What I learned from Ali Edwards’ A Week In the Life

Putting away some school supplies. The cleaners come the next morning so I spent some time doing laundry and picking up the house -- which was exactly what I was in the mood to do at this time.
Putting away some school supplies. The cleaners come the next morning so I spent some time doing laundry and picking up the house — which was exactly what I was in the mood to do at this time.

Have you been participating in A Week In the Life with Ali Edwards?

At the beginning of my lunch break on Tuesday (the second day) I got online and saw that she had started it so I grabbed my camera and decided to use it to motivate me to learn to take photos in this new house.

We’ve been here almost three years and I still had not found a photography routine here as of Tuesday morning.

I say, “as of Tuesday morning,” because by participating in the photo phase of A Week In the Life last week, I’m finally finding my way around this house with my camera. Every morning I started the day by looking at Ali’s photos, noticing how she aims or what she aims at, and then keeping that in mind as I went about my business.

So I want to share some of the things I learned from Ali along with several of my own photos.

Shoot from above.

Four out of seven Hymans are currently lounging.
Four out of seven Hymans are currently lounging.

I love it when Ali does shots like this. Our stairs are quite a distance away from this seating area — 15-20 feet — so I never thought I could get this shot. I finally decided to actually try and was surprised that my camera and lens could totally handle it.

Now I have a new card in my photography deck.

Aim toward windows. Don’t let them stop you.

Izzy made steel-cut oats. I usually enjoy my breakfast with Facebook as my companion.
Izzy made steel-cut oats. I usually enjoy my breakfast with Facebook as my companion.

When you put your subjects in front of bright light you darken the subjects, so I’ve usually tried to avoid as much window as possible, which limited me to awkward angles. Sometimes I just fail to get a picture because I know the lighting won’t be great.

But Ali shoots it anyway, and I love the regular photos she takes of herself and her family sitting at their dining table, surrounded by windows. Never mind the imperfect lighting — the story capture and the framing draw me in.

Sunday Morning Breakfast

Tuna Lettuce Wraps for Lunch

This one got a bit too blown out but it’s good enough for me.

Shoot in the semi-dark.

Gatsby didn't go along with the "act like it's candid" plan.
Gatsby didn’t go along with the “act like it’s candid” plan.

We were excited for Game of Thrones night on Sunday (which, by the way, met our expectations). Darkness is not good for photos. So how is it that I love Ali’s dark evening photos so much?

Again, when the framing and real-life capture are compelling, then I don’t care so much about whether a photo is technically ideal.

There is something to say for lamps, though. Ali has lamps in her darker evening photos and they’re great for creating a warm, cozy mood. Plus, it adds more contrast between light and dark, making evening photos more interesting.

We have yet to get a side table for our seating area, thus no lamp in this room. We actually need lamps all over the house, but it will be a while. I’m still going to take these evening shots, though.

Shoot from the floor and the table.

Putting away some school supplies. The cleaners come the next morning so I spent some time doing laundry and picking up the house -- which was exactly what I was in the mood to do at this time.
Putting away some school supplies. The cleaners come the next morning so I spent some time doing laundry and picking up the house — which was exactly what I was in the mood to do at this time.

There’s something really cool about the plane of the floor and how it leads the eye to the photo subject when you put your camera on the floor to get the shot. It creates a feeling of movement.

The same thing happens when you put the camera on the table, and Ali is great at getting good lines and planes on tables. I still need to practice that. I don’t have the cool lengthening plane in this shot, but I still like the way the photo highlights my supplies.

Sitting down to Scrapbook

Here’s another table shot that doesn’t have the elongated plane that Ali is great at getting, but I do like the reflection on the counter top.

Post-Yoga Lettuce Wrap for Mom

Get yourself in the photo by putting the camera on a surface that is across from you.

Making Lunch

My goal this week was to find more surfaces than the few I’d been using before. The funny thing about this is the surfaces I “discovered” last week were always around me. And they were obvious. I was focusing on getting a great photo, so I had unconsciously limited my options and never even tried many of the surfaces and angles.

The great thing about participating in the photo shooting part of Week In the Life was that I didn’t have time to try and get the ideal photo. I didn’t have time to try again and again. I had things to do and so I had to quickly set the camera somewhere, take the shot in just a couple tries and move on hoping it was good enough.

From a table…
Scrapbooking about Philippines

From a window ledge…
The cleaners come the next morning so I spent some time doing laundry and picking up the house -- which was exactly what I was in the mood to do at this time. I started with the laundry.

From a counter top…
IMG_8791

From a chair I pulled out from the kitchen table…
Game of Thrones Night!

Shoot one room from the other side of the door

IMG_8815

Whenever I walk by this doorway while I’m in my kitchen and get a view of this bookshelf I feel happy. So why not get that shot?

Ali does this all the time and I’ve always loved how these photos of hers create a feeling of intimacy and like you’re getting the special privilege of being able to peek in on somebody’s life.

Learn from what’s missing

My goal was not to do the entire Week In the Life project. I was not up to documenting entire days, nor an entire week, nor make an album for it (maybe next time?). I just wanted to get inspiration from Ali’s photos and spend a week finding more ways to shoot our everyday life at home.

