My littlest guy, whom we affectionately call all sorts of nicknames from Tadey-tade to Nugget to … for some reason, even …. ‘Guy’ … has started preschool.  I know that it would be natural for me to say “I can’t believe my baby is in preschool!”  We all seem to look on in disbelief to each milestone our kiddos hit.   And if I did let myself, I am sure I could let the emotions flood in and I’d get all nostalgic over where the time has gone, but I’ll try to focus on the positives so I don’t get weepy.

It feels so good, to see this guy studying along side his brothers.  To see how much they inspire and influence his 4-year-old work ethic and believe it or not, how much he influences theirs!  This kid is a hard worker.  He likes to sit at the school table and work through his Get Ready For the Code book and his ‘Math’ book and it is so ridiculously cute to hear him excitedly tell his brothers what he just learned, even though they are 3 feet away from him and obviously already know.

There was a time not long ago, (okay … about 5 weeks ago) that I felt near panic attack over how I would teach all three of these boys at the same time.  I knew it could be done as most homeschoolers I know of eventually are working with multiple children.  And on top of that, I wondered how I was going to teach him his letters, numbers, reading, writing …. Silly right?  I’ve already gone through it with the other two, but I barely remember being at that point with them.

Worries are goofy, though, and get us no-where good, fast.  So like with every ‘challenging’ task I face, I go little step by little step.  Day by day with Kaden.  30-minute study-time by 30-minute study-time.  Letter by letter.  And surprise surprise, we’re doing just fine. 

Sounding out the letters … I can’t get enough of watching him do this. ;)

On an unrelated note, some of you who have followed my blog for awhile may be thinking, “Hey!  That’s where Gage sits for school!”  We are indeed sticklers with consistency for some reason, and you’re right.   That is his seat.  This, then, goes along with my previous post about Lifestyle Photography vs Documentary Photography.   I knew I wanted to photograph Tado studying, but have photographed the boys at the school-table so many times and I wanted these to just be a bit different.   I wanted him to be the focus. The soul subject of the shots.

When I noticed how pretty the light was coming in through this window (and how cool the forsythia looked through the curtain) and reflecting on the table, I went with some ‘artful manipulation’ and had him sit here instead.  Artful Manipulation is a term I learned way back in Karen Russell’s class, and it gives the photographer permission to make adjustments to the scene or where the subject is, for the sake of a better photo.  The authenticity of the activity is still there, but it is just the creative eye merging with the reality of the situation.   He just did his thing, while I played with compositions, angles, exposures (exposing for him vs exposing to keep some of the detail in the window).  He got his work done, while I both documented him, and let out some creative steam. :D

Anyway!  Tado is in preschool and he’s loving it.  It is a bit crazy to think that I started full-on into this photography journey way back when he was in the NICU, almost 5 years ago.   And now here he is writing his letters and adding, and here I am teaching photography.   I might question ‘where has the time gone’, but thankfully, I don’t have to.  I have about a zillion photos of these past 5 years to SHOW me the answer to that! ;)

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  • Mom - Oh, those sweet little lips! Soooo cute! I love the reflections – very artistic, sweetpea. I’m so excited to give GCK Grammie hugs and kisses this weekend in person! It’s been too long!!
    XOXOXO to GCK from GrammieReplyCancel

  • Mom - Just had to stop by – again – for a quick look at Tado. Ahhh…I feel much better now :)
    XO to Tades from GrammieReplyCancel

Or does it even really matter? ;)  Labels can be silly, somewhat limiting things, so usually I don’t bother trying to label my type of shooting.  But at the same time, giving it the appropriate label can be helpful when we think through what we want to accomplish in our work.  In my own definitions, and in a nutshell:

Documentary:  shot without interference from the photographer and any artistic measures applied to the image are made in-camera in the form of composition, perspective and camera settings.  The image should capture life as it was naturally unfolding, whether the photographer was there or not.   To tell a story.

Lifestyle:  the photographer’s hand may gently guide or influence the scene.  She may pick up the room here and there to remove distracting items, reposition where the subject is sitting for optimum composition and use of available light,  encourage certain interactions between subjects, etc.  While still making effective judgement on her in-camera settings.  To tell a story. 

Personally, I’m not sure most ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Documentary’ photographers are exclusively one or the other.  I sure know I’m not.  And that is where the fun, the challenge, the art, lies.

Friends, it is challenging to capture a lovely documentary photograph.  It is so much easier to orchestrate the image in a ‘lifestyle’ manor … at least it is for me.  I love this challenge.  I welcome it with open arms.  Which is good, because it is what I do most of the time.

