How to shoot with intention and capture genuine moments

I love lifestyle sessions, everything about them really.

There is something so authentic and genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens.

Ordinary is so beautiful and, if captured with intention, can be art.

Ask them to tell you their story:

In this session I shot Nikki Westbrock‘s family in Bayport, MN. I traveled to her and upon my arrival, I sat down with her and Justin and went through a series of questions about their family.

I asked them to tell me about how they met. Where did they fall in love? What do they love about each other?

I also asked a lot of questions about their girls. What are their personalities like? What are they interested in? What are their dreams? What are your dreams for them?

Getting to know a family and their story is so very important to be able to capture connection. Nikki told me that the girls love each other, that they are besties, and that they have regular dance parties in their living room.

She also told me about how her family recently lost her dad, the girls’ grandfather, and how she cherishes the photographs she has of him. Capturing timeless treasures that the Westbrocks, and more importantly her girls, could look back at and feel the love and joy all over again was my number one objective.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

Plan ahead for the light:

Prior to my trip, I had Nikki snap pictures of her home. I knew I planned on shooting around 9-9:30 in the morning so I had her take photos on her phone and send them to me.

I shoot film so knowing what film to pack and what rooms have the best light is essential. Based on the photos she sent, I photographed her family in her living room, kitchen, and bedroom. However, I would have gladly shot them in the hallway, bathroom, play room, etc. had the light been right.

Don’t be afraid to seek out the best light and shoot there.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

Sketch out what you want to accomplish:

After asking about the family’s connections and having a good idea about the light and where I plan to shoot, I typically sketch. There are four factors that go into my sketching:

  • Connection
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Double exposures

These are just what I want to capture during a family session, your list may be completely different.

I genuinely wanted this shoot to tell the Westbrook’s story, capture the love and joy they have for their daughters, and give them timeless keepsakes that they will treasure.

Light can often be tricky during lifestyle sessions but because I had her send me those pictures ahead of time I knew what I was walking into. We turned up the music and I lowered my shutter. I knew that capturing them dancing and the movement in that would be an interesting factor in this set of images.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

And then I always like to try a good double exposure, and when I say try, I mean it. They are so fun and sometimes they work and a lot of times they don’t. I was very fortunate that it worked here.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

Go with the flow:

Shooting any family never really goes as planned, and that’s okay. Some of the best moments from this session weren’t planned ones.

One of the things I’ve learned is when telling people’s stories with my camera it’s important that it’s theirs. I can dream up, sketch, and plan everything down to the letter but if it isn’t about them then it doesn’t matter.

Don’t try and force poses or perfection. Capturing authentic and genuine moments and memories is what I always strive do.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

Words and photos by Mary Beth Johnson.

Mary Beth’s gear:
Mamiya 645afd
Mamiya 80mm 2.8
Fuji 400h and Portra 400 film
Scanned/Dev: The Find Lab

Follow Mary Beth online:
instagram | facebook

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

There is something genuine about capturing people in their elements, where their every day happens. Ordinary is so beautiful and can be art.

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