For that reason my collection of photos from this week is much smaller than most people’s. But it gave me a good idea of what’s missing in my documentation and what I need to actively look for.

Here are some of the other things I did capture, and below that is a list of what I realize I missed and still need to get:

School starts late for Blake on Wednesday mornings so he can move a bit more slowly and we have time for some fun story-telling before he heads out. This is where some of us put our shoes on, ever since Dad decreed a socks-only rule to save the carpets (which is helping!)
School starts late for Blake on Wednesday mornings so he can move a bit more slowly and we have time for some fun story-telling before he heads out. This is where some of us put our shoes on, ever since Dad decreed a socks-only rule to save the carpets (which is helping!)

Sunday Morning Breakfast

He loves the sun and loves to survey what is going on with little critters in the yard.
He loves the sun and loves to survey what is going on with little critters in the yard.
She needed a change of environment and left the dining room table (in the library) to do some reading on the sofa in this spot where the dogs spend most of their day.
She needed a change of environment and left the dining room table (in the library) to do some reading on the sofa in this spot where the dogs spend most of their day.
We had a good laugh when we saw that Izzy and Trin had both come down and set the breakfast table with their phones and DS's before grabbing their food. Looks like they had the same breakfast activities in mind.
We had a good laugh when we saw that Izzy and Trin had both come down and set the breakfast table with their phones and DS’s before grabbing their food. Looks like they had the same breakfast activities in mind.
Power Yoga with Jason Zelich at Mountainside Fitness. A favorite class I have not missed once since it started in January.
Heading out to Power Yoga with Jason Zelich at Mountainside Fitness. A favorite class I have not missed once since it started in January.
Trinity made one of my favorite desserts for Mother's Day and I had one last one, heated int he microwave, to eat after lunch with my tea.
Trinity made one of my favorite desserts for Mother’s Day and I had one last one, heated in the microwave, to eat after lunch with my tea.
Concentrating more on making the bed. I love it when the bed is made, so maybe I should just go ahead and do it more often. Definitely need to hang some stuff on the walls, and sheer grey curtains on the window would be nice.
Concentrating more on making the bed. I love it when the bed is made, so maybe I should just go ahead and do it more often. Definitely need to hang some stuff on the walls, and sheer grey curtains on the window would be nice.
A daily sight. I love this tea station.
A daily sight. I love this tea station.
Freshly showered, getting her shoes on, and ready to start her school day.
Freshly showered, getting her shoes on, and ready to start her school day.
Trinity and I get a pass on the socks-only rule because of our foot injuries. She's putting her shoes on at the top of the stairs.
Trinity and I get a pass on the socks-only rule because of our foot injuries. She’s putting her shoes on at the top of the stairs.

More lounging

Gizmo wanted a goodbye.
Gizmo wanted a goodbye.
...with music in her ears.
Cleaning the kitchen with music in her ears.

Here’s what I see I’m missing as I look through my photos…

  • interaction between family members
  • Aiden — the biggest introvert of the family who is usually up in his room
  • my kids in their bedroom
  • Blake going off to work or at his workplace
  • Izzy in his office
  • Me working
  • Izzy composing music
  • Me as a homeschool teacher to Trinity
  • Izzy cooking
  • Me in the laundry room
  • Many of the rooms and spaces in our house and yard
  • Me outside working with my plants and garden
  • Trinity heading out to dance
  • Aiden heading out to gymnastics

Some thoughts on photo captions

You probably noticed that some of my photos have captions attached. After choosing my favorite photos, I titled all of them, and captioned the ones that need an extra explanation beyond just the title.

What you see above are those captions. The titles don’t show up here, but they are present in my photos software (I’m currently using the Photos App by Apple).

I believe that captioning our photos is the number one most important thing we can do for memory-keeping. It gives me more joy than all the beautiful, colorful products I love to play with.

Do it right away.

Our lives are busy. Our minds are cluttered. It can take as short as a week or two to forget what someone was doing when we took a photo, so always make a quick note soon after you shoot!

Read more on the awesomeness of captioning your photos for permanent memory-keeping here.

What did YOU learn?

Did you participate in the photo taking for Week In the Life last week? What did you learn?

Go ahead and weigh in!

  • vintageplaid

    I don’t do WITL, but I do like to take “in the moment” pictures of life as we live it. Thanks, Noell for a great summary of what Ali does and for showing us how you translated those observations into photos. It’s easy to look at someone’s pictures and think how great they are, but to evaluate specifically why they are good takes time and some effort. Thanks for passing it on to us. I am inspired to try some interesting angles now!

  • Honore

    I really appreciate your sharing your “take” on taking WiTL photos, and especially the list of missings…puts a whole new perspective on the photo-taking part. And the title/captions of photos…definitely adopting both of your practices. Thanks for adding another dimension to WiTL.