These, for example …

The other night, while Matt took Gage (and Kaden) ‘hunting’, Cooper and I were left together.  We sat on the top step of the porch and watched the sun setting through the clouds.

I saw how the soft light embraced him, and I told him “I’ll be right back”.  I got that excited feeling in my gut, my heart, and my mind that I always get when I’m about to document something in the moment …;)  I grabbed my camera, and caught this shot.

He got nervous a second later because we began hearing whistles in the woods, not initially realizing it was Matt, Gage and Kaden sneaking up on us.   When they came into sight, he stood up, like this, so he could talk to them, and ease his nerves. ;)

The story is a little iffy here (not obviously told), so even these sort of skirt the line of if they are really labeled ‘documentary photography’, but that is when I come in and feel inclined to say that I don’t care about the label.  Hah!  But, my point is that these were taken of a scene as it naturally unfolded without me saying “Cooper, sit right here” and “Now, stand here.”

Lifestyle, on the other hand, as I mentioned on Wednesday, gives the photographer more control.  I love this, too!  This is where artistry, I believe, starts to come into my images (even though I calling my images ‘art’ always makes me twitchy!).  Documentary:  I’m photographing God’s creation being lived out.  Lifestyle:  I’m observing God’s creation and deciding how to use it to capture the images I’m envisioning and the stories I want to be sure to tell.  Real stories, remember.  I’m not talking putting your child in lovely light, strumming on a guitar, if they really don’t play the guitar.

So, I’m giving suggestions based on the images I’m envisioning.   Such as these…

Kaden came downstairs having dressed himself, wearing this hat.  We adore this hat … it’s made it’s rounds through our boys.  The light was lovely … rain was in the forecast and I knew our sunny mornings were numbered.  So, when I poured Kaden his cereal I suggested we eat outside.

Truly, truly to enjoy the gorgeous morning, but also because I knew it was a pretty way to take photos of Kaden just hanging out in his hat.

When I think about it, I’m not so much photographing in a ‘Lifestyle’ genre, but photography is just a part of my lifestyle.  It plays a part in some of the decisions I make throughout the day.  Suggesting we eat outside for the sake of photos is pretty much the same to me as suggesting Cooper sits at the bar to do his reading while I make lunch, so I can help him with a word if he needs it.

Decisions are made with a logical purpose in mind.  And deciding where a game will be played, or when a walk might take place, or what shirts will (or won’t) be purchased, or where someone will sit at the table might be, occasionally, decided upon based on mama wanting to take photos. :D

But again …  I promise you … that I’m not manufacturing activities, likes, behaviors that don’t naturally exist in our lives, just for the sake of a photo opportunity.  Promise.  Unless I’m taking portraits … and in that case, my boys don’t always stand around cuddling in over-grown grass with branching trees arching over the top of them. ;)

But, they do have breakfast together every morning, one often playing on my tablet once he’s done.  This little guy does adore this hat and we love eating outside when the weather allows.  On this morning, I just so happened to suggest we do so, with taking-photos in mind. ;)

I suppose I share this with you in case you’re feeling unsure about how much influence you should have on your ‘everyday life photos’ … letting them be totally documentary or helping them along with a little lifestyle approach.  In my opinion, BOTH are awesome, and valuable, and cherished keepsakes.  Both can be lovely and strong executions of your photography skills.  However, both should be real.  

…. You guide your photography, your photography guides you, but always, it is the story that guides it all.   That’s the dance of Documentary and Lifestyle photography.

 

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  • Katie - I enjoyed reading your post, Lacey! I totally agree about it being challenging to take a great documentary photograph. You make it look so easy, though, and as always, your photos are beautiful! The one where Kaden’s looking down and the sun is peeking over the top is my favorite! :)ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Thank you so much, Katie! I really appreciate you saying that. <3 And I love that shot too, for how it highlights the hat. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina - Gorgeous love this. I’m not a photographer but I do love snapping photos of my two year old daughter. What lense did you use for these shots?ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Hi Sabrina! I used my 35mm 1.4 for both sets. It’s pretty much been my go-to lens lately! :)ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - Lacey, your boys & your images are gorgeous! Thank you for making it so easy for me to understand Lifestyle, I’ve always wanted to do it but never knew how to get clients to be natural…does that make sense? :-)ReplyCancel

I never thought, when he was a pup, that Charlie would ever understand his restriction of staying off of the carpet.  But he finally does.  ♥  It took a lot of ‘Uh-uh’s’ and ‘Nope, Charlie … get back’s’ and even laying the bar stools and chairs down to create that physical boundary, but alas.  He gets it.

