The first-born baby photo shoots are honestly so laid back. The second-born baby photo shoots are FUN. Toddlers make everything an adventure. There are car rides and snack breaks.
I’m thrilled for this family, whom I began photographing when they were engaged. They engage in that dance that comes with two children under two with grace. Parenthood is complex, and I love how these photos tell the various aspects of the story. The day was overcast, and if I was a “natural light” photographer, I would have needed to reschedule. Armed with my off camera strobes and soft diffusers, I was able to create some beautiful airy photos. And, of course, I always love the mood of hard window light, too. For you film nerds, these are Portra 800 and Ilford Super XP 400, which is my favorite black and white film (although I suppose it’s technically processed like a color film).
At the end of the session, each of them looked exhausted. It was nap time, and I was packing up. And, I realized Mom was humming the same song to Son as Dad was to Daughter. I melted. Each family has its own rhythm, and to witness how parents attune to their children is truly a thing of beauty.
It’s generally been my stance that newborns are most comfortable at home, so that’s where I typically photograph them. However, over the past year, I’ve upgraded my studio lighting and have found that I actually adore the simple, timeless portraits that working in the studio fosters. This momma wanted to do the photos in the studio, and her babe slept the whole time like newborns (sometimes) do. I kept her in her mom’s arms for most of the two hours, which is where I feel babies belong.
I remember after my son was born, the last thing I wanted was to be photographed. And, most new moms express that they do not want to be in the photos. But, one day your baby will grow up, and s/he will want to see pictorial evidence of how much s/he was loved. This mom reminded me of those first days and how we just stare in awe at our babes. What a miracle. I feel so grateful to celebrate these moments with you.
This senior portrait session stretched me: high key, low key…film, digital…in-studio and on the street…natural light, nightlife…and everything in between over the course of a couple hours. By the end, I was talking to myself and asking my brilliant assistant, Carly, about shutter speeds because my mind was fried. I love the adrenaline that comes with creating. And, I can think of few things more important than documenting for young women how beautiful and talented they are. I photograph people, but what I’m most interested in is always revealing the essence of who you are– as cliche as the term has become: the soul.
It’s not happened overnight, but nowadays, when I see a portrait online, I can say, “That’s an Amber Shumake photo.” Granted, I don’t speak of myself in the third person. But, I think, “Hey! I made that photo.” This feels important especially given that I am not a just a natural light photographer; I am not just a product photographer; I am not just a family photographer.
I see myself as an artist. As an artist, I’m interested in connection, and I create that through light and shadow and the always elusive attempt to make the subject feel comfortable in her skin even as I point a camera and a light in her face.
I specialize in the medium of photography. And, I own more cameras than I can count. I’ve got one in the Black Friday cart that I’m still weighing if it’s worth it to purchase. So, I use the correct tool for the job. And, my jobs invite me to photograph all sorts of people and places and products in all sorts of settings. I’m dynamic, I suppose.
I can distinguish my style in the skin tones and the composition, the energy (although that word is too woo-woo for some). And, yeah…I shoot a bunch of film. Maybe one day I will succinctly articulate why I prefer film to digital. As of late, I’m drawn to the detail in the highlights and shadows. Digital cameras read light as bright or dark. Film sees layers and shades of gray. I have a friend who’s colorblind, and he says he can distinguish colors better in film photos. Perhaps, it’s the layers of hidden tones like magenta and aqua. I’ve labeled these images below because I’m becoming extra nerdy as I age. With the exception of the portraits created at the West 7th Street Bridge in Fort Worth, everything else was created at the Darkroom, a community studio I adore. All of the film was scanned by Richard Photo Lab.
The transition from high school to life after high school is mind-blowing, really. I’ve only just begun on my parenting journey. But, I always like to conclude sessions with a photo of the mom with the senior. As we were standing at the West 7th Street bridge, her mom said, “She’s been a climber since she was one-year-old.”
Because I’m an older mom and perhaps an older soul, most of my friends are realizing they have just a few more years with their kids under their roof. Some are sending their kids off to college. And, I’m immersed in nursery rhymes (mostly truck tunes) and potty training. I feel blessed to experience the polarity because it helps me remember how fast this journey truly is.