In a Rut.
Last year it dawned on me that since studying for my Foundation Diploma in Photography 14 years ago I had not done any formal photography training. Since deciding to make a career of photography back in 2011 I have been continuously learning but mainly through personal practice and the odd YouTube video. I was in a bit of a creative rut and wanted to learn something new! Up to this point all of my family sessions had been using my pop up studio in clients’ living rooms but as my own children grew I realised the benefit to being able to take the photo shoot outside to let them run free and have some real fun.
I’ve had a camera in my hand as long as I can remember and a love of landscape & travel photography is where it all began. So taking photos of kids outside should be easy right? ….wrong! Whenever I attempted to photograph my boys outside I felt something was missing. Where was the ‘wow’ factor? I was happy with the studio work that I was producing of younger children and babies but I knew that if I was going to be able to continue to take photos that I loved of our two energetic boys, who had long since tired of posing for me in the studio, I had to learn some new skills. We had to get outside!
When I heard that Nina Mace, winner of Children’s Photographer of the Year, was coming to Bristol, I leapt at the chance to do training with her. After booking the course I discovered that none of my lenses were suitable and that this was the perfect excuse to treat myself to a new lens, I was so excited – I’m a bit of a techy geek! The Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 arrived a few days later and I took the boys to the park straight after school to try out this 1.5kg beast of a lens. To say I was disappointed with the results is a bit of an understatement. Nina’s training could not come soon enough.
The Big Day!
So on a gorgeous sunny afternoon back in July 2016, myself and a group of about 8 other photographers went along to Nina’s training at Ashton Court in Bristol. After covering some invaluable technical theory in the classroom we took our cameras outside to put what we had learnt into practice. I was instantly getting better results than I did in the park with my boys – what a relief!
Despite what you may think, bright sunny days are the hardest of all. Harsh shadows, blown out skies and squinting children don’t make for the best photos! Often referred to as The Golden Hour, the most beautiful light is the hour before sunset. With the sun low in the sky the light is soft and warm, but in summer months this is usually around 9pm – not the ideal time for a photo shoot with young children! Nina showed us how to find the best light even when waiting for Golden Hour is not an option.
After experimenting with different lighting situations and locations we headed back into the classroom where Nina demonstrated some of her editing techniques. Having trained on a film camera, without the luxury of Photoshop, I always strive to get the shot as perfect as possible in camera. Having resisted using Photoshop for the first few years of business, believing to some extent that it was cheating, I have now come to realize that it is an incredibly powerful tool. When used correctly to enhance what is already a good image, you really can achieve that wow factor I had been searching for.
Since my training with Nina I have done several outdoor family sessions and look forward to doing many more. I love my studio work but I am so happy to be able to offer my clients the option of an outdoor session. And for me, most importantly, I have photos of my children that I love.
If you would like to see more of Nina’s beautiful work please visit her website.