Minus the little upper-lip muzzle.  He’s testing me… can you tell?

See?

Or, maybe that is just his way to feel a little more connected to us since we were on the carpet.   He’s such a sweet puppy, that that’s probably it.

This is proof that my dog does finally mind when told to stay off the carpets.   Proof to myself so that when we ever get another puppy and wonder if we will see brighter days, I will remember.  ;)  And to any of you that may have a mischievous, unmindful puppy, a reminder that there is hope for your dog to learn to mind the boundaries as well. :)  I remember my mom saying in a sympathetic, grandmotherly way …  “Oh, but how can he know the difference between the linoleum and rug??”  

Oh, he sure can tell!   It only took about a year.   In human years.   In dog years, though, it took him entirely too long.  ;)  And then, when my children are involved, and run past him in their typical full-speed-ahead loop around the house way, he has no problem conveniently forgetting the rule.  

I sure love this pup.

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  • Mom - Oh, I just want to scratch that cute little muzzle and give him a Grammie squeeze. This post should give Auntie Christine some hope for Bailey!
    Hugs to Charlie
    XOXOXO to GCK from GrammieReplyCancel

  • Michelle Kersey - Ohhhh so cute. I giggled quite a bit.. he’s totally testing you. ;) Dogs are so funny. When we got a new couch I worried my dogs wouldn’t understand that the couldn’t get on the new couch like they did the old one. Nope. They got it within a week. No doggies on the couch. It probably helped that we kept a loveseat from the old set in another room for them to lay on. We had a similar challenge when we decided no more doggies on the bed. But, even my OLD DOG learned the new rule after a month or so.ReplyCancel

I am a lifestyle photographer.  When I tell anyone what my goal is with my photography, I always say “To document my children’s lives.”  I say that I want them to look back on these images and see their childhood as if they are watching it through their mama’s eyes.  From my front row seat.  To see how it really was.  And I absolutely mean that.  That is why I first invested in my gear and studied my heart out, and why I still continue to photograph them often.

Most of the time.

Often times, honestly, I’ll see a lovely scene … 100% of the time with beautiful light … and I feel the need to photograph it.  But without one of my people in the scene, I rarely take it.  Unless, I can some how, naturally, get one of my people into the scene.

Like the image below.  I posted it HERE with the last set of images from our recent trip to Eagle Crest.  We were walking to our car and I noticed the light filtering through these trees.  Gorgeous!  I wanted the shot.  But almost as meaningless to me as an image without my people in the frame, would be an image of just one of them standing there looking at me.  I mean, most, of the time, unless of course portraits are my goal (like the one in that post of Gage sitting on the yellow lines …).  However, they rarely are.   So, I asked Kaden to climb the fence.  He loves to climb.  He loves to jump off of things.  He loves a little challenge.   He joyfully went to the spot and happily climbed up, and this was totally naturalreal … for him.

And although the climbing wasn’t his idea, and he didn’t just happen to be doing this right there in the pretty light, the image still feels very real to me.   It is real … it is a mix of me observing our lovely surroundings and then encouraging my kiddos to do something that is really a part of their life, in light and a scene that is beautiful to photograph.

I’ve realized, then, that I’m not just photographing ‘Life’ for my children.  I’m also photographing for me, too.  Not just in the sense so that I will remember their childhood, but because I really love the artistic process of how to document their lives being lived.  Their hearts probably won’t pitter patter when they see images of their young selves with pretty light, thoughtful compositions or interesting depth of field.   But mine sure does, and I think it probably always will.

It is so important to me not to manufacture images, though, that aren’t a true representation of them and our life.  More on that tomorrow …

But this is all just to say, that I’m happy to finally embrace that while my lifestyle work is yes, all real and that my children are still my number one motivators…  there is also a deeper, wider, reason as to how, when, and why I push my shutter.   And I’m not sure why, but that feels pretty exciting!

… and also, I share all this to be sure that you all don’t think that my life is always happening in glorious light.  I don’t *think* you’d think that, but just in case…. most of the time I shoot as life unfolds, but often times, I am seeking the light. ;)  Remember, if you ever have any questions, I’m here! 

