What’s the very best thing about photographing children and families? Simple, I get to meet and work with interesting and lovely people, oh and the hours are fab too. In fact, spending an hour or so in the studio with most clients feels more like spending time with friends. We’re very lucky in that many of our clients will visit the studio several times as their young family grows and it feels like a genuine privilege to be a small part of their lives. It’s been 4 years since I first had the pleasure of meeting Jacob with his mum and dad. A vibrant, fun loving 2 year old boy with the most infectious grin in the world. Jacob returned this weekend with his very beautiful, almost doll like, younger sister Florrie who I’d been pre-warned was a very different character to her freely expressive brother. A tough cookie.
After briefly catching-up with mum and dad over a brew I knew that I really needed to crack on with the photoshoot, the attention span of a 18 month old is pretty limited! I certainly found Florrie’s personality to be a little more intense and thoughtful compared to Jacob, I had to work a little harder to tease out the smiles, but they soon started flowing. Gorgeous natural cheekiness without a hint of cheese, a bit of a favourite of mine.
To me, children’s photography is all about natural character. I’m not interested in forced smiles, the eyes always tell the truth. Neither am I interested in mean, moody and posed shots. I want to capture real personality and emotion. From the quiet pensive moments when a child is first trying to suss me out (do I like him, do I trust him, why is he trying to blind me with those stupid bright things, my god he’s got a big nose) to the moment they almost forget I’m there and burst into spontaneous fits of giggles (when dad pulls a silly face behind my back, when a sibling tickles them with a studio puppet or, in Florrie’s case, when the fan blasts her face with air). If it’s not real then it’s not believable.
After capturing a lovely variety of individual portraits, nearly always my own personal favourites and kind of what I’m renowned for, I then moved onto photographing Jacob and Florrie together. Every parent, including ourselves, wants a half decent photograph of their brood together. I think it’s fair to say that over the 5 years I’ve been specialising in family portraiture I’ve developed a pretty robust workflow of group shots. Some set-ups work well for very young children, others for slightly older but all of them require the full participation and cooperation of parents plus all are exhausting at best and mildly stressful at worse!
Thankfully mum and dad were absolute superstars with saint like patience. Even though Jacob and Florrie had no intention of letting me photograph them together, (they’d obviously made some kind of cunning pact before arriving at the studio) we battled on through a fine display including over-zealous cuddling, razzing about on all fours pretending to be puppies, running and hurling themselves onto the bean bag and generally anything other than sitting calmly, looking at the camera and smiling… naturally of course. A little bit left-wing but I actually rather like the results!
Massive thanks to both mum and dad for visiting the studio again, always genuinely flattering, but mainly to Jacob and Florrie who made an otherwise dull and dreary afternoon in January extremely bright, warm and full to the brim with laughter!