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I’ve been primarily photographing kids and families for several years now. I recently decided that I wanted to create a shoot that was unique, without being too trendy. The resulting images would stand the test of time, as well as express a lot of emotion and personality.
I was having a really hard time deciding exactly what to do until the day I posted a few personal pictures on my blog of my girls playing in the rain. I received several questions about how I protected my gear and what settings I used. I started to look at those images with my photographer’s eye instead of my “mom” eye, and realized that these dirty, wet images were also beautiful. The texture and emotion were just what I was looking for.
The next week, I borrowed a friend and her boys to start experimenting with mud, and it was love at first shot. The texture of mud on bare skin lends itself beautifully to a well toned black and white print. Throw in some denim shorts and it just gets better. For those of you who have asked if I shoot exclusively in black and white, I did throw in a few color samples as well.
A few tips to a successful mud shoot:
1. Choose your location wisely. Ending the day with a tow truck isn’t going to be fun for anyone. I look for easy, paved access within a reasonable distance from our mud pit. Also, check carefully for any obvious hazards such as broken glass or metal.
2. Towels, water and plastic bags: You can’t bring enough of these. Someone will absolutely get mud in their eye, be prepared to rinse it out. Plastic bags are great for transporting dirty shoes and clothing home.
3. Protect your gear. I have a serious talk with the kids before we head out about the fact that throwing mud at me or my camera is a huge no-no. I also recommend trying out some of the waterproof cases at B&H. You don’t necessarily need the $1800 Aqua Tech, but do get something. If there’s absolutely no room in your budget for some sort of housing or bag, then at least wrap a plastic shopping bag around the body of your camera.
4. Have a client waiting list ready to go when the weather is right. When your regular portrait sessions cancel due to muddy conditions, you can quickly fill the slot with clients who want a Dirty Kids session.
5. Have fun and be patient. It takes kids a little time to get comfortable in the mud, but once they do, it’s game on!
Mary Phillips, a busy Texas mom and professional photographer, has developed a website "The Photographic Life: Photo Tips for Moms" to help other busy moms to take better photos, no matter what type of camera equipment they have.