 

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  • Mary - This was such a lovely read. I’ve been really struggling lately with my photography, and what exactly to do with it. I feel like I share a lot of your sentiments about wanting to document my kids lives, but also really loving the artistic aspect of actually taking the photos. I’ve been feeling for a long while that taking a million portraits of my kids is starting to feel a little inauthentic. It’s not even beginning to scratch the creative itch I have and it’s just annoying my kids. Thank you for sharing this (and changing my) perspective!ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Hi Mary! I’m really glad to hear this was helpful! I agree with you totally on not needing a zillion portraits … I really feel like lifestyle photography is a perfect blend of both and allows you to creatively approach documenting your children’s lives!ReplyCancel

  • Marilyn - I loved your post. Lifestyle photography is something that I absolutely love. The authenticity of it, are those treasures of your kids that you’ll always remember because they’re only kids once. I missed out on capturing my kids because I was so involved with our business, so now I’m capturing every moment of my grandchildren. No props no backdrops just them in the moment. It’s my way of leaving behind my memories of them as they were growing up. Understanding photography has been a big challenge for meReplyCancel

    • Lacey - That’s wonderful Marilyn! They will be so grateful for all the images you have taken. Be sure to get into some of the photos with them, too! ;) <3ReplyCancel

  • krista - so great! thanks for sharing this… it’s helpful for me to know “it’s okay to seek out artistic opportunity” and ask kids to engage in ways other than “say cheese”… we often go for walks in a park near our house where the lighting is always great after dinner! i try to capture the boys as they explore, but i need to step it up in looking for beautiful light, and ASKING them to play in it… (confession there was beautiful light through the rain today in front of our house and i was too chicken to get me & one of the boys wet!)ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Totally, Krista! I guide my boys’ play for purposes of safety, cleanliness, their enjoyment, etc … and my photography. :D We shouldn’t feel bad for that last one! ;) I don’t blame you for not going out in the rain. I have yet to, too! Maybe this year! :)ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - Thank you so much for always offering so much of yourself to all of us!! Very helpful for those of us limping along on our photography journey ;) I think you do such a good job of capturing your children…while doing it in beautiful light…and inspiring us all along the way. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Hi Colleen! When I think about it, I’ve been working on this for almost 5 years, so that feels a bit like limping along. ;) My boys and I were just looking at posts from years ago and wow … studying and practicing has eventually paid off. ;) But, those memories, they are so precious! I think that’s why I want to help others with their photography … I remember my journey, where I started, so well and what I do with my photos now is totally feasible for anyone. I really believe that! <3ReplyCancel

  • ClaireT - Lacey your photos of your boys continue to be the ones I love most and the ones I come back to for inspiration time and again.

    What I love most I think is howyou find the ways to take the photos regardless of where you are – and to use that lovely light or wonderful angles to tell their story but tell it in such an aesthetically pleasing way.

    So its really good to hear its something you work at – and that beautiful light doesnt just follow you like a shadow wherever you go! That sometimes you find the light first before you find the moment.

    its all too easy for me to otherwise say “well of course Lacey has her own little patch of sun that follows her round and positions itself perfectly” ;) and give myself an excuse for why I can’t do the same. Whereas the reality is practice, imagination and recognising what you can use. And keeping on trying till I get there!

    thank youReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Awe, Claire! Thank you! How fabulous would that be to have a little patch of sun always nearby?? ;) Really, though, besides the “capturing memories” part, studying light has been one of my favorite parts of photography. I notice its changes and effects all the time, whether I’m taking photos or not. Even ‘cruddy’ light is useable, and figuring out how to make that happen in a flattering way is such a fun challenge. :DReplyCancel

  • Documentary vs Lifestyle Photography … And My Love for Both - […] on the other hand, as I mentioned on Wednesday, gives the photographer more control.  I love this, too!  This is where artistry, I believe, […]ReplyCancel

A few weeks ago, the boys and I drove the long, tiring drive back from a Costco/Target/Gift Shopping run.  It was an all day event and by the time we were “climbing the hill” to our neck of the country woods, I was exhausted.  And apparently annoyed.  I remember saying, in a rather bitter tone, “Does it feel like our house is always getting farther and farther away from everything?  Every time we leave, I swear the drive back home takes longer.”   The boys got quiet and Gage asked, “Mom, are you tired of living where we do?”  Thankfully, my complaint rang back in my ears for how ridiculous it sounded and unappreciative it presented me.

No, I told him, I’m not.  I stuffed my sour attitude right in my pocket and told them the truth that I’m downright thankful for the hour+ drive it takes us to get to most places we need to go because it means that we live an hour+ away.  I love living where we do, I told them, and I have no right to ever be annoyed about the drive when I only leave our house about 2 times a week, and even then it is only to our little town that is much closer.  And I especially have no right to complain, when their dad has always driven over an hour (at least!) everyday to his job sites over the years, and has never complained about the drive.  He’s always said he’d do those drives as long as it means he gets to come home to this home.   I told them I was sorry for being negative, and that we have a beautiful drive to be very thankful for.

