TWiP Family 014: Sarah Wilkerson on Capturing the Moment

This week, we hear from Sarah Wilkerson on capturing the moment. Sarah is a mother to four kids and the CEO of Clickin Moms.

Sarah-WilkersonSarah became interested in photography at the same time many of us do: when her first child was born. For Sarah, the reason for taking photos was not only to remember moments as her son was growing. Her husband was deployed to Iraq just ten days after her son was born. Sarah took photos of everyday life with her new baby to show her husband their son’s growth while he was deployed.

When Sarah’s son got a little older and started moving, her point and shoot wasn’t able to keep up with the action. She tried a DSLR and was hooked. A few years after catching the photography bug, she found the online community, Clickin Moms.

Sarah was thrilled to find the Clickin Moms community. “Women who want to talk about aperture and shutter speed all day long? Sign me up!”

At the time Sarah discovered Clickin Moms, it was about one thousand members.The community has since grown to 16,000 members. It aims to educate, inspire and connect photographers. Clickin Moms has forums, classes and a beautiful bi-monthly magazine, Click.

This year, Sarah released a stunning book for photographers, Capture the Moment. The book includes photos from Clickin Moms members, information and assignments for beginners to expert photographers.

I love these images of Sarah at work.

In this interview with Sarah Wilkerson, we talk about going from the auto modes on our cameras to manual.

Sarah says, “You are actually smarter than your camera. We are seeing the scene and know what our vision is. Our camera doesn’t.”

But sometimes, it’s better to hand it over to your camera when the camera can move faster. When your subject is moving in and out of changing light, it’s good to let your camera make quick exposure decisions. Sarah likes using manual focus in a quiet, still situation. But, otherwise, the camera is faster than her fingers.

I loved talking to Sarah about the balance between being a photographer and a participant. Sarah has a wonderful suggestion for birthday parties. First, get the photos you need. (The kid, the cake, the candles…) Then, put your camera down and experience the moment. If a moment calls to you after that, pick up your camera again after you have experienced the moment.

We have a great conversation about why Clickin Mom’s started the Clickin Moms Pro (CMPro) program. There’s a great guide for applicants that we talk about in the show. It’s a great resource.

Sarah’s Simple Tip for Parents

Step back. Start by shooting unaware. It becomes an extra challenge when you ask your subject to participate. You don’t need that when you are starting out. Look for opportunities and shoot from the sidelines.

Sarah’s Camera

Nikon D810 and her favorite lenses 24-70 f2.8 and 45mm tilt shift.

Connect with Sarah: Website, Clickin Moms, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

On October 8- 10, Sarah will be at Click Away in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be there too along with a few of there great photographers I’ve talked to on the show: Jesh DeRox and Jenny Solar.

Would you like to win a year long membership to Clickin Moms or a year of Click Magazine? Of course you do! Leave a comment. Tell me whether you hold the cake or the camera on your kid’s birthday. Leave your comment before September 8th to be entered.

For 25% off a year membership to Clickin Moms use coupon code TWIP25.

Do you have a question for this family photography podcast? Is there a topic you’d love to hear about? A photographer you’d love to hear on TWiP Family? Email me: jenny@twip.pro

Next week it’s my conversation with the amazing Rick Sammon. He’s written over thirty books about photography and is the co-host of the Digital Photo Experience podcast. And, he’s a dad who knows about the challenges and rewards of photographing family.

  • Very interesting podcast and beautiful photography. I’m not a mom but I know that I would be the type of mom who would have the camera in hand rather than the cake. I’m likely to drop the cake but never the camera; it’s safer for everyone that way! I love the idea of a community of women speaking my language. Do you have to be a mom to join clickin moms?

  • Hi Ty! You absolutely do not have to be a mom to join Clickin Moms. We are a community of predominantly women but welcome anyone looking for a positive environment in which to share and learn alongside other photographers.

  • Hi Ty! You absolutely do not have to be a mom to join Clickin Moms. We are a community of predominantly women but welcome anyone looking for a positive environment in which to share and learn alongside other photographers.

  • I’m with Ty in that I’m not a mother, but documenting the life of my family is the part of photography that makes me the happiest. I am definitely the one with the camera for my nephews, because the light is always so great as is the excitement in their eyes. My son will be having his first birthday in a month, and I’m excited to capture that day as well. Thanks Sarah and Jenny for opening my eyes to Clickin’ Moms, though I’m not a mom. I’m glad for a community that is so aligned with what I love to photograph. So many are gear related and while gear is fun, it only gets you so far. Jenny, thanks for the amazing podcast, I’ve been a listener of TWiP for years and I was beyond excited to see your podcast, its perfect.

  • A first birthday… so much fun. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcast and I’m sure you’ll enjoy what you find over at Clickin Moms. On next week’s show, Rick Sammon also talks about how to get a good “blowing out the candles” photo. You’ll be ready to go!

  • We just celebrated my daughter’s 5th birthday with a homemade 3 layer neon pink cake. I brought it over to the table, then grabbed my camera while everyone sang happy birthday and got the shot of her blowing out the candles. But my strong preference is to have a fellow momtog at the party I can hand my camera over to and trust to grab the important shots, and maybe be in a few myself. 🙂 I’ve had this luxury at a few past birthdays and it can’t be beat!

  • Homemade cake, you carried it, AND you shot it? Sounds like you made it the best of all things, Summer!! <3 Such great advice about handing the camera off, too. It's so important to be in pictures.

