All is Quiet: What to Photograph when your Children are in School

Sadly, summer is over. My children returned to school this morning. As much as I know, a routine is good for everyone, I already miss my children and the unscheduled days of summer. With the return to school, I need to get myself settled into my own routine and attempt to find balance amongst my responsibilities. As I find this new balance, I know that photography will remain a constant in my everyday life. However, I also know that my time photographing my children's everyday moments will be limited due to the fact they are away at school all day and most days, after school, we will be rushing down a snack or dinner, before we taxi off to an extra curricular activity.

I'm sure my adoration for photography will never be extinguished. So when I'm unable to photograph my children's everyday moments here are some ways I can still pursue my passion.

1. Self portraiture

When my children are away at school, I try, on occasion, to capture a few self portraits. I think self portraiture is it’s a wonderful way to experiment with light and creative techniques. After all, I’m a willing subject. I don’t often share these images, but I create them as a gift to myself. I think self portraiture is an empowering and therapeutic experience, especially when the aim is to photograph or express yourself in a certain way.

When I attempt any self portraiture I always use a tripod. I shoot in manual mode so I dial in my settings and prefocus my camera before I jump into the scene. Typically, I do use a smaller aperture to allow for a larger depth of field or area of focus. I like f4 if my settings can support this aperture well. Focus can sometimes be tricky when capturing self portraits because it must set prior to you entering the scene. I like to set focus in the scene by placing an object, like a teddy bear, where I’ll be standing or sitting. I then remove that object prior to capturing the image. I also always use a self timer. You can use your camera’s internal timer but since I’m a landscape photographer I have a handy intervalometer that I use. I usually set the shutter release delay on my intervalometer to about 20 seconds which gives me time to start the timer remote then hop into the scene. I usually capture about 10-20 images at once slightly adjusting my pose between exposures in hope that at least one of these slight movements will result in an image I like and a final edit.

ISO 1600, 35mm, f2.2, 1/160SS

ISO 1600, 35mm, f2.2, 1/160SS

2. Try something new

Still life, styled flat lays, food, macro and street photography are all genres that I’m not particularly familiar with or good at. I think there’s a ton of freedom when you give yourself permission to try something new and make mistakes. I always find when I’m photographing genres I’m not particularly familiar with that I come away having learned something valuable. When your typical subjects aren’t available, it’s also an excellent time to practice photographing techniques you want to experiment with like a Lensbaby or Freelensing. You can also give yourself some post-processing leniency and think about trying new techniques or something out of the realm of your typical post-processing workflow.

ISO 1000, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/500SS

ISO 1000, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/500SS

3. Catch up on post processing

Raise your hand if you have hard drives filled with hoards of unedited images. I’m right there with you. I have so many unedited photos; it’s truly shameful! There are a million things to do in a day but when I have a moment, without my little subjects around to photograph, I really do enjoy taking the time to edit images that are waiting for post-processing love.

ISO 100, 26mm, f14, 120sec

ISO 100, 26mm, f14, 120sec

4. Focus on learning

Who has a ton of learning material stored up with a plan that one day you’ll read or watch it? Have you been meaning to read the latest post to The Photographer’s Notebook but just haven’t quite had the time? Between school drop off, grocery shopping, those hundreds of loads of laundry and career obligations there never seems to be enough time. However, I bet there are moments from time to time when you can prioritize your learning and take some time for you to grow as a photographer. There’s goodness waiting for you.

ISO 1000, 105mm, f4, 1/250SS

ISO 1000, 105mm, f4, 1/250SS

5. Take a break

As rewarding as photography is for me sometimes I can get in a FOMO (fear of missing out) head space when it comes to documenting my children’s lives. I know that giving myself permission to take a break from photography is healthy. Engaging in another activity that I’m interested in helps me from becoming bored and falling into a dreaded photography rut. Sometimes it’s nice to put away your camera and enjoy the gift of quiet or another favourite activity while your primary little subjects are away at school all day.

ISO 400, 200mm, 2.8f, 1/2000SS

ISO 400, 200mm, 2.8f, 1/2000SS

I’d love to hear what you enjoy photographing when your children are in school! Let me know in the comments below!