One photographer’s journey from landscape to documentary style people photography.
- By April Dautlich
The end of adventure. That's what happened to us when our precious, beautiful, crying, sensitive and colicky baby was born. There was no more sleep, no more energy and certainly no more landscape photographs. Hardly any photographs at all actually.
When I was pregnant I started watching any and all video tutorials online about newborn photography, how to pose them, how to dress them, props you need and everything in between. I decided I was going to become the next most incredible newborn photographer there ever was! It was meant to be. My baby model was about to be born and I was going to crush this! So I bought light boxes and backdrops and baskets (oh so many baskets!) and blankets and special newborn baby stretchy wraps in so many colors. I was ready to go!
And then my baby model was born. She was so cute and skinny and tiny. We brought her home to our itty bitty 1 bedroom apartment that had no space to set up any of my new studio tools. And I was so puffy from labor and delivery that I wasn't allowed to stand except to walk to the bathroom and go to doctor appointments. My “cankles” were putting a serious cramp on me setting up my studio. It took me THREE days to get everything put together in our too small living room. When I finally managed to place the backdrop over the coffee table and line it up right with the lighting and place the boppy under a blanket, I got my naked sleeping baby set carefully in place. Then she pooped. On the white blanket. I got that cleaned up. Then she peed. Then she woke up and cried. And cried. And cried. That didn't stop for about 13 weeks. After days of trying and becoming more and more frustrated that my dreams were being crushed by this tiny human, I gave up. I resorted back to my original photographic philosophy that shooting people just wasn't my thing. I'd stick to being a nature purest. It was easier to manage and somehow Mother Nature seemed much more predictable than a 2 week old baby.
If you would have told me at that point that I would be photographing families and children in a year and that I would LOVE it, I would have laughed in your face and denied any possibility of that happening. I’ve spent years telling friends (and myself) that I had no interest in photographing people. Well as life tends to often take me down paths that I distinctly recall saying no to at one point, this path is no exception.
Since having a sweet and slightly cantankerous baby who stopped us in our landscape photography tracks, I fell away from my desire to chase the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that once made my heart race with excitement. Maybe it was the exhaustion. Maybe I was ready for a break.
With our 10 month old baby, we headed to Italy and France for a month to explore some areas that were appealing to us. It wasn’t really a photographic holiday, but we hoped to get a chance to reignite the fire for photography. We did actually make it out for a handful of sunrises. And one or the other one of us were able to go out for a couple of sunsets as they were past bedtime. I made many photographs that I like quite a lot. And aside from having a grabby, whiny baby on my front, I rather enjoyed shooting. But unfortunately my enthusiasm didn’t last long. I was bored with the chase and felt more frustrated with my situation than excited about getting out.
After our trip, I started to do some looking for online classes or workshops I could take that would allow me to learn something new in photography to get over my boredom with it. As I was looking at some Photoshop and Lightroom classes, I happened upon a documentary style photo session that just clicked with me. I watched and watched and watched and couldn’t get enough. Everything that is the fundamental core of documentary photography is what was missing for me in people photos (and probably my more recent landscape photos). The emotional connection, capturing realness, showing moments and making photographs that matter and will have meaning to people in years to come. Since I never really thought much about people photography before, I really just thought they should all look “pretty and perfect” like on Pinterest. I never felt a connection to those types of photos, which made me disregard them as an interest.
I was surprised and elated to feel such a connection to a style. I started taking pictures everyday. I would try something new and work on my composition. Luckily I have the hardest model in the universe at my disposal. I started to enjoy taking photos again and especially of my challenging little lovebug. I started to love the photos because they looked like her. They showed her silliness, cheekiness and mischievous personality without her looking at the camera. She was just being her.
I feel like a bit of a photographic butterfly. I am IN LOVE with photographing children and families and couldn’t be happier about it! It’s a new type of adventure and a path I find so much beauty in.
Website Link: https://www.dautlichphotography.com
Landscape Photography Website Link: http://aprildautlich.com