I set up my business as a photographer because, you’ve guessed it, I love photography. I generally like to make things look beautiful in all aspects of life and I love to create visual memories.
When my daughter was born, I was borderline obsessed with taking photos of her. I’m pretty sure that she’s in the top 1% of ‘World’s Most Photographed Babies’. I was (and still am) petrified of her growing up and changing too quickly. I obviously want her to grow and flourish, but what I don’t want to do is forget how tiny she once was – how she had rolls of fat on her chunky thighs, how she used to sulk even at 10 months old, and how squishy she was before she started crawling.
So I began documenting every part of our lives together, learning how to take better photos, learning how to use my camera to its full capability, and enjoying printing the 1500 photos I took of her in her first year. Yes, really.
But the thing that I didn’t realize is that by becoming a professional photographer, I would actually have less time to take photos of my biggest muse. Now that I’m writing this down, I’m not sure how I didn’t realize it. Of course, building a business which needs to generate income is going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort. More time dedicated to the business = less time dedicated to following my daughter around with a camera.
I guess that when things happen slowly, it takes a while for you to realize what your new reality is. My reality slapped me in the face at the start of the summer when I realized that I had barely any photos of my daughter from this year. I’d taken her out to do a shoot in the Bluebells, but apart from that, I had very few photos of her taken with my ‘big girl camera’.
My first thought was – ‘but how come?’ Why didn’t I have many photos, when my photographic skills and style were stronger than they’d ever been? I’d heard it a thousand times – “the best camera you have is the one that you have with you”. But I never had my proper camera with me. I started shooting on an old DSLR that belonged to my husband, but now my camera of choice is the Canon 5D mkIV, with my 70-200 2.8L pretty much permanently attached for my outdoor family photoshoots in and around Cardiff. Even with my 50mm on it, it’s a heavy camera. It’s also my source of income, so I’m hesitant to grab it on the way out of the door if I’m off to the beach/park/woods/coastal path with my family. All of a sudden it made sense to me that the equipment that was bringing me income and developing my business was actually holding me back when it came to photographing my own family’s story. I’d been putting so much time into taking photos of other people that I’d lost the joy in taking photos for myself and started seeing photography purely as work and less like something I loved.
Now before I start writing about the Sony A6000, let me explain that I’m a Canon girl at heart. I’m not invested in Sony, I’m not jumping on the Sony bandwagon, I’m (sadly) not being paid by Sony for this blog, and I’m definitely not going to swap out my whole system for the shiny new technology of Sony. But what I will say is that I bought this camera from John Lewis and (after using gift cards for part payment and applying for the cashback incentive) it’s already working out as a very low cost-per-use option for documenting our family’s day to day life. And here’s why it’s helping me fall back in love with photography.
1. It doesn’t feel like work.
I think that this is the most important part of why I’m loving taking photos of my family again. I love my job and I do love taking my daughter out to find beautiful settings around Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. But, whenever I do that, in the back of my mind I’m always considering how I would use that location for a client’s photo shoot. With the Sony A6000, I use auto/aperture priority mode and take it wherever we’re going instead of worrying about settings and locations. I leave it on the console table by our front door and grab it whenever I need to. I don’t have to worry about adjusting the settings manually, I have set them once and now they’re good to go. I don’t have to worry about what the light is doing, I can shoot in the harsh midday sun and still have the color come up lovely on the screen with no adjustments needed in post-processing.
2. It’s super wide-angled.
Because my lens of choice on my Canon is the 70-200mm (and I always use it at 200mm), I stand quite far away from my subjects during family photoshoots. It’s taken me a while to get used to the lens on the A6000! At its widest, it’s 16mm (24mm full-frame equivalent), and it takes in so much of what’s going on. I really admire the work of documentary photographer Karah Mew. The photos of her own family are so in-the-moment, so raw, so real, and she has written in the past about how she is able to be fully present in her children’s play, but still capture what’s going on. I have never been able to achieve what she does, just capture the day to day moments so beautifully. But since owning the A6000, something has clicked, and I’m finally able to be close to the action, at the moment, taking a photo and still be present. I can have it to hand while my daughter and I are playing with her Playmobil horses, splashing in the waves, or crabbing off the harbor wall, take a quick photo, and be back in the moment within a matter of seconds. No more running backwards trying to get everything into the frame!
3. It has a lovely shallow depth of field.
The kit lens that comes with the A6000 is 16-50mm and has a range of f3.5-5.6. As I use it at the wider end, I can choose to have the wider aperture too. I just love bokeh (who doesn’t?!) and it features heavily in my family photography – I love the creamy background and compression that my lens and settings choices give me on my family photoshoots. The A6000 lets me mirror this in my family snapshots and I love it! It means that I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing the style I love in order to capture the moment. The combination of 16mm and f3.5 also means that when I take a sneaky selfie (not a pouting into the mirror one, a family one…) that we can all squeeze into the frame but knock out most of the background if we choose to. Win-win.
4. It features a Panoramic Mode that takes seconds to apply.
In as few as 3 clicks on the menu (I just counted them to make sure…), I can switch from shooting in 3:2 to capture panoramic 16:9 images. Because I’m using the A6000 as a grab and go camera, it means that it comes on holiday with us too. We’re not one for fancy destinations, but we do love pounding the coastal path on Anglesey and around Pembrokeshire. If you’ve ever been to either county, you will understand how beautiful these places can be when the sun is shining. It would be rude not to take a couple of landscape shots on our walks! Because it only takes a few seconds to go from 3:2 to 16:9, it doesn’t limit the type of shots I take on holiday. I can be taking a photo of my daughter eating a picnic, and then 5 seconds later have the camera set up for taking a photo of the harbor behind her. No faffing with settings, no changing lenses, just 3 clicks on the menu.
5. It has a tilting screen. Now for me, this is a game-changer.
You might be reading this thinking “that’s nothing new, my camera does that too”. I know it’s not exactly new technology, but my ‘big girl camera’ doesn’t have a tilting screen. So if I want a shot that’s angled upwards, I need to be angled upwards too. So I need to (and often do) lie on the floor to get the shots I want. It’s worth it for family photoshoots, and I can go home afterward and get changed. But before owning the A6000, it meant that when I was taking photos of my daughter on days out, I wouldn’t get the angles I wanted to for fear of being caked in mud/grass/sand for the next 12 hours. Now that I can tilt the screen, it’s only the camera that has to be on the floor, not me. I still get the angles I want without having to crawl around on the floor to look through the viewfinder.
I’ve heard from other photographers that the maximum ISO of 25600 gives amazing results in low light situations and that the video function gives gorgeous results too. Between running my business, moving house recently and being a full-time mum for 7 weeks over the school holidays, I haven’t had a chance to check out all of these features, but I’d love to see the results from anyone who has! If you own a Sony A6000, I’d love to hear what you like about it, how it’s affected the way you shoot, and also anything you’re not too keen on! Have you found any hacks or do you have any tips for me? Let me know in the comments section below, I always love to hear from you.
About the Author
Clare Harding is a Cardiff-based photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, child and family photography. You can see Clare’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.