Laurinda Armstrong’s start in photography is a familiar one. It came after she had her first baby back in 2008, and throughout those early years of motherhood she was driven by a desire to document her children’s daily lives. But photography would become so much more than she ever expected…
Laurinda is a mum to three kids aged 14, 12 and 7. She’s also a defence spouse, a special needs mum, and currently calls Maitland in NSW, Australia home.
When Laurinda’s second child was 6 months old, she signed up for ‘Project Life’. It’s essentially a Project 365, but with physical albums to bring your photos and stories together, scrapbook style.
But just as the materials were delivered, Laurinda and her husband received devastating news about her baby son.
He’d been having tests for some time, and their paediatrician delivered news that he had a very rare condition causing severe physical and intellectual disability. So rare in fact, he was only the second person in Australia to be diagnosed with the condition at that time.
“I didn’t know if I would continue with this project that I had been so excited to start”.
Earlier today I had a chat with Laurinda on a Facebook live, and as a mum I found her story really moving… especially where she talks about how photography became the key thing that got her through that time, to come out the other side stronger and more fulfilled.
Laurinda decided to make a point of documenting their days.
“At the time I felt like our world had fallen apart. But I started the project, and I found it really therapeutic. Recording every day of our life through this devastating time really helped me see all the good still in our lives”.
She explained when she went back through the photos, she would see these little moments of happiness she hadn’t noticed at the time. Funny little things her toddler was doing, the flowers and notes of support from friends and family.
“In a time that felt really dark, it was really cathartic. And since then there have been other big changes in our life and photography really helps me process and move through it all”.
So Laurinda started her Project 365, taking a photo every day. She would print them at the end of each week and scrapbook them with a little journal entry about each photo.
This process forced her to start shooting with more intent and start thinking more creatively about her images. For starters, she was using a little entry level point & shoot camera. Her husband had a DSLR which he knew how to use in manual mode, and he liked to go out taking landscape photos.
She said when I would pick up his camera, I loved the better quality of image the DSLR produced but was always frustrated by the number of blurry photos I was getting of the kids. They move fast and they don’t know what you want to get out of a photo, so the shots were blurry. She says I just didn’t understand the limitations of auto mode.
At this point Laurinda hadn’t discovered Click Love Grow yet, so she taught herself through a series of online tutorials and other free resources, but she said it was long and clunky experience.
Anyway, she did get there in the end. Her photos were well exposed, no more unwanted blur, and technically sound.
“But something was missing. I could see what the Click Love Grow Advanced Grads were producing and I was sure that’s what I needed in my life!”
So then what happened? Two words. Mother. Guilt.
I know you know exactly what I’m talking about! As mums, we always put ourselves last, and even then, we STILL feel guilty aobut prioritising our needs and wants!
“I was a SAHM and you have this guilt factor that everyone else should come first. It took a long time to put myself first, to invest in my dream”.
She missed the first intake partly because of this guilt, but also because she thought she wasn’t ready. She said she didn’t back herself and when she thinks about it in hindsight, she knows she was ready. But things come into play in your head and hold you back.
“As soon as seats closed on that Advanced Photography Course intake, I kicked myself for missing it.”
But when the next round came up 6 months later, Laurinda jumped in without hesitation.
I asked Laurinda about the guilt in retrospect, and she said as a wife and mother, that creative part of ourselves can fall away. Even though I’m taking photos of the kids most of the time, I’m still doing it for me… it’s my creative self expression. It fills that part of me that as a wife and mum needs to be topped up, my creative bucket.
“It has been amazing for my confidence and to have something just for me”.
So knowing all that now, she says the guilt just went away.
So, photography became a therapy tool to help Laurinda navigate her way through overwhelming news which saw her grappling with the dreams she had for her beautiful son. It helped her find happiness and gratitude in dark days. It gave something for herself, separate from her role as wife and mother, and filled her cup.
In this before shot, it’s a good example of knowing how to use manual mode. The light is soft, it’s well exposed, there’s no unwanted blur, focus is good. But there’s something missing.
That day was cloudy and the light was very flat, but I’ve got so much knowledge now that even if I’m faced with that kind of light I know how to position people to make the most of it.
“When you can’t quite put your finger on what is missing in your photos, you will find it in the Advanced Course”.
This next shot was taken after the Advanced Course, and it’s exactly the same location as the before shot.
When asked about her favourite lesson, Laurinda said it was all about the light for her.
“I’d always loved golden hour, but before the Advanced Course I really didn’t know what I was doing. Sometimes I’d fluke something amazing, but it was always lots of trial and error. I wasn’t making informed decisions about light… I couldn’t SEE the light! But now I’m tuned in to it”.
She also had a massive aha moment with respect to rim lighting.
“The biggest thing for me was learning how to create rim light at any time of day not just the golden hour… that was mind blowing for me!”
As Laurinda’s children got older and started school, she started thinking about her future career prospects. She said:
“I’d been a stay at home mum for years, and felt my skills were probably out of date. What’s more, most roles weren’t going to be flexible enough for my son’s needs, and we didn’t have family support nearby”.
Back when she was still getting her head around manual mode, a friend threw her in the deep end suggesting she take some maternity photos for her sister-in-law.
“It was incredibly daunting and stressful at the time. But I’d created something that didn’t exist before, and now they had all these beautiful memories of that time. I got such a buzz from their reaction, and I knew this is what I wanted to do”.
So she started thinking perhaps she might be good enough one day to create a business around it.
“I thought photography could be a really flexible option that would really work with our lives and my son’s needs. So that’s what I started working towards”.
I slowly started to set up a little business, starting with offering freebies to friends before finally booking paying clients.
The unexpected bonus of learning with Click Love Grow was our strong community. It’s something we’re really proud of and work really hard to make sure it’s a positive and uplifting space.
“Being part of a group of women that were doing the same thing, especially after learning manual mode in such a solitary way… being a part of this supportive group of women is amazing!”
I always like to finish my chats with our Grads by asking what they’d say to anyone thinking of doing the Advanced Photography Course. So what does Laurinda say?
“The Advanced Course was the best decision I ever made for my photography. If you’re thinking about doing it, just jump in and do it. You never know what you’re going to be capable of until you do it.
Laurinda has also told us the Advanced Course gave her the skills she needed to really elevate her photos to a professional level.
“It gave me the confidence to put myself out there with my business and call myself a photographer because I finally had the knowledge to create the images I wanted. Whatever you love to take photos of, it will be an absolute game changer for your photography”.
A very big thank you to Laurinda for your wonderful words and images! If you want to see more of her work, you can find her here.
If you’re already shooting in manual mode, on our Advanced Photography Course is the next steps. You will learn to shoot with confidence in any scenario, and push yourself creatively to find and develop your style through intensive 1:1 critique on your work. Our next course is starting on 27th September and it’s ON SALE NOW!! Click HERE to join!