The Art of Everyday Photography

If you are committed to your art, winter can be a great opportunity to gain new skills in indoor photography and to gain a new appreciation for the everyday, not just in your own household but to help clients see the beauty in their everyday lives as well.
03/03/2014 01:29pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Many photographers, both professional and serious hobbyists, find a lack of motivation and opportunity to shoot during the winter. This is probably truer this winter than those in recent memory thanks to the Polar Vortex many of us have been experiencing over the past few months -- and snow predicted into March. Stuck indoors, with a lack of client interest and the same routine day after day, can be enough to make you abandon your camera until the snow has melted and the flowers are blooming again.

Photo: Jamie Davis Smith

But, if you are committed to your art, winter can be a great opportunity to gain new skills in indoor photography and to gain a new appreciation for the everyday, not just in your own household but to help clients see the beauty in their everyday lives as well.

This winter, I've committed to capturing my family's "everyday" and I've loved the little moments I've captured that I often overlook during the warmer months. I've finally captured my son's routine of spending part of his allowance to buy candy at our adorable neighborhood market and documenting the many hours we spend at places around our neighborhood from the toy store to the supermarket.

I've sought out other photographers doing the same and have become enchanted with the work of Colie James, who is a part of several collaborative blogs documenting everyday life with children, including Let Them Be Little, The Stories We Tell, and Giggles & Goldfish, a new project she is undertaking to encourage others to document the everyday moments with their children they may miss in a few years, or even a few weeks, when things change.

Photo: Colie James

Colie has some tips to get you started and explains why she takes photos of her family everyday:

Tip: Make a list of five things that currently happen in your everyday life worth documenting.
Tip: Always take the shot, then consider if there is anyway to improve it and shoot again.

In everyday life we are slammed with photo-ops. Some spontaneous and fleeting, while others tend to present themselves again offering another opportunity to capture the moment if we miss it initially. When and if they happen again, just be ready with the camera. Be quick to snap at least one image then consider light, perspective, and composition before you take the next shot. Want to be more deliberate? Create the opportunity to capture the memory you want. Plan an activity while being aware of the available light and objects in the frame before you begin. Once your subject starts the activity wait for the moments of true emotion to snap the picture. Sometimes you can anticipate what might happen, but even then continue to look for other genuine moments to click the shutter as they happen.

I've also loved following Kids Were Here, a collaborative site of around 30 photographers who are focusing on capturing the beautiful mess that comes with having children in your life, from little footprints in mud to art supplies left on the kitchen table. Kids Were Here was founded by Ketti Philip of Ketti Bags and Ketti Photography.

Photo: Deanna McCasland

For those wanting to dive into everyday photography more or expand their business to include lifestyle sessions, one Kids Were Here Contributor, Deanna McCasland, offers an online course for serious hobbyists and professionals about how you can capture your everyday. She covers everything from how to tell a story using different perspectives to how to go about shooting in public, along with image critiques and interactive forums. Deanna explains her interest in everyday photography:

In 10 years don't sit down to look at your memory books and skip from birthday to holiday to vacation. There is beauty happening in the everyday mundane moments. Not only do I want to remember the Disney vacation, but I also want to remember the sticky counter tops and the sink piled high with Sippy cups. These little things that we take for granted are fleeting and they are important traces of childhood that should be documented. It's all beautiful, even if it feels messy right now, one day it will be missed. It's all about perspective. Not just in photography, but how you live your life.

Photo: Laura Siebert

Some may not know where to start taking photos indoors, but taking beautiful photos indoors with natural light is entirely possible if you know how to evaluate the situation and the light. Laura Siebert established herself as a leader in teaching natural light family portraiture that portrays natural emotion in her first two books, Get Real and Lighten Up. Her new book, Step Inside, walks through taking beautiful natural light photos indoors from start to finish with tips that can be used to take stunning images in your own home or a client's home.

Laura offers a tip to help:

When photographing your child indoors with window light, it helps to turn off artificial lights in the room, especially overhead lights. The conflicting light sources can create unwanted shadows and color casts, such as a yellow/gold color where the artificial lights are. Keep your light source pure window light for the most flattering indoor images.

Step Inside, Photo: Laura Siebert

Detra Perrotti created a 60 day online natural light class, the Finding the Light Workshop, to help photographers find perfect natural light indoors and out. Her sought-after workshops often feature guests, such as famed Russian photographer Elena Shumilova who takes magical pictures of her children on their farm. If you are not familiar with Elena's work, it can be seen in this recent Huffington Post article). Detra offers a tip to use light indoors to make your indoor images feel magical:

I love shooting into the light indoors, it really sets a magical feeling to the everyday moments captured! Embrace the shadows, and remember itʼs the feeling your after not perfection! These types of shots usually are not sharp clear portraits but more of artistic creation! If needed I well suggest to my child to go over to the that sunny spot and play. When my daughter was small I would tell her to go to the bright spot and cover her eyes and count to three, we made it a game!! You could have them look out window, have them count the clouds will usually allow a heavenly light if you backup and capture it all!

Photo: Detra Perrotti

Although many try to avoid flash, even indoors, sometimes one is very helpful, especially, as I've learned for capturing those sweet moments that occur indoors, after dark with my family. I shied away at first, but learning a little about bounce flash through Nichole Van's Mastering Online Flash digital workshop helped me figure out how to use a Speedlight properly. I've also been using the Rouge Small Softbox kit, which includes a small reflector and a small diffusion panel that can be used to help manipulate flash or that can be attached to create softbox that fits over your flash when bouncing isn't an option. These simple tools can make a huge difference is making your flash photos stunning.

Photo: Jamie Davis Smith

Once you start seeing the beauty in the everyday events and details of your life you will stop seeing the colder months, and even rainy days, as photographic wastelands and start seeing them as opportunities to capture what makes your family unique. For professional family photographers, with a little education and a few tools, this realization may also help you work with clients to move beyond the standard portrait to capture parts of their lives they won't want forget in a few years when their routine and lives are very different than they are now.

Photo: Jamie Davis Smith