Mandy Jane Dalby is a Click Love Grow grad, known for her unposed style of kids photography. But this is more than lifestyle… more than documentary.
Mandy captures movement and emotion in her kids’ everyday life, in a way that makes it clear she is unhindered by any driving need to be technically perfect.
That’s not to say her photos are lacking in that respect… Mandy is practiced enough in this way of shooting that she still manages to expose beautifully, nail focus and all the rest. I’m just sayin… she’s not trying to colour within the lines. Her priority is capturing organic moments, without intervention.
And for this to happen the need for perfection must be sidelined. It helps to have some mad skillz though, and Mandy has a big bag of em!
So we asked her to share her tips on how to shoot in this way, and even how she edits.
I am a natural light, family portrait photographer. I love shooting outdoors, but my other love is shooting in people’s homes. You can tell such a strong narrative from a person’s home. It doesn’t have to be a perfect space, like the ones we see in magazines. The beauty of these at home portraits lie in the imperfections of that space that is filled with the chaos, joy and love of everyday family life.
I took these images for a little blog post I wanted to write about the memories that we make though our images and the objects that we create.
These images are of my own children, however the shoot is pretty typical of how I would approach a client shoot. I prefer not to pose my clients. I like my subjects to run, walk and move unhindered within a space, to own their movements, and be free.
It’s a shifting dialogue between the subject, the landscape and my lens.
The light can dim slightly, a face turns upwards, a strand of hair catches the light, and there, in that second, magic is created. I don’t set it up, I am merely an observer waiting for these fleeting moments to occur. If you are patient they are always to be found, you just have to wait.
If these moments were forced and posed the person can’t really be themselves and I really feel as a result that the portrait would not be as evocative or powerful. I believe that as soon as you pose someone, you are creating them in your preconceived image and they can’t be themselves.
So how did I shoot this session? Well I simply took my kids, a dog, a beautiful quilt and I chucked them in a meadow.
It was chaos as I’m not used to the pandemonium that an animal can bring to a shoot, but I am learning ALL the time!
Despite the chaos, I do have a few little tips for capturing moving kids and dogs:
* Continuous focus mode is a focus tracking function available as part of your auto focus system. It enables your camera to grab focus then recompose as the object covered by your chosen focus point moves. In Canon it’s called AI Servo, Nikon call it AF-C. Read more about it here.
I am a Canon girl through and through, and I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III.
Canon 85mm f1.2. Killer bokeh, focus and depth of field. Your background will melt.
Canon 24-70 mm f2.8. This is great and versatile for everyday use.
Sigma Art 35mm f1.4.
My Dicapac underwater housing. So much fun to shoot underwater. I just need a pool, oh and some sunshine too. Not easy to find in England!
A prism, and a few Lensbabies!
I use Lightroom to edit my images, 98% of the time. I only use Photoshop when I am battling to clone in Lightroom. I would use Photoshop more if I could, but I’m a bit hopeless at it.
Shooting outdoors means that you have a lot of green, especially here in England. I like to tone down the greens to make my subjects stand out a bit more. Too much green can be a bit distracting, so I decrease the green hue and saturation sliders. I also warm skin tones up quite a bit to counterbalance all that emerald. Usually I push the temperature slider up to 6400K.
I hate to admit it, but I have to confess that I am a bit of a preset junkie. I have bought them all. Most of them are a waste of money, and I tend to use only one or two at any given time. At the moment I am using one from the Looks Like Film range, which I tweak a bit depending on the image.”
A big thank you to Mandy for your words and images. If you want to be inspired by more of her work from the heart, or even book her to capture your own family if you’re in England, you can find her at Amanda Jane Dalby Photography, Facebook and Instagram.
We hope you take these tips out into the field and give them a go!