When I lift my camera I don’t want to just take a photo. I want to tell a tale. Story telling. Memories. For me these are the essence of photography. Whether the image tells the viewer the whole story in a way words never could or whether the image is the catalyst to remember and laugh or cry together while sharing recollections. This is what a good photograph should do. When I am editing images there are times when I have a direct emotional response to the image and that’s when I know “I’ve got it”. I photograph a huge range of subjects, people and places. For me one of the most important types of photography I do is family photography.
What I want to create with family photography is to tell a part of the family’s story. Typically we spend 2 -3 hours together doing 2 things that you love. The most important of those is being together. The second is where we go. On a wild Scottish winter day we might wrap up in 17 layers of clothes, rain gear and wellies and stride off out for a walk with family dogs before returning home to enjoy mugs of hot chocolate and warming our toes in front of the fire. In summer, as in the family shoot below we may do something rather different. But what ever we do we choose something that you love. For me the photographer’s role is to record your family, to capture the essence of your relationship and your ways of being.
Here are my tips for family photography that lasts and connects you to that time whenever you look at the photographs.
1. Location. This is twofold. Choose a location (or an activity ) that you love for your photoshoot and then document the place as well as the people.
2. Think about the time of day you are going to photograph. In winter grey skies or even white cloud often mean that any time of day will produce soft even light for lovely portraits. In summer I prefer to shoot in the morning or late afternoon when the lower sun produces gentle golden light that is soft and side lights the subject as opposed to bright overhead light which makes people scrunch up their eyes.
3.Use chapters in your story. I have grouped the photographs from this shoot in differing sections. The journey to and from the location, the activity, the children, the Mum, scene setting photographs when the location changes. I often create story boards to illustrate certain chapters of the story. For example the photographs of the children swimming in the secret pool.
4 Be ready. I will often sit for periods, camera raised and just be ready to shoot what is going on