When I first started taking “real” photos with my “real” camera, I was obsessed with taking the perfect pictures every time I clicked the shutter. It didn’t matter if my kids were spending a typical day at the park or it was their 1st birthday party. I wanted them all to be the best I could produce.
I’ve mellowed out quite a bit since then! With time I’ve been able to separate taking a photograph for art’s sake and for memory’s sake. There are times, though, when I’d like both–like those 1st birthday photos. For special events in our life I want to take beautiful photos, I want to take photos for the memory books and I always want to be present in the moment.
In the last year, I’ve been able to achieve all of those objectives by taking my “artistic” photos before of the actual event. This may seem quite obvious to some, but it took me a long time to stumble on to this solution. I always wanted my kids birthday photos to be ON their birthday. Or their 1st Day of School portrait to be on the actual 1st day. What I found when I did it that way was that I could be a controlling grump and I would be disappointed or annoyed when the kids didn’t cooperate the way I wanted them to. I let the way the photos turned out determine my mood for the day. This all sounds so ridiculous as I’m writing it out–but I could not see this a few years ago. I only had eyes for those photos I was aiming to get.
My oldest daughter made her 1st Eucharist this year and this was the first time I had the opportunity to put my solution into practice. Here are a few things I’d suggest if you want to take photos ahead of the actual event.
- No.011. Call Ahead
If your event is not at your home, plan to call ahead to see if you can use the space for photos. I called the church office a day before I wanted to go up and asked permission. They were more than happy to accommodate me and were able to keep the church empty for me. They also kept the bathrooms open so we could use it as a dressing room since we didn’t want her riding in the car in her dress.
- No.02Plan around the light
I suppose I should be sharing this at my next confession, too, but the month before her big day I sat in Mass and stared at the light. I tried to figure out the best possible time of day to be in the church for the type of light I wanted. I visualized quite a few shots during Mass and would planned of the photo sessions based on where the light would be falling.
- No.03Let your child lead
This was tough for me. Remember the last step where I said I had been visualizing this photo session for a month!? Super tough. But worth it. I let her explore the empty church and asked her what photos she wanted to take (duh, why does it take me so long to think of these things!?) She blossomed. Right in front of my camera. It had been at least a year since she willing let me take photos of her. Giving her control was one of the best things I’ve done for my photography. The photos we captured that day far exceeded the session I had planned out in my head!
I enjoyed taking these photos probably more than any other I’ve ever taken. I loved spending that quality time with her (so rare when you have 3 kids!) We spent almost an hour there together and I’m just so grateful for that time and the special memories we captured.
Because I took all these photos a few days before, I feel like I was really able to enjoy her special day with her. I only took 5 photos on her actual day! I used my hands for hugging and holding her all during the Mass. Technically speaking, the photos of the event I took were pretty bad–but they do the job of preserving the memory!
(Look at that missed focus! Wow!)