So often it seems like couples without children feel that the details of their daily lives are not “photo-worthy”. And that makes me so sad, because in 20 years when they’re looking back on where they started, I know they will feel completely different about it and wish they could remember those seemingly insignificant details of the beginning of their life together. I look at this session and I think about if this couple gets married, their children and grandchildren will be able to look back on these photos and cherish them. My mom recently made DVD copies of some of their old home videos from the 1960s! Seriously incredible! I’ve seen a snapshot here and there of my mom, uncles and grandparents back then, but seeing entire videos of birthday parties, football games, seeing my great-grandparents’ anniversary celebration, and watching my mom and her brothers playing in the kiddie pool during the hot Miami summer? Well that was an entirely new world for me. I was able to see the full stories rather than just a single snapshot of a child smiling for the camera. I saw their personalities shine in those videos and it was priceless.
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This is why “A Day in the Life” sessions are so dear to my heart. They are real. By looking at the little details of a person’s day and life, you see their personality, dreams, character, and heart. You don’t always see that as much when you pose a couple on a bench and ask them to “smile for the camera”. Overall, looking through this couple’s story I think you feel such a connection and love through the smallest details. Some people may not think that riding the subway together or making coffee are special moments, but they are. The truth is, we, as a society, are too busy with life, we don’t take time out to savor those little moments and see the beauty in them. These are the pieces of our lives that make up our stories and these are the moments that should and will be treasured forever by many generations to come!
Are you wanting to photograph a documentary session with a couple? Do it! Meet with your clients over lunch one day and just chat them up. Get them to tell you about their relationship and their life together. Listen. That is the most important thing I could tell you. You have to listen to what they’re telling you because a lot of times the client will not even realize that the things they are telling you are actually beautiful pieces of their lives that ARE worth documenting. Keep these things in mind when you show up for their session. You aren’t planning necessarily, but you have those ideas at the forefront of your mind so that when they happen, recognize it and are ready to grab that shot.
I shot this session primarily with a sigma art 35mm 1.4 lens, and a canon 6d. I feel that 35mm is the ideal focal length for documentary sessions because they give you a wide enough angle to get the full story in the picture while at the same time you have the option to move in a little closer to grab those super important details that add so much interest to every documentary session.
Guest post writing and images from photographer, Jessie Fultz.
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I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.
You can also to make note of how the light looks in different rooms in your house at different times for future reference, so it's a great exercise is learning how the light "works" in your home.
2. Capture Routines
I know that many of us only take our camera out when we are going on big outings, or at milestones such as birthdays or christmas, but we can sometimes fall short when trying to capture just ordinary day to day moments. As these can be the moments that you will treasure most in years to come, it makes sense to try to document these too.
When capturing your day, think about the routines and everyday rituals that your family has, big and small, and make sure that you capture them. If you feel that it is important to catch a particular moment or ritual, I suggest that make a quick note of some of the moments that you feel is important to capture, just to make sure that you remember to get them! I'm an organiser by nature, so I like having a bit of a game plan before I start 😀
3. Take Your Camera EVERYWHERE
Something that I don't do often is take my big camera out in public to "everyday" places, like the coffee shop or the market. Photographing a day in the life can force / encourage you to take your camera with you to places that you might never thought of doing so before - and you might get some images that you would never have previously considered.
My advice is to pack a camera bag the night before with everything you might need so you are ready to just grab it whenever you head out the door for the day. I pack it with money, cards, etc so that it is my main bag for the day.
However, if you don't want to take your big camera with you (or it's just impractical for whatever reason) most phones these days have a pretty decent camera on them, so feel free to use that instead! It can be more challenging to take images with just your iphone, but that can also be a good thing when you are shooting for a whole day.
it doesn't matter so much which you use, but more that you make sure you have a camera with you at all times - I love this image below, even though it was captured with my iPhone rather than my "big girl" camera.