A couple of months ago, a client and friend let me know that one of the photos I had taken of her and her daughter had gained a ‘highly commended’ in the Carers UK photography competition. I don’t enter many competitions because I’m not good with the idea of ‘better versus worse’ in photography, but I’d agreed to this one because it’s such a good cause and my friend is so passionate about showing people that caring for her 25 year old daughter is not what they might at first think.
The news that we were highly commended was of course very welcome and I’m really glad that they felt my images communicated the tenderness and the sense of fun that I looked to show. However, it got me to thinking about why I love this kind of image so much. To be honest they often don’t sell to clients who prefer a more standard ‘everyone smile’ shot. But the clients that do enjoy them, REALLY love them.
For me, and for these people (whom I love dearly for their enjoyment of these images) it’s about more that what you see; it’s about the feeling. It’s about a photograph that captures a relationship, a shared moment, or the simple everyday interactions. It’s about remembering the emotion of the moment; what was said between two people, what they were looking at; about a physical or emotional connection. That is why I love these gentle photographs and why after every shoot, these are the ones I find myself looking at again and again.
A lot of people I talk to say that they’d love to get some great images of their families, but they’re worried about what it will be like. They say they don’t know how to pose, worry that the kids will misbehave and feel like the images they have in their head aren’t possible for their family. I’ve written before about what you need to know if you are considering a family photo session but I wanted to talk a bit about what a family photo experience with me is really like – of course the best people to tell you about that are the people that have experienced it!
Luckily, I recently photographed Amber Evans (editor of Muddy Stillettos Surrey) and her family at the lovely Box Hill near Dorking. With two teenagers, husband and pooches in tow we headed out on their first ever professional family photo shoot and she’s been kind enough to write about it.
Your family photo shoot should be a fun experience in itself. It’s not only an investment of your money but also of your time and let’s face it – who’s got either time or money they can afford to waste! Whether you want the photographs for your own wall or as gifts for the rest of the family, whether your children are small, teens or even furry – the experience should be something remembered with fondness and smiles. Preparation is key as is finding the right photographer for you. Photographers all have different styles so be sure to look for someone whose portfolio matches what you want from your images. I like to have a good chat with all my clients before their shoot so that I understand who they are and what they’re looking for and I can be sure that I can get them images they’ll love. If I can’t – then I’ll try and match them up with a different photographer who can.
My style of family photography tends towards the documentary. I shoot a lot of black and white and many of my images don’t have everyone smiling direct to camera. I like to walk and shoot, stopping occasionally for set ups and capturing shots on the move as well. I do direct people, I will ask you to walk in a certain direction or look at each other. I will try to make you laugh and I may fall over (happens more often than I’d like). I flex my approach depending on who I’m with. If your kid is loving the camera and wants to do cartwheels in their photos we will do it. If your teenager doesn’t want to look at the camera at all that’s fine too. Above all else your photos should be true reflections of who you are and your relationships with each other. Family life is beautiful – it’s rarely perfect though and I think that’s what makes it awesome!
As we’ve started to see the sunshine a little bit for the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about how to inject a bit of fun and a bit of style for a different sort of kids portrait. I love natural kids portraits, particularly when they are busy as play and don’t even notice they’re being captured – it’s great and makes for timeless images that parents and grandparents always love.
But what if you’ve done a shoot like that recently? Maybe you had it done professionally or maybe you’ve mastered taking these photos yourself – what then? What could you do that would be a bit different, would be fun for the kids and get that all important gift for Granny or update for the family album? Maybe the natural look just isn’t for you and you’re after something more stylised, something indoors or just something that reflects your quirky personality.
Here are three ideas for unusual photo shoots – based on some things I’ve done with both clients and my own family and friends. The results might be a bit ‘marmite’ but if you like them – you’ll love them!
Flower crowns – I’m lucky to have a local florist who’s a dab hand at these and they are always so popular with little girls. Whether outdoors or in the studio they are a great way to add just a little bit of style when paired with pretty dresses or sassy street clothes. They can be whimsical or more rock ‘n’ roll and colours can be matched across groups to give a bit of cohesion in a diverse group.
Dressing up – celebrate what your kids are into by going for a full blown character shoot. Whether they want to be a princess, a pirate or a superhero there is tons of fun to be had both indoors and in the studio with costume, props and pretending!
Rocking it out! This shoot with my Dad and my boy really got me thinking about the possibilities for showcasing hobbies in your photographs. In this case we had musical instruments, but it would work really well with sports equipment too!
If any of these appeal to you for your next family photo session, or perhaps you’ve got your own wild and wacky idea please do get in touch – I can’t wait to hear from you!
When I first started doing photography for other people I didn’t charge – instead I asked them to make a donation to my favourite charity – Unicef. This was great in most cases and so many of my clients were happy to make generous donations which was great! However, as time went on and the expenses of running a photography business materialised (website, equipment, insurance blah blah) I wasn’t able to continue in this vein so a new approach was needed.
I wanted to continue to give back to charity because it feels so good to do that, and like many people I’m not really in a position (yet!) to make large cash charity donations on a regular basis. So I started donating family photography sessions to various good local causes – everything from school fetes, to tombolas, to raffles and full scale charity auctions. The way I look at it is this – even if the person who wins the session doesn’t need it/want it they and many others will have donated money the to charity for their ticket and that is a good thing. In addition the person who wins might end up having spent a couple of pounds and got something they otherwise couldn’t afford to do – so that’s a good thing too. I always include a few branded images in these sessions so that people can (if nothing else and they cannot or don’t want to buy prints and things) share their session on Facebook and what not – so win win really!
Don’t get me wrong, there are sound business reasons for this approach too. It helps get my name out there and people sharing photos on Facebook with my logo on is great advertising. These are local charities so there are lots of people there who are potential clients and I’ve also picked up a few business clients from things like this, plus opportunities to get involved with other local events. Some winners even buy a print or some digital images from their shoot so that covers a little of the cost of doing this – but it’s the charity that really benefits and that’s why I love doing it.
I wanted to share some of the images from a recent family shoot that was the result of a charity auction at a local school in aid of Born Free Foundation– one of my favourite locally based charities. I had such a wonderful time with this great family, they made a generous donation to the charity and were so welcoming to me at their shoot. I had a brilliant time both on the day and afterwards processing the images and I love how they came out despite it being quite a grey day.
A huge thank you to these guys and to all the families who’ve made donations to various charities for their photo shoots over the last few years – I’m so looking forward to more of these in the coming spring and summer months!