After a moment, Cooper said, “Wow, Mom.  Way to change your bad attitude in a hurry.  Good job.”

How many times I have encouraged them to look on the brighter side of their situation … to put their complaints away and to fix their attitudes?  But leading by example is always the more effective way. 

I tell them, we can either be bummed about our circumstances or we can look on the brighter side.  It is our choice.  There is always a brighter side to look at.

A few days later, this conversation came up again.   I had watched out our windows as tree after tree fell just beyond those that we own.  Each time one would crash to the ground, my shoulders would flinch and my eyes would shut for a moment.  I was so determined to be sad about the circumstances that more trees were gone … that the forest that surrounded us was now dwindling.  But gradually the brighter side became increasingly apparent and it was one of the boys that finally called me on it.

“Mom!” they had said. “It’s sad that the trees are gone, but look at all the light coming through now!”

Sure enough, the light coming through the trees was changing in a gorgeous way, and they helped me to focus on that.  And any photographer knows, that glorious new light is something to be thankful for.  So, I’ve put my sour attitude back in my pocket once again, and am grasping this ‘brighter side’ and this new light as if I’ve been given a new toy to play with.  A new book to read.  A new friend to embrace.

Like me, Cooper had been uneasy about the logging.  But one morning, he put on his shoes, ran out into the trees with Charlie, and wanted to go see the loader, picking up and piling the logs.  I grabbed my gear and went with him.  Off to see reap the beauty of the brighter side of this logging. ;)

Watching the loader at the top of the hill was neat for a moment, but I was much more taken with the light filtering through this huge, beautiful Madrone (which is thankfully not going anywhere!) that towered over Cooper…

Now, the light at this tree is totally different.  The trees in the background are all gone.  I look at these images and I’m bummed that I didn’t move around more and get more variety.  I critique and pick the images apart, but then remind myself that the brighter side is that these images are just for me and so, who cares? ;)  And, there is still beautiful light so we can venture up there again and approach it another day, in a different way.

There is a brighter side to be found in everything.   Today, Cooper is down and out with a cold.  Last night, when he was up for the 4th time, and threw up from nerves and coughing, I told myself that the brighter side was that I was there to comfort him.  Today, he’d tell you the brighter side is that he got to skip most of his school work and watch lots of TV. ;)

There is always a brighter side … It has taken me a long time to know this.  Sometimes it doesn’t dismiss the negatives of the situations, but most of the time grasping onto it can totally change our perspective, and our attitude.  Sometimes, the brighter side is really, really small and we need to filter through the circumstances and search for it.  And then, sometimes it is right in our face and we just have to get out of our own way to see it.   To let it shine, and light our way.   ♥

Thank you for reading. :) 

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  • valerie a. - Such a great reminder…THANK YOU! :) PS…I’ve been wondering: Is it not as rainy/grey where you live as compared to the rest of the pacific NW, stereotypically? As I mentioned, we used to live in western Washington (Enumclaw and Bellingham) and there were definitely a lot of grey rainy days. But your pictures always seem so bright and full of light/warmth. I feel like I rarely see the grey/rain. Are you just in a less rainy area of Oregon? Just curious…ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Hi Valerie! That’s a great question. :) I think we may not be quite as rainy as Seattle and the surrounding areas up there since they are right on the Puget Sound and I think that is the area that people generally base the rainy-all-the-time stereotype on, for the Pacific Northwest. Our weather (I *think*) tends to be a bit nicer. ;) Although, it is drizzly right now and we just got our first Fall storm last night. Watching the weather starting right about now, is typically forecasting rain/drizzle for weeks on end. When that happens, I tend to shoot inside more often. LOL …ReplyCancel

  • Karen Russell - Just what this girl needed to read today – thank you (and thank you God for perfect timing!)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Kersey - Beautifully said Lacey. I love reading your thoughts. Figured it was time I popped in again and told you. ;) I don’t always comment, but I always read. :)ReplyCancel

    • Michelle Kersey - Oh, and beautiful images :) I love how you started critiquing yourself then was like “these images are just for me and, so who cares” ;) I feel like that a lot. Wish I had gotten more variety, but in the end, beautiful images were taken. We can always do more, do better. The hard part is accepting what is and being happy with that. :)ReplyCancel

    • Lacey - Thank you, Michelle! <3ReplyCancel

  • Jolene - Great reminder! I just attended a women’s seminar and the speaker asked us what we’d have if we woke up this morning what we thanked God for yesterday? It was a challenge for me to be more grateful and so was this post :)ReplyCancel