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!
If you’ve followed me for a while, you might already know about my long-running portrait project 50 Faces. For those who don’t know – here’s a quick summary of what it’s all about.
Back in spring of 2014, I decided I wanted to learn more about portrait photography – that I might actually want to be a portrait photographer – but I wasn’t sure. Up until this point my serious photography had been focused on the sport that my husband and I were deep into – rock climbing. I’d started photographing climbing for the record of what we’d acheived, and had taken many successful images of the landscapes in which we climbed and the routes we took from top to bottom. Increasingly though I was finding it more interesting to focus on what I now know are called ‘environmental portraits’ of the climbers, to try and capture the feeling of climbing through their expressions and their body positions.
I decided that the best way to find out whether I should pursue portraiture as a creative avenue, was to simply do more of it. To hone my skills in portraiture by simply getting a lot of practice and deciding what worked and what didn’t, what I liked and what I didn’t. I didn’t want it to be totally random though and I decided quite early on (after a number of people I photographed asked me what I planned to do with the images) that I wanted this to be a project and potentially an exhibition so I made them all black and white and all square format – limitation being the father of creativity afterall!
Fast forward to today and the project is finally complete. In the intervening years I have met and photographed a lot of interesting people! Many of these people I already knew, quite a number I did not. Many surfaced as volunteer subjects with whom I’ve since become friends. I took my project to various places I travelled to, including my time spent working in Oman but I also focused on those close to home. What I’ve realised is that I have definitely changed, developed and found a style as a portrait photographer – and I adore it! I love the challenge, the interaction with the subject, the planning to get the perfect shot and even the failure when something just didn’t quite work. I love the look on a person’s face when they see their image and they love it, and the sometimes quizzical reactions of those who see something they didn’t quite expect. I love the collaboration of making something that truly reflects the person, whether at just that moment in time or with deeper meaning and connection with their personality, their life, their loves. More than anything I love the creativity, the multitude of ways that a person can be represented in a photograph and the sheer variety even within the self-imposed limitations of the black and white, square image.
Technically, all that progress (along with a lot of additional training which I would never have known I needed without this project to help me realise what I didn’t know) has led to me launching Sian T. Photography and moving forward with my photography knowing that the path I’d glimpsed back in 2014 was indeed the right one.
I’ll be writing more about 50 Faces over the coming weeks and will eventually share the whole project – for now just know that the exhibition (entitled Face to Face and in collaboration with two other amazing artists) opens on 13th June 2017 at Cranleigh Arts Centre, Surrey, UK. I’m both excited and terrified about the whole thing. This is 3 years of my work out there to be judged, but more than that it’s the story of my photographic life over those 3 years and how it’s made me who I am today.