Film Photography

A Holiday Photo Challenge for You

Ah, the holidays: twinkling string lights, deckled halls, sequin dresses, roasted meat, that one drunk, combative relative, and maybe even chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This winter I challenge you to improve the quality of your holiday captures, even if you’re only using the camera in your iPhone.

Toddler reading menu in San Francisco

1. Get comfortable with your camera

Even if you’re shooting with an iPhone, invest 20 minutes googling tips and tricks to harness the full capabilities of your iPhone camera. Understanding some of the technical features of your camera will make a huge difference in the quality of photograph you are able to achieve.

2. Aim for a Single Ideal Photograph

Yes, you read that right- one perfect photograph. Realistically, you aren’t going to want an entire album worth of snapshots from Christmas. Why not try to capture the perfect picture that sums it all up? Instead of holding a camera to your face the entire evening, consider planning a single, well executed photograph, and then set your camera down so you’ll have two hands for pie and coffee.

2. Compose Thoughtfully

When you walk into the family Christmas Party, cast your eye across all the different locations in the room. What’s the prettiest area? What’s the best lit? What spaces give the most information about the nature of the event? What areas could comfortably fit multiple people on different levels (i.e. the couch, on the plush rug, near the tree and a window.) The setting is as important to the photograph as the subject so don’t try to make that gorgeous holiday photo with a bag of trash resting against a door in the background.

3. Try a “Documentary” Photograph

“Documentary” means creating a photograph without intervening yourself. Consider which naturally occurring scene unfolding before you best exemplifies the event (your grandmother in a recliner, lovingly reading to your son? your mother screaming directives at your father from the center of a ravaged kitchen?) Assume a “fly on the wall” position and take a capture of the day exactly as it occurred.

toddler in cafe in San Francisco

4. Try a Lifestyle Photograph

Lifestyle photography involves gentle guidance, (such as suggesting the family gather by the Christmas Tree) followed by documenting natural interactions. Yan Palmer has a technique called the “Fall Apart Pose” where she essentially squishes her subjects together in a good location and then captures as they “fall apart” with wonderful results.

Toddler walking in cafe with crayons by Rachel Sima Photography

5. Skip the “camera aware” pictures this year

You know the ones- everyone clustered together, shoulder to shoulder, and smiling directly at the camera. Those photographs are boring, rarely well staged or executed, and tell the viewer nothing about the experience of the day. SKIP IT.

Fine Art Photography Versus The Real

I’m a fine art photographer at heart. I document real situations but I also pose my subjects, drag them into pools of light, direct their behavior, and move their furniture. I create photographs that adhere at least as much to my artistic interpretation of the moment as they do to the reality.

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My husband often suggests I use the camera I have perpetually glued to my face to capture Real Moments. For example, when our daughter was born prematurely, I took careful photographs of her that hid the feeding tubes and monitors. She looked swaddled and sweet. What the photographs didn’t show was the cacophony of interventions that occur to a newborn in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I remember thinking that because I wanted so intensely to get past those difficult days, I wouldn’t want photographs of that time. We return to those NICU memories often and I’m glad I ultimately took photographs that show a fuller scope of our experience.

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The photograph above is from the Camp Fire Hazardous Air Quality Days in Sacramento.

Light Lunch: double exposures on film.

I love looking at double exposures so I decided to create a roll of them on film. For these photographs I pulled the string lights off our tree and shot them against our dark grey bedsheets. The next day, I used the same roll of film to photograph our lunch at Drake Barn. You can see the frames from the two sessions don’t line up, which caused hard lines slicing the light orbs.

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Now I’m planning how I might apply double exposures to an aesthetic end in my portrait sessions.

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I’m very inspired by the work of Wendy Laurel in this area. If you haven’t seen her work, I suggest you do click through to her website, and prepare to be amazed.

Why We Send Family Photos for the Holidays

As fall transforms quietly into winter we begin the work of the holidays. In 2017, this included purchasing 1.6 billion greeting cards, many of which included a photograph, or rather, the annual photograph of a family. Like much of the holidays, the work occurs quietly behind the scenes only to be revealed in a flourish of snail mail between Christmas and New Years. And it begs the question: why do we participate in this tradition of creating, sharing and collecting family photos via holiday cards?

Our family portrait by  Jecki & Co  Photography

Our family portrait by Jecki & Co Photography

According to Yale anthropologist Micaela di Leonardo this “work of kinship” took hold amid postbellum industrialization because the demise of the family farm meant women were tasked with the challenge of nurturing (newly) long distance relationships. I know the cards we’ll mail this year will, almost exclusively, land across the country in the mailboxes of people we wish we lived closer to. I secretly hope the cards will linger around the households of our loved ones, reminding them we exist, a placeholder for our presence, and a small token of our affection across a vast country.

Our family portrait by  Jecki & Co  Photography
Our family portrait by  Jecki & Co  Photography
Our family portrait by  Jecki & Co  Photography
Our family portrait by  Jecki & Co  Photography
Our family portrait was taken by  Jecki & Co  Photography

Our family portrait was taken by Jecki & Co Photography