Ok, this is going to be embarrassing! I swear, I have a somewhat tidy house most of the time! But these two toddlers here, are home all day long and I believe it is their mission when they wake up in the morning to destroy my house. Once they complete the destruction of one room, they move on to the next!
I am a documentary photographer…I document stuff! But who in their right mind wants to work in this mess? Not me! Who has time to clean up just for the sake of photos? Not me! That would take all of the fun out of it!
But this is where they play…this is where the moments happen. (Plus, this room gets awesome light, so I needed to find a way to make it work.) Not all of the images that I take in this room are pretty. Sometimes the moments happen despite the mess and that is okay but for today I will show you how to get a few good, clean and clutter free images out of this room in less than 5 minutes!
I originally picked up my camera because the little one was wearing her princess crown that she has been obsessed with lately. I really wasn’t feeling it in terms of the disorder that I had to work with.
Assess the Clutter.
My assessment tells me that there is a lot of clutter! I really don’t like to shoot out towards the kitchen because the lights are usually on in the kitchen which throws off my white balance, the T.V. is always on, my desk is usually a mess, the lights isn’t as great and as you can see, there’s toys everywhere.
Get in a Better Position
I can see that the best spots to shoot towards without spending a lot of time tidying up would be towards the picture window and towards the coffee table. Just about anywhere else in the room is too messy. My main intention is to document her playing and wearing her crown so unless something super cute happens, I am not too interested in documenting anything else right now. Bonus, the two “clean” areas get the best light! I need to put myself so I can shoot towards these area.
Check Settings and Wait!
I dial in my settings then sit my butt on the floor in the middle of the room and wait! I am not really sure what I am waiting for…but then she starts to play with her musical book toy.
I positioned myself here so the junk on the end of the coffee table was out of the frame and I purposely didn’t shoot all the way to the floor because there was toys under the coffee table that I wanted to avoid.
I convert a lot of my documentary images to black and white because most of the time it simplifies the scene if there is too much going on. Black and white images allow the eye to scan the image and settle on the moment or interaction. However, I was going to leave this one in color because my living room is pretty neutral and her toy ads a nice pop of color but then I noticed there was a doll stroller tucked in behind the rocking chair to the left and I didn’t want that distraction in my final image. When I convert this, it’s easier to get rid of that distraction and have a cleaner image.
While I was sitting on my butt in the middle of the floor she went over to the window and did this! Dirty hands, no problem! Just wipe them on the window, mom will clean it later! I framed it tight to avoid anything in the background and converted it so the brown dead grass and green spruce tree wouldn’t be a distraction. I wanted the focus to be on her dirty little hands, the mess on the window, her runny nose, crazy hair and that princess crown!
This is my favorite from this day. I backed up a little bit from the last image and waited while she played on the rocking chair. There were some birds out on the lawn that she got up to go look at (after I reminded her they were out there!). I exposed for the highlights and let the shadows take over the edges of the frame.
This is one of my favorite spots to shoot in and luckily it stays relatively clutter free. If I was to do a quick clean up before I started shooting, I could easily shove some stuff behind me since I know that I will not be shooting in that direction.
I made these three images in less than 5 minutes by just assessing the clutter in the room, getting into the position I wanted to shoot from and waiting for the moments to happen! No need to frantically rush around to clean up!
Here’s a little before and after!