top of page
  • Writer's pictureMara Cabral

growing as a photographer and a look into the recent past

This month marks the anniversary of my first proper paid outdoor shoot. I had spent the previous months photographing families for free as a way of developing my skills, gain portfolio and confidence. I'm a perfectionist and extremely passionate about what I do, so I took on an way more families than I really needed, but I wanted to be sure I was REALLY ready. In total, I accepted over 20 free shoots and I was probably just over half way to getting them done, when I received an enquiry for a proper paid shoot. I had had a couple of all inclusive paid shoots by then, for friends, but this was my proper first one. At a more reasonable price and with an absolute stranger.

Was I nervous ? Oh gosh, yes! And nervous I would be yet for many more sessions to come. I was unsure I could get good results, I was unsure I could direct people appropriately, I was very critical of my own work and I kept feeling it was not up to the standard I wanted it to be. I used to follow so many photographers and I kept feeling that for my work to be 'good enough' it had to be like theirs. It had to follow the same rules, be posed in the same way, had the same general look. Only, much as I tried, my style remained stubbornly different. The approaches other photographers had to posing didn't suit me. Much like with everything else in my life, I didn't seem to be able to do it exactly like 'others did it'.

So, even though I had been shooting families non stop leading up to that shoot, I still felt I needed to go to the location and practice for that shoot in particular. My boy was 2 then and my little companion, so took him to the location....twice! I remember going through the photos at the time and being slightly disappointed.....again the photos were not what I expected them to be. They were not scroll stoppers. They didn't jump off the page and made everyone look at them. They didn't make me the great photographer I wished to be.

I haven't thought about these photos in ages, but this week they came up in my Amazon Prime cloud storage memories. And as I went through them I was shocked how I didn't even give this photos a second look. I know I am seeing them through the eyes of a mother........and through the eyes of a mother, I absolutely love them! Which is exactly what I want to offer my clients. Photos they can love because they represent their families beautifully. And it made me realise yet once again, that even though it's been decades since I last truly worried about 'fitting in' in life in general, at the very beginning of my photographic career, I was trying to 'fit in'. I was trying to emulate other people's style (something I should have known I would never be able to......I always had my own style in everything....)

One of my ongoing projects nowadays is to go back on photos of my kids and revisit them, all those thousands of photos I took and quickly rejected as 'not good enough'. I so often find photos I love, memories of moments I would have forgotten otherwise, expressions, my own vision about my kids. Because photography for me is not a bunch of rules to be followed. Rules are there to help us out, to use as tools if needed be. And often......to be broken. Photography for me is something I do from the heart. It's expression. It's a visual journal that retells my story, the story of the world as I see it. It's full of symbols, meaning and memories. Whether I shoot documentary or the most posed studio fine art style, it's all about capturing some sort of truth. It can be the truth of the moment or the spark of truth in the subject's eyes.

I don't mean by this we shouldn't have a critical eye over our own work, we definitely should. But we should also be able to judge it with our heart. We should make choices that makes sense to us. Whenever I teach photography, I always tell my students that the most important thing of all is that they, themselves, like their work. A rule or technique is only useful as long as it benefits the work they want to achieve. My style keeps evolving and changing. I keep discovering new things and I know it will be this way for as long as I photograph (which will most probably be for the rest of my life!). And one important lesson I have eventually learned, is that I don't really want to make work that jumps out of the page and is read in 2 seconds. What I want, is to make work that pulls people in.......work that tells a story, that has a narrative behind it, whether it is clear or not. And as for the families that I photograph in the beautiful natural background of Carmarthenshire, the families that give me the honour of being their family photographer, I hope they can always feel free to tell me exactly what they want me to capture. I hope they always feel free to bring special objects to the scene, to propose challenges, to tell me how I can perform this job in a way that benefits them. Because family photos are so much more than pretty images. I go through the photos in this blog post and I remember so much.........

How my kids loved this oversized duck my mum has sent for them all the way from Portugal......

How my boy used to love Batman and wanted to be a bat when he grew up.

How fair his little curls were......how tiny and round his little hands were.....

How he loved playing with airplanes.......and the little faces he made when he did so.....

His very delightful smile of pure joy....

His fascination with bubbles......and how his cheeks would round to blow them....

His cheeky face each time he did Peek-a-boo!

How he always loved a hat and that seal circus toy I am so sorry we ended up giving away!

Sometimes, at the very beginning of something, when we thing we are still finding our way, we actually know which path to follow deep down. We know with our soul, even if our brain has quite gotten there just yet! I think I knew here what was important for me in photography, but it took me a while to be able to rationally understand that.

29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page