BY HELEN BARTLETT, CANON AMBASSADOR AND FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER
The festive season provides the perfect opportunity to enhance your portfolio ready for the new year. Whether you’re a landscape photographer, event photographer or still trying to find your niche, Canon ambassador and family photographer, Helen Bartlett, is encouraging you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new this festive season.
- Experiment with interactions
“With all the excitement of the festive period, from the food to the endless socialising, it’s hard to decide which situations to photograph. As a family photographer, for me the magic lies in uncovering the story behind the interactions – between siblings, grandparents or friends. There are plenty of chances to try something different, for example, by putting your camera on a tripod and documenting the table settings throughout the day.”
- Test new styles
“To tell a cohesive story, the importance of a consistent shooting style shouldn’t be underestimated. For me, that means shooting in black and white. I love the way it makes the images and stories feel timeless. This Christmas I’d encourage you to do the opposite of what you usually do and evaluate the impact this has on your work. Is your style candid or more traditional? Perhaps you usually edit your pictures in a distinct way? Experiment, find a new style and stick with it throughout Christmas.”
- Mix up your perspectives
“Think back to your childhood and those standout festive memories. As a photographer, you’ve got a chance to recreate those by altering your perspective. Take your photography to a new level (literally) by telling the story of Christmas from the perspective of a child, or even a pet! An articulating back screen, like that on the EOS R, makes this much easier as you can take pictures in places and from angles you wouldn’t normally see (or fit!). Combine this with a large aperture such as f/1.2, and you can capture some fantastic images where the Christmas tree lights sparkle in the background. Alternatively, head to the kitchen and test out your close-up photography of the steaming turkey or the blazing Christmas pudding. You’ll be surprised how much a change in perspective can transform your work!”
- Photography has evolved – embrace candid
“If you think back to ten years ago, almost every family had a portrait in a studio that was conservative and formal. Since then, photography has evolved with a trend towards more natural, informal styles. By taking a candid approach to photography there’s a whole host of opportunities to do something a bit different. Experiment by capturing the different elements of your family’s routine. In my household, we have a tradition of stretching out our stockings the night before. With this you could try your hands at close-ups of the stockings with a macro lens or portrait photography that captures the excitement on the children’s faces at the prospect of having it filled with presents – often in low-light conditions. As a photographer, we can also be afraid to get in the pictures ourselves, but don’t be! Set the camera on self-timer and play around and see how this changes your photography style – it might just teach you something new about how to interact with your subjects in the future.”
- Print your photos to analyse technique
“Today, it’s so easy to digitally store your photos and forget about them until someone asks but building up a series of consistent images and getting them printed is a fantastic way to document your progress as a photographer and your growth over time. You can look back and say, “well this portrait worked well because of x, y and z, so I’ll apply that on my next project”. This is much easier to do than sifting through 15,000 pictures that are digitally stored.
Capturing and printing the memories between your families and friends at Christmas can also have great sentimental value. Great photographs remind us how things were and make us value how things are now. Too often we overlook the impact a printed photograph can have, and the amazing memories associated with them – from the professional projects to the personal shots. I think if you can produce a photo that makes someone in your family pick up the phone when they’re 40 and say, “let’s all meet up”, then that’s pretty powerful.”