Today we are featuring a family session by Chelsea Silbereis from Hamden, Connecticut. Here’s what Chelsea had to say about this session:
“I spent a fantastic day with Rachel and her family. In all seriousness, as I’m coming off of maternity leave and focusing exclusively on in-home, documentary family sessions, this session meant so much for me. First of all, Rachel and her family were so welcoming. We live in the same neighborhood and they shared so much knowledge with me, from their preschool and kindergarten experience to some restaurant recommendations. Second, I love my job. I have missed this so much. It is a long, tiring day, but I get home invigorated. Then when I’m getting bogged down by life, I work on a little editing and I’m invigorated again. It is beyond words to be able to spend time with a family and make pictures of all of their love and the little quirks and traditions that they share. It makes me overflow with joy and gives me hope.”
Jessica: I love your creative compositions that are still moment-focused. Do you find a composition and wait for something to happen in the frame, or are you just watching for a moment to occur.
Chelsea: A little bit of both. I’m looking for a composition the whole time I’m with the family, and sort of mentally mapping out compositions that I like so that when the family is in a particular area I have an idea of how I’d like to shoot whatever is happening. Of course, if something great is happening outside of where I plan on shooting, I go for it. But I can certainly tell that the pictures in which I set up the composition then wait for a great moment tend to be stronger.
Leslie: Beautiful family story. Was this the session that made you realize you only wanted to shoot in-home family documentary? If so, how did you come to that realization? If not, when did you realize that was your passion?
Chelsea: I had always tended towards shooting more documentary style sessions. When photographing families I gravitated towards less posing, more activities. Eventually I discovered Kirsten Lewis’s work and participated in her group mentoring. This pushed me towards doing fully documentary, all day sessions.
But it wasn’t until I hired a business coach that I decided to go for it and get exclusive. Shawna helped me identify what part of my business really inspired me. She convinced me that having a specific vision will result in clients who are more devoted and will make it easier for me to promote my business as well as feel fulfilled by my work. You can find her here.
Aniya: This is an amazing session, Chelsea. There are times when I’m doing a day in the life when I feel some moments are off limits and I’m having an inner conflict. For example, if a child is behaving really badly and dad is at his wits end at scolding him; do I shoot through this? Is it disrespectful to shoot? Am I going to be yelled at to put my camera down? Did you ever have any of those moments with this session, where you weren’t sure you should be documenting?
Chelsea: It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. In one of my first Real Day sessions I arrived before the Dad woke up. In retrospect I can see that the Mom was really eager for me to shoot her and the kids waking up Dad as that was a special ritual for them, but I was afraid. I didn’t follow them into the bedroom. Afterwards I felt miserable. In the immediate aftermath I could tell she was disappointed and I had to work to regain her trust. I gave myself a clear goal of shooting everything regardless of my discomfort because that is what I’m there for, that is what I’ve sold my client.
In this particular session the Mom communicated to me before hand that she didn’t want any below the waist nudity photographed, at all. When she brought it up I took the time to clarify exactly what that meant. What we came away with was I should photograph through any nudity, but compose the pictures to only show the kids from the waist up.
During the session the older son had a couple of time outs. I could tell that he did not want to be photographed during his time outs, but the parents didn’t mind. I continued to photograph but tried to give him his space. Eventually he asked me not to photograph him on the “naughty step,” and I said “absolutely, I’ll give you some privacy.” He seemed to really appreciate that and we moved on with our day just fine. Which really worked out perfectly because I was able to deliver time out pictures, but also respect his request when he decided he wanted me to stop. I think it actually helped me connect with him because he was able to set a boundary and saw that I really respected his decision. Essentially I treated him like an adult, like it was his decision and that usually goes over really well with kids.
Meg: What are some of the first things you do when you go into a session like this? Do you shoot right away or do you chat with the family and let them get used to you some?
Chelsea: I have my camera out right away and I let them know that during our communication before the session. I start out talking and shooting less and as they get comfortable I’m shooting more and relating less, but I want to be ready the minute I arrive (even before, as I’m approaching the house) in case there’s a great opportunity for a picture.
Lacey: How did you know you were ready to end your maternity leave and get back to photographing clients? How was it going back after a long break? Was it different getting back in than what you expected? How so?
Chelsea: I’ve been shooting pretty sporadically since having my first baby in April 2014. During this pregnancy, my second, I really didn’t shoot or promote my business very much as I had a very difficult pregnancy. I felt so sick much of the time that I didn’t even want to make pictures of my own family and really struggled through the few client sessions that I did. So I was pretty excited to get back to shooting and to be really focused on only shooting what I’m most excited about.
Practically, the most difficult thing was pumping enough to get my baby through around 12 hours without me. I know he had a hard day being away but the joy on his face and how he settled into my arms when I came home was just wonderful to experience.
Lisa: What was your biggest takeaway from doing this session?
Chelsea: I think my biggest take away was confirmation that I’m on the right path. I enjoyed the day, I enjoyed the shooting, I enjoyed the editing much more than I usually do. I feel like I’m finally saying something with my work, something that is really important to me, and I can’t wait to see where that takes me.
Michelle: Which of the photos you submitted is your favorite and why?
Chelsea: It is hard to pick. I really love pictures that contain the whole family. From this set I love the picture of the parents trying to use their phones while the kids are climbing all over them. My body knows exactly what that feels like so when I look at the picture it feels really universal but also very specific. It tells the story of something probably all parents experience, but it is also something pretty unique to our period in history.
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