22.06.2020 Kevin Mullins

Capturing Socially-Distanced Moments With Your Loved Ones

Kevin Mullins

Kevin is a pure documentary wedding photographer. He started shooting weddings professionally in 2008 and since then has photographed weddings right across the UK and internationally.   Shooting in a documentary style he strives to tell the story of the wedding through photojournalism, rather than “traditional” contrived wedding photography.
He has been shooting with Fujifilm equipment since 2011.

It’s fair to say that we’ve experienced a turbulent start to 2020. And while the world begins to make tentative steps towards some form of new standard, many of us do not expect life to return to the old normal for quite some time.

I can’t think of too many professions that haven’t been touched, in some way, by the pandemic. Indeed, every professional photographer I know has been impacted.

However, from these troubling times comes opportunity. Luckily there are still lots of things that we can capture and memories to make in this unusual time, so here are a few ways to do so within the parameters of the new social distancing guidelines.

FUJIFILM GFX 100 + GF45mmF2.8 R WR - F8, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec

Tips For Documenting Your Friends and Family

With so much time spent at home, now is the perfect time to document everyday life with your family. Not only is it important to capture this extraordinary time in lockdown together, but with rules beginning to ease and socially distanced get-togethers possible, there is also the unique opportunity to document the excitement of seeing friends for the first time in months.

Keep it candid

If you want to capture an authentic memory – a photograph that truly tells the story – then it often translates better when captured candidly.

Any great photograph that exists adheres to three core principles: good light, the right moment and excellent composition. Due to the unpredictable nature of the genre, these rules can make candid documentary photography a challenge. But always remember that one awesome photograph is better than a thousand bad ones, so stay committed to finding the perfect moment and it will pay off.

FUJIFILM GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8 R WR - F2.8, ISO 320, 1/125 sec

Look for the ordinary in your day

I’ve been documenting my family for the last 15 years, so this style of photography is nothing new. However, I have found the dynamic of the images I take now has changed a little. There are some things we will all discuss in years to come, but are we recording those in photographs?

A good example could be homeschooling. It is something many of us are having to do for the first time – some more successfully than others! It’s a brilliant subject to photograph if you can. You’ll see all the nuances of the children and the parents. Look for interaction between the two – emotion, concentration, laughter and so much more.

Studies of our loved ones

During this time, we can also hone a few skills that perhaps we haven’t had the time or the inclination to work on in the past. For example, I rarely take staged photos. By that, I mean considered images that are studies of the person, rather than candid storytelling photographs.

You may have studio lights and backgrounds at home, which is great, but you don’t need professional gear to achieve striking results. That said, you should always try and think about the light and background where possible.

Natural light is the most flattering and is continuously available to us. Remember that old saying, ‘have the sun to your back when taking a photograph’? Well, that remains true, with a couple of caveats. You can create stunning images just by thinking first, ‘what is the direction of the light?’. By considering the position of yourself or your subject, you can model the light so the direction of the sun is not so abrupt.

FUJIFILM GFX 100 + GF110mmF2 R LM WR - F2, ISO 250, 1/125 sec

In this shot of Rosa, my daughter, I have positioned her just inside our kitchen door so the sun is filtered a little by the door frame. Additionally, the angle of her position means the sun is softer and disperses across her face from left to right.

Of course, our loved ones don’t always have to be people. If you have four-legged members of your family, they can also be brilliant subjects.

I find photographing dogs very challenging, but it’s a great way of learning. Most of us have plenty of time right now to think things through, and learning a new skill is an excellent use of that time.

FUJIFILM GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8 R WR - F8, ISO 100, 1/125 sec

FUJIFILM GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8 R WR - F8, ISO 100, 1/125 sec

These two images of the dogs are set up far more than the photo of Rosa. But you can do precisely the same at home relatively easily. First of all, find a clean background – in this case, it’s a black sheet – then consider your source of light and how it will illuminate the subject.

For these images, I’ve used a forward-facing light source, and what makes them so strong is the way the light works with the background to isolate the dogs. Remember, as mentioned previously, the three elements you need to think about are light, composition and moment.

Capturing moments together again

With new government guidelines allowing for socially distanced gatherings of up to six people from two households, now is the perfect time to create beautiful images of the faces you’ve been missing so much. Ultimately, who doesn’t want to look back at this time and think, “so that’s what I looked like back then”?

If you’re planning a small get-together in a group of six, there will be plenty of fantastic opportunities to capture the atmosphere, emotions and all-round fun that comes with being together again. So make sure you’re armed with a camera, ready to immortalise all those powerful memories.

Alternatively, you could give doorstep photos a try. I’ve always been interested in the idea of mundane images today being influential in the future. To that end, I’ve been wandering the streets here in my town and asking people if they would like a free doorstep photograph of themselves and their family with them in lockdown.

The beauty of getting out and about and effortlessly documenting people can not only be cathartic, but also have a historic impact, given time.

FUJIFILM X100F - F5, ISO 200, 1/125 sec

The way I have approached these images is primarily by following the government guidelines. For example, I didn’t start the project until we were legally allowed, and when I do shoot, I stay at a very conservative distance.

The critical thing about these images is to remember the circumstances we are in. The idea is that it’s a simple family photograph, but with context. The context being the homes, the doorsteps and the gardens that we find ourselves bound by during the pandemic.

A final thought…

The important thing here is that, through these adverse circumstances, we have an opportunity. An opportunity to shoot subjects we may never have had before, an opportunity to learn about shooting styles we may not usually shoot but, most importantly, an opportunity to make memories.

So, as lockdown eases and we gradually begin to return to some sense of normality, keep your camera by your side and be sure to document this historic time for future generations.