Capturing the 5 Senses through Photography


Melody's Family

Even though I’ve been photographing families for 20 years (this month!), I still educate myself on a variety of things related to photography and owning your own business, each year. Right now, I’m in a “mastermind” course for all things related to running a photography business. It’s been five months of mindset work, website work, marketing, etc. All things I need and it’s been amazing. One of the topics our educator discusses with us is the importance of knowing your “why”.

Why Melody, why are you a photographer?

When we got married in 1998, one of our gift certificates was to a department store in the local mall named Gottshalks. We had our wedding registry there for all the household items, from forks and knives to point-and-shoot camera and video recorder. Sure we received the basics and towels and bedding, but we also received a few gift certificates. After we returned from our honeymoon and settled into our first apartment we headed to Gottshalks second floor; the wedding registry floor. There we decided to use our gift certificates for a point-and-shoot camera and video recorder. And we still had a bit leftover for the rest of the basics we needed.

That point-and-shoot camera was pretty cool! My first digital camera. The delay from the trigger button to shutter close was annoying, but I learned pretty quick to stabilize with my hands to account for the delay. And I think I got pretty decent photos, considering most of the photos were of people… moving, because you should never take photos of just landscape. Say what?

I’ll never forget throughout my teens, my mother telling me that if I take photos of landscapes those are just like postcards you can buy in a store. But if I fill the frame with people that I love with the landscape in the background, then there’s a real memory.

There’s the memory.

Did you know that the word memory is defined as the power to retain and recall information and past experiences. And did you also know that memories fade. The more time that’s passed since an experience, the less likely you are to recall all the details. (google)


Photos work in two ways:keeping old memories alive and anchoring a person to the present moment. (google).

There’s the why. Let’s preserve a memory, a moment captured through photography and printed images. When I look at a photo from my childhood, I can recall so much. like the smell of the environment just by looking at a photograph. I can feel it.

Photos don’t have to be perfect. Photos don’t even have to be professional. But to me, photos will always be a moment in time, frozen. To keep forever that moment and past experience alive.

This photo, with our youngest in a field above Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, CA with my husband’s childhood chair, committed me to becoming a photographer for other families to freeze a moment in time.

He was just about to turn one. We had at this point a three year old and a nearly one year old. The point-and-shoot camera from 1998 – with its delayed shutter – was no longer a viable way to capture our darling rarely-sitting-still children. My husband gifted me with my first dslr, a Canon to capture our kiddos in real time, no delay.

That camera was a game changer.

I had been playing around for about a year with the camera, in between nursing a newborn, entertaining and keep a toddler fed, loved, and alive whilst surviving sleeplessness and a not yet known diagnosis of post-partum depression. The camera helped my creative brain stay alive.

This photo was taken in spring of 2004. I had planned for this specific field knowing the flowers were going to bloom at any moment around his birthday; a perfect time to take his first year photos. And the photos did not disappoint. I was thrilled! I loved his expression. It was “him”. As a baby he was cuddly, sweet, giggly, but also aware, cautious, curious. His lips, his blue eyes, his wrists… all of it takes me back to that moment.

I can hear the cars at the 4-way stop just behind him. I can hear and the ocean waves crashing just behind me and smell the salt water air. I see the people taking the hand-cut staircase down to the beach where he’s looking, off to the left of me. They wouldn’t pass until I waved them on so as not to distract him/me while I photographed. Their “oohs and aahs”, and “he’s so cute” and “great spot” I can hear as they pass. I can feel his baby soft skin as I wipe off the crumbs of his snack off the corners of his lips in the car when we arrived to this location.

My senses have been awaken. My emotions are warming my body as I recall this moment in time. I love it.

I only hope and dream that taking others’ photos will catapult them in time to awaken their senses when they look back at their photos. Although I’ve added another element; make sure mom (insert: parent, grandparent, sibling, etc.,) is in the photos.

Let’s see if you can feel it. The photo is of mom cleaning him up, or hugging him tightly so she can look back and see that moment, smell the moment, hear the moment…

…feel the moment.

This is our baby and me, two days ago. We celebrated his 21st birthday in Las Vegas. Yes, VEGAS! He’s still our cautious and sweet boy but he also is very focused. And he decided that Vegas was a good idea for his first time (maybe his last) to play blackjack with his Dad AND have a drink at the same time. So we took him to Vegas with some of his college friends, Dad and I and his brother, and our very bestest friends (sudo Aunt and Uncle).

While this was only two days ago and a quick photo on my iPhone, I’ll never forget this moment. I can smell the sunscreen on our skin and feel the heat of the air and the coolness of the water. I can hear the guys in the background splashing in the water after catching an air-to-pool football toss. I can still feel his soft skin as he leans into me for a quick shot. While it’s not the “professional” photo, it is a treasure to me.

This is my why. To capture the five senses: hear, touch, taste, smell, see. For a family to look back at their professional photographs and feel the moment. Awaken their senses. Catapult them back to that moment in time. No matter if it is a good or not-so-good feeling, it is part of the story.

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