Vancouver Family Photographer | Storytelling Photography
Once upon a time…I wanted to go into business. So I did. When WordPress asked me for my tag line, I came up with “Genuine, connected, storytelling”. This is before I even knew what it meant to create images like that. And yes, it makes me want to refund my first paying families who hired me based on the guise of that tag line. I created well posed, technically sound, and pretty images for them, images that I am still proud of, particularly because of where I was in my journey of learning. But something inside me needed more than pretty pictures. Posing on a blanket at a park was no longer sufficient. When my families asked me, “What should we wear?”, I would send them a Pinterest board for inspiration. Perfectly coordinated graphics and colours, designed with the tiniest of details. That’s what I thought would make a successful shoot – a perfect wardrobe, camera-aware smiles, and beautiful backlight. I was creating for these families, who are happy with their images, but I wasn’t creating for me. It was simply something I thought I should be doing because that’s what other photographers out there were doing for their clients.
This is where I will say, there is nothing wrong or bad about posed portraits or studio shoots with vintage backdrops, or cake smashes, or babies wrapped in knits in a basket. There are some amazingly talented photographers whose portfolio is made up of beautiful images of stylized and posed family photography. I’ve tried it, but every ounce of me feels like a fraud when I do it. It’s just not me. But yet I kept on with what I thought my families wanted.
Somewhere along the line, I started letting go of all of that. I began shooting with my heart and my instincts. It wasn’t easy. I had to learn a lot about myself before I could do that. Here is where I pour out my gratitude to two very special people who have helped me turn this pivotal corner of my journey: Sarah Lalone (Punch Photographic) and Kate Densmore (Kate Densmore Photography). They didn’t let me keep shooting; instead, they challenged me by asking really tough introspective questions. And one sentence answers will not suffice. They were down right mean about it. But it was their tough love that guided me towards what it means to be genuine and connected. The change began with my own personal work. I stopped chasing my children into beautiful fields of pretty light, issuing commands until I got THE picture. Instead of setting up moments, I look for them, anticipate them, and I let my subjects be my guide to connection and authenticity.
On this journey of creating photographic art, for myself and for others, I’ve learnt that personal and client work don’t have to be such separate entities. A wise person once told me: shoot for yourself first, then shoot for others. Stop. That’s ludicrous, you say. Why would you create for you when people are paying you for a product? Because photography is (supposed to be) an art, not a mass production factory of perfect images, and I believe that if you don’t shoot with your heart and mind, your images will show. If you do, your images will evoke the kind of raw emotion you want for your viewer(s) to feel. I would rather capture the moment wrought with emotion, in a room with haphazardly (mis)placed things, than get the perfect pose and smile in a gorgeous location that bears no further meaning.
So where does the storytelling fit in? What is storytelling photography? Some might refer to it as lifestyle. To me, it is more than just a candid snapshot. Artistically, it combines elements of documentary and fine art photography. Emotionally, it is about being present, and truthful, about this moment in time. One of my biggest inspiration for this type of photography, Kirsten Lewis, said that it is about making an image that is purely moment-driven, which requires an incredible amount of patience and anticipation to achieve. It is about preserving that family’s life as it is, not what we think they want their life to be. I couldn’t agree with her more. I seek it out in my personal work and volunteer work with Canuck Place. I want to create these images for the families I work with, by focusing on family togetherness, birth stories that hope to heal and empower, newborn unpredictability, paired with the beauty of nursing. Little snippets of invaluable Once Upon a Times, strung together to form a real story.
Felicia Chang Photography specializes in newborn, family and birth photography in Vancouver, British Columbia and surrounding areas including but not limited to North Vancouver and West Vancouver.