Lacey is from Portland, Oregon, has a background in fine art, and is one of the co-founders of Sham of the Perfect. She has two little kiddos and one big dog.
Where can we find you online (Website, Facebook, Instagram)?
What’s your favorite lens for shooting this type of work? And do you have any accessories you just love (filter, bag, camera strap, etc.)?
I have spent a lot of time (and way too much money) figuring out what I like to shoot with (here’s to buying used gear and selling it again when I’m over it!). My kit is definitely a lot more streamlined at this point, although there are still a few hanger-oners that I am debating cutting ties with (a lens or two and some old camera bodies). My go to lenses these days are my Sigma 35mm Art and my Canon 50mm L. I love primes and the ability to shoot wide open at 1.4 or 1.2 respectively. I also find the more normal focal lengths of the 50 and 35 are well suited for storytelling photography.
I don’t have a ton of accessories. However, I did just back a kickstarter for a new camera bag that looks like it should be pretty rad, which is great since I don’t really love any the my current bags. I love my holdfast moneymaker for when I’m shooting with two bodies (such as at weddings or when I am shooting hybrid during a family session).
What are you drawn to document? Is there a particular composition, technique, or mood you love?
I’m always trying document the authentic.
I know, I know, it is totally the buzzword of the day and every photographer out there says the same thing, but, dammit, I mean it! I want real. I want truth. I want to capture what makes a family tick- what makes them unique and strange and special. I want to capture the little routines and mundanities of life that in the moment you might not appreciate, but when the kids are grown they are the bits of life that you will wind up missing the most. It’s not the big moments and milestones that are the pulsing heart of the family; it’s the everyday activities that shape who we are and make up the true history of us.
What is the most valuable tip you have learned in pursuit of shooting in a more documentary style?
The best tip I have learned is also something I constantly struggle with and that is to trust yourself.
Trust your vision. Be yourself. Find your voice and identify what you want to say with your photography. It’s really hard to not just chase the likes and only post things you think will be well received by the masses. It’s tough. I know. I get it. It is all too easy to constantly compare and photo stalk others, even though it ends up being a loop where you just feel worse and worse about yourself and the work you are producing. Stop being a pale imitation of others and produce work that makes your heart sing. It’s something I strive to achieve day after day. Some days I win and actually feel good about the work I’m producing, but other days I fail and hate every photograph I’ve taken and am pretty sure I should probably just quit. Know that those feelings are 100% normal and every artists feels them; the key is to just keep going and try not to give too much room in your head and heart for those negative thoughts to fester and grow. Of course, this advice applies no matter what style you shoot in, but that does not negate its importance to storytelling photographers, especially since the popular pinterest-y poses are far cry from documentary style photography.
Why is storytelling photography important to you? Why do you feel compelled to shoot with this approach?
Storytelling photography is important to me because I want to create something that is more than a pretty picture. That is not to say that I don’t want my work to be beautiful, because I absolutely do. I also want it to be funny and raw and full of love and laughter and little details and overarching narratives and all of that is so much more than pretty. Something can be beautiful without being pretty. In fact, I think the overlap of pretty and beautiful is pretty rare. That’s not to say I haven’t taken my share of pretty pictures- pretty light, pretty poses, pretty smiles… and all of it vapid, empty, and forced. I’m over it. Those photos don’t elicit any feelings. They don’t make me think. They don’t cause me to look at it again and again in an attempt to really try to see the photo. They are just pretty and, for me, that is no longer enough. Storytelling moves beyond pretty and the more I shoot in this style the more it speaks to me as an artist and as a mother.
Briefly tell us about your journey into family documentary photography.
My undergraduate degrees are in Art and Art History from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). It was there that I had my first photography course (it was all film, because I am old like that), but it wasn’t until studying abroad my junior year that photography really grabbed hold of me. After college I tried selling my photos, but really had no idea what I was doing. While my art classes taught me all about techniques, materials, and methodologies, there was never any real discussion of how you monetize your work. So I tried, failed, and gave up. I went back to school to become a public Montessori teacher and spent the new few years in the classroom, while keeping photography as a hobby. I took a year off from teaching with the birth of my son (Judah, you can see him all over my weekly Sham of the Perfect photos). It was during this time that I decided to try again to monetize my photography. This time I had resources and connections that I could turn to for business advice, something that was severely lacking on my first go around. Another major difference is that this time I was marketing myself as a portrait photographer, instead of trying to sell “fine art” photographs (trust me, if you saw those old images you would understand why the quotation marks are necessary). My style has definitely evolved and been refined through the years. At first I shot everything and anything clients threw at me (weddings and seniors and boudoir, oh my!), but over time I found that storytelling and documentary family photography was my happy place. Since opening my business we have moved (a few times) and I had baby number two (Shosh, who also has a starring role in my Sham of the Perfect images). The years have gone by in bit of a blur, but I remain excited about photography and the direction my business is headed as a storytelling family photographer.