I know that's what most of my clients want as well, so I always keep that goal in mind when I'm in a session. I try to engage my younger clients in some meaningful interaction in order for them to naturally smile as they look up to talk to me (and subsequently, in my camera lens).
I recently entered a photo contest with the Shoot and Share group. This is my first year entering and I did not have high hopes to make it very far in the contest. The results aren't in yet (voting is still going on, in fact), but I know at least one of my images made it to round 7 and I'm floored. So much incredible talent displayed in one place. And people actually voted for my images?? Mindblowing.
Oh, believe me, it has been incredibly hard to vote myself. Some images are technically good, or an impossible capture, or just plain beautiful, or the image really speaks to me.
I've also gotten very sick of canoes, row boats, flower crowns, long flowing maternity dresses, and naked cakes with no frosting. :P Oh, and I've discovered that hedgehogs are really in style :)
However, what surprised me is how much I loved the images in the Lifestyle category. This is not an area of photography that I'm very skilled at. It takes a certain eye to see beauty in it. Lifestyle photography isn't staged or posed or set up. It's capturing the every day, just like it is.
I've been thinking long and hard at what makes these images stand out from just a mom with a camera phone snapping pictures of her kids. First, it's light. Beautiful light will make an image beautiful just as much as bad lighting will ruin an image. It's easy to use the light from the sun outdoors during golden hour. I struggle with seeing the light interact with shadows indoors.
Then there's composition. What draws my eyes to the subject of the image? Rule of thirds? Leading lines? Natural frames? So often I'm caught up in the expression of my subject that I forget the rules of composition.
But you can't forget expression. So often that's what makes an image really speak to someone. You want to feel the emotion that the subject is feeling as they have been frozen in time.
So much to consider for just one little image. But that complexity is why I love photography. All I can do now is just learn, practice, explore, and grow.