If I could change one thing about my day-to-day life, it would be to write more down. Sure, I’m good at writing the “big things” down, like the first time my kiddos took a step or their first words. But do I sit and write down the little stories, the daily memories that express the personalities of my kids as they grow? Not as often as I’d like. I do, however, capture many of these stories with my camera.
When a writer (or a scrapbooker or a journaler) sits down to tell a story, he or she weaves together a series of words to convey their thoughts. Similarly, you can use a series of photographs to weave together a story. You probably already do this to a degree, but I’d like to add a tool to your photography toolbox that may just kick up your storytelling ability a notch or two.
This tool? Aperture. I’m sure you’ve heard of this camera setting before. Put simply, aperture is the amount of light that enters your camera through the lens when you take a photograph. It also defines how much of your shot is in focus, and how much is thrown out of focus. I love to use aperture to vary my shots and really tell a story with my camera.
I’ll use a photo shoot I did of my son last year as an example. It was my youngest son’s second birthday so, to celebrate, I dragged both of them out in the 105-degree heat and made them pose for pictures. Nice, huh?
In addition to capturing some traditional portraits, I wanted to tell a few stories of what was going on in the lives of my boys on that hot summer day in August. I wanted first to capture how my oldest was trying to help my youngest hold up two fingers to show his new age. They’d been working on it together for about a week, and I wanted to be sure and capture this memory. I wanted to focus on their hands together, and place the rest of them in the background. So, I set my aperture to 2.5 and set my focus on their hands. You can see how their hands are crisp, but my son is thrown a bit out of focus. This draws your attention to their hands.
I also wanted to be sure to capture my oldest’s obsession with Buzz Lightyear. So I had him hold Buzz straight out in front of him, set my aperture to f/1.8 and focused on Buzz.
I was sure to include my son in the shot, so I could remember which kiddo had the obsession. If I’d simply taken a picture of Buzz, years later, who knows if I would assign this memory to my oldest or youngest (especially since they now both share that obsession!)
The images that I captured on the wide aperture setting took mere moments and were only a small portion of the shots I took on that hot afternoon. But simply taking the time to grab those memories made all the difference to me, looking back on these photos six months later. I have since framed many of the photos from this afternoon, mixing in the two photos above, more “memory driven”, with these more traditional portraits, to create not just a photo gallery, but a true memory wall.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to start using your camera as a tool to capture moments of your life in pictures!
To learn more about Stacey, a natural-light photographer in the Saint Louis area, visit her site here.