    Cheers~

  • Fiona

    I agree, This is a great post. I like the idea of dissecting projects, to extract what the value is and as you did here, what is missing (or what went wrong). If you look at each of our scrapbooking ‘projects’ like a project, the post mortem is a valuable tool for continuous improvement. Thank you for doing this and sharing with our community.

  • lovely ideas :) I’m still finding my photo routine after 5 years!!

    It’s funny we grew up with a no socks allowed policy to save the socks (and prevent us from injury!! :) shoes or bare feet around here. Compartments syndrome and foot pain mean that we always have shoes on in the house. But workboots stay outside :)
    Of course it is common to wear shoes indoors in Australia.

  • Kelly Jean

    This is a great post full of ideas on capturing photos, whether for WITL or not. Thanks for the ideas and taking the time to write this post. I love seeing snapshots of your family and home!

  • Shoes are common in the U.S., too. We do burn through our socks quickly around here, but we do socks because we learned that oils from our feet are worse not he carpet than shoes. It’s working, too. All the usual stains have not resurfaced since we last cleaned the carpet more than 6 months ago. Before our socks-only rule, they were resurfacing right away after getting the carpets cleaned.

  • I was thinking I should figure out how to share more often, since I love seeing photos in of people in their homes so much.

  • Jenny

    Great shots!! Did I miss what camera you used for these photos? I pretty much just use my phone camera for my photos!. I know…..bad! I wonder if iPhone has a timer setting for the selfies like you got? I will have to investigate! I love your jeans btw :)

  • :) Nice! Thanks for the tip about bare feet. I will admit with 4 under 7 years old I am fighting a losing battle. I think we’ve done well to make it 5 years with our white leather lounge suite. I am the crazy person who built a new house, did white and cream decor and then proceeded to have 4 children… :D

  • I’ve been trying to get a few more around the house shots… I loved some I got using the front facing camera with us on Matthew’s mat. Not perfect, but fun!

  • hmm. they are all rotated :( but you get the idea!

  • Oh yeah, losing battle, haha! We actually started with an all white living room when we were newlyweds, but we stopped at 3 kids. We actually had to ditch the white sofa and chair not long after #3 came, so you obviously have made it longer than we did!

  • So cute. Loving your daughter’s dimples. :)

  • If you’re using a fairly recent iPhone then yes, there is a self timer built into the camera. There’s a little clock icon that you can toggle between no timer, 3 seconds, or 10.

  • The photo you thought was too blown out looks great to me. You haven’t lost any important details, so even if it isn’t your preferred look, the photo is still a success because it shows your life. I would say all of these photos are great, not because they’re the world’s greatest photos, but because they show so much of your home and life – the huge long length of your kitchen countertop and all those cupboards, the grandeur of that staircase, the minimalism of your furnishings – just to point out all the ways your home is so different from where I live, or where you grew up, or where and how your kids might live when they have families. I’m really interested in photos of how people live (I collect books like “Material World: a Global Family Portrait” (by Peter Menzel) which shows how median income people around the world live and what they own. It’s such a fascinating look into all the things we take for granted – space, possessions, pets, food, etc. And I think about how those things change over time – I would do anything to have photos of the clothes hanging in my parent’s, grandparents’, great grandparents’ closets. Or to find some kind of list of how much or what they owned. I just find that stuff fascinating. I think you’ll value these photos very highly in the distant future, looking back on plastic laundry baskets, or sitting around the table with the kids, or whatever else is sure to be different 30 years from now.

  • Gabrielle McCann

    You got some amazing photos Noell! And I really love your hair colour too! Great that you got so many shots of you as well

  • Loved to hear your thoughts. I have no routine either, although I tried to have an alarm to remember to take photos at least. My kids are still young, so you would think I would take photos more often, but the days just fly by. I love all the angles and variations you showed… will have to try it out!

  • Lois John

    Noell – lots of food for thought! Love all of your pictures – will be trying some of these ideas myself!

  • Yes! I’m like you — I am, and have always been, intrigued by how other people live and I get so excited when I find someone who takes and shares photos that show their homes, rather than all closeups, which is all a lot of scrapbookers scrap these days.
    When I first moved out to AZ in the 90’s I was highly aware of how different the homestyle are here — high ceilings and rounded wall corners, for example. And now I always noticed the straight corners of people’s walls on tv. My friend moved here from VA and talks about how they had to ditch their old furniture because it looked like miniature furniture with our high ceilings and oversized built-in’s.
    We actually have that book, Material World, and we used it as part of Trinity’s World Geography class last year. It sounds like you and I share a common interest. :) It would be fun to do a PRT on this subject some time.

  • Thank you!

  • I guess it’s always hard! Mine are old and getting closer to moving out and I’m still finding it hard!

  • ARC

    You sound like a project manager (I am one too) :)

  • E F Levin

    I REALLY enjoyed this posting! Thanks for all of the terrific ideas. Your “point of view” (pun intended) is very helpful. Thanks again for all the work you and Izzy do for us fellow creative folks.

  • Fiona

    :) we are everywhere

  • Carrie Kelleher

    That was so helpful! I did do the week in the life but I haven’t put it all together yet – it’s on my list for this week!! Loved your insight!