  • I love picturing that cake! My four year old would love a neon pink cake.

    I also love the idea of having someone else take some photos. In my family’s birthday photos, I’m a ghost.

  • We have the cake on a counter or table and we light the candles there in front of the birthday kid. So that makes photographing easier. My son just had a birthday and his cake was outdoors. The wind kept blowing the candles out so I didn’t get a chance to photograph the first wish :). However, like your podcast noticed, those images are important to my kids. He wanted a recreation/redo with me in a good spot for images. Win-win 🙂 We have a little tradition where we collect the cake pictures to share on their birthday. One year for my daughter, I shared each year’s cake on the hour on social media for her to see. She actually cried to see time travel that fast. Balance is important- I stay in the moment and don’t ask them to stop for a photo (usually :))

  • We’ve had the same thing happen when blowing out the candles outside. And, we’ve also done recreations for various reasons. I love your tradition of gathering the cake pictures from years past!

  • Yes! That’s such an affirmation of why we shoot — I enjoy and value it, but I know that one day, my children will be so grateful that I made it a priority, too.

  • I love it!! My kids would totally go for a re-do if it meant another cake, lol. And what a brilliant tradition and fantastic idea for a social media share. <3 I may have to try that myself!!

  • My daughter is now 15 months old, we celebrated her 1st Birthday in May of this year. She had reflux almost from the get go which meant constantly walking here to sleep no matter how many times she woke during the night, trying to make sure she slept on a slant in our bed, my wife heroically going off almost every type of food for weeks on end as well as constantly comforting her. During the first six months we gave all we had to simply survive then during the following six we slowly came out of the shell-shock of incomprehension and sleep deprivation, shook off a haze of bewilderment and continued to revel in the wonder at what a beautiful being we have the privilege of accompanying and caring for.

    On her first birthday I handed over my camera to my wife or maybe it was my sister-in-law to take a picture of us together. I love the snapshot of us both, it brings me right back to the moment, the pride and joy of being a one year old dad. Her birthday marked our first birthday as parents, it seemed incredible that we’d made it that far. That’s me and Maggie there.

    I’ll definitely continue to hand the camera over to someone each time her birthday comes around. I also got my tripod out and got lovely group shots of all who were present that day. I don’t think anyone likes organising group shots but I always feel they’re worth it after the event.

    Sarah’s honesty and openess about her creative and personal life was so rich. “A slump is a period of dormant growth”. What an encouraging enlightening message to share.

    This mix of personal talk and photography talk is what makes me eagerly await each episode.

    Keep up the great work and start handing over that camera, you’ll be in for a treat.

  • Thank you so much for your story of Maggie’s first year and the tender photo of the two of you. A first birthday of a first baby is a celebration for the parents of making it around the sun with a new person. I can hear in your writing how much you and your wife struggled and also how madly you are in love with her. I can see it in the photo.

    I loved what Sarah said about going through a dormant period too. There’s a sign on a plant in a conservatory here that says, “I’m not dead. I’m dormant.” I love that sign because it reminds me that growth is happening even if it can’t be seen – like Sarah’s slump that she talked about.

    Last night my son made a s’more and hot dog stand on our street. He was excited the whole time as he roasted the marshmallows and when it was over he was beaming. I handed the camera to my 10 year old to get a photo of me with him. I have to remind myself to get into photos but I’m never sorry I did.

  • Thank you so much for your story of Maggie’s first year and the tender photo of the two of you. A first birthday of a first baby is a celebration for the parents of making it around the sun with a new person. I can hear in your writing how much you and your wife struggled and also how madly you are in love with her. I can see it in the photo.

    I loved what Sarah said about going through a dormant period too. There’s a sign on a plant in a conservatory here that says, “I’m not dead. I’m dormant.” I love that sign because it reminds me that growth is happening even if it can’t be seen – like Sarah’s slump that she talked about.

    Last night my son made a s’more and hot dog stand on our street. He was excited the whole time as he roasted the marshmallows and when it was over he was beaming. I handed the camera to my 10 year old to get a photo of me with him. I have to remind myself to get into photos but I’m never sorry I did.

  • Great podcast! I celebrate our birthdays by handling the camera instead of the cake! Over the years, I’ve gotten better and normally take a few shots at the beginning of each activity and then set the camera on a shelf during parties so I can enjoy everyone and be in the moment.

  • It was my dad’s birthday when I heard this podcast last week so I made sure to carry the cake. I’m not sure what I’ll do for my daughter’a birthday, but I enjoy thought provoking interviews like this one.

  • At least you’re thinking about it. I didn’t think about it until I started talking about it here. I held the camera every time.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I did too. ~Jenny

  • Hi Kristen! I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast. That’s a good idea to take a few photos at the beginning of activities. That way you get the feeling of the party from the photos but can also be in the moment. ~ Jenny

  • I especially loved this episode, Jenny! My Mom always makes birthday cakes for our girls (so delicious!) and she always carries them . . . but to tell you the truth, I don’t have many birthday cake photos. I think I just prefer to sing! 🙂

  • Thank you, Zane. I loved this one too. I had lots to think about when we were done talking. I love that your mom makes the girls’ cakes and that does give her the privilege of carrying them. It sounds like you enjoy the moment and don’t get to caught up in the making a photo. Thanks for listening. ~ Jenny

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