting day is picture-perfect). Being flexible with your shooting plans will help keep the blood pressure down, and what really helps is having the ability to trade days: Say a dance recital is rescheduled for your shooting day. Swap your day in the field for the original day of the recital, or choose another day in the future as a makeup day.

  1. Communicate

Chatting with other photographers, I’ve come to realize that many a frustration about not having the time to devote to their craft, is directly attributable to a lack of communication. For many a shooter, getting out capturing images isn’t just about coming home with a great shot. It’s a time to decompress, to be out doing something we love, enjoying nature in its finest, recharge our batteries, and re-ground of ourselves. It’s important that we let our loved ones know how much shooting means to us and in most cases, photography isn’t just a want, it’s a need – a need for our creative soul. Once that need is understood, you’ll generally finder greater acceptance, and encouragement to pursue your craft.

  1. Make it a Family Affair

I recently had the opportunity to put on a workshop for a family, covering three generations: The eldest, a grandmother in her 70s, a mother just shy of 50 and a daughter in her early teens. Each took my instruction and interpreting through the lens in vastly different ways. With the three shooting the same subject, the images they captured were as distinct as languages. The grandmother held fast to the rule of thirds, keeping all the details of the image sharp (her first camera was a Rolliflex, so she was an old-school shooter, like me). The mom was careful in her framing, but kept her aperture open, minimizing depth of field, and sharp focus on where she wanted the viewer’s eye to land. Her daughter threw caution (and the rules) to the wind, creating abstract images, mixing elements, and pouring 55-gallon drums of creativity into her images.

It was fantastic watching these three people, closely knit by blood, yet worlds apart in how they viewed the world. There was an abundance of sharing, excitement and appreciation for what each other had created. That fervor spilled over to the next day, creating hours of more fun, a deeper bond, and plans to shoot together soon.

  1. Sharing is (just about) Everything

With as busy as we get with our daily routines, it’s easy to download our images to a hard drive after a shoot, tell our loved ones what we shot, or the beautiful sunset we captured, only to let them sit for a long, long time on a magnetic disc, never to be seen. Once you’ve offloaded the images from your cards, try to take at least 15-minutes to choose one image, and either upload it to a mobile device or even print out a 4×6 on the family ink jet. Then, as you share the excitement of your shoot with everyone, you have the image, as a graphical reference, to accent the story of your experience, taking them back on the journey with you.