Why you don't have to be a professional photographer to take perfect photos
Capturing those perfectly imperfect moments is photographer Tash Stokes' forté. She explains why real life holds the most magic.
I’m Tash Stokes, a wife, mother and photographer from Hamilton. I'm one half of Black Robin Photography where my husband and I spend our days capturing special happy moments in life. Since having my own babies, I have fallen in love with capturing family life and the raw realness of it all. I often see (and shoot) the beautiful images on a beach or a long grassy field with everyone dressed in perfectly complementary outfits. Although they are stunning, I find it doesn’t always tell a true story.
Shooting lifestyle sessions at home allows me to capture the way a family lives and enjoys each other in their homes. There is something substantially more beautiful about a child freely being themselves, jumping on their bed, reading a book or dancing to their favourite song. My whole aim with this style of photography is to show the beauty in the mundane. It's candid and uncomplicated and leaves you with images that speak volumes about who that child or family is, not just what they look like.
Oftentimes this means mess. We need to get past the idea that for a moment to be photo worthy it needs to be perfectly curated. I love the idea that a photo of my kids playing amongst the mess of their bedroom captures exactly what our life looks like most of the time.
As young kids, they do create mess wherever they go and spend their days in princess dress-ups. One day they won't and at least I’ll have these photos to look back on and remember what life was like. Think about the photos our parents took of us on their old film cameras – nothing was perfect, half of the time Dad would crop feet or a head out of the photo by mistake but what these photos did so well was capture us just being kids.
CAPTURING THE MAGIC
When I capture my own children my whole focus is to disappear into the background as much as possible. I don’t prompt them in any way. I just follow their lead and capture them going about their day. I aim to set aside an hour or so and try not to rush the process. I also always keep my camera charged and ready to go, sitting somewhere easily accessible because you never know when those truly special natural moments will happen. This is where your phone has a great advantage, it's always close by.
Firstly I capture the scene, the room as a whole. Then I move a little closer. I capture the smaller details like facial expressions, hands, the object they are interacting with. If I miss my chance to capture them doing something, rather than direct them to do it again (as the image then moves from being candid), I wait. More often than not children will do it again. I then change my perspective, shoot from a different angle, position or direction. Think from above, crouch down to their level or move to the other side of the room.
Next up is the editing. This is where an image is transformed into something really special. I always encourage downloading an app (or program) and setting aside some time to play. Adjust all of the controls and get familiar with how that setting impacts the image. Soon you’ll develop your own style of editing and it becomes very quick to adjust your photos how you like them to look. There is no one technique that fits all here. Photography is an art form so enjoy making your photos look your own.
The best camera you can have is whatever is available to you that you know how to use. This is different for everybody. Try not to focus on this too much – I’ve taken amazing photos on my professional camera and equally as nice ones on my phone. You’ll know it's time to upgrade when the device you are using isn’t capturing the photos you are after anymore.
Focus more on learning how to use the camera you have to its full potential. Even phone cameras have the ability to alter settings to suit each location. YouTube is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this!
What good is a photo on your phone? Print your photos! Sure you can look back on images yourself but they tend to get buried in the thousands of photos on our phones. How are your children going to look at those photos? What if something were to happen to your phone, would you lose those images forever? Printing your photos and displaying them in your home shows your children how proud you are of them. Each time they look up and see their image on a wall you’re sending them a subconscious message that they are a work of art, worthy of being displayed. Print, print, print. Invest in tangible versions of your images – that may be prints, photo books or a good old fashioned photo album.
Creating family memories doesn't have to be a big hassle. It’s easy and achievable in your own home. Embrace the mess and capture the moment no matter what. These will one day be the days you want to remember.
Tash Stokes is a mother of two, wife and photographer. To have your family captured by her, visit blackrobinphotography.co.nz or @blackrobinphoto.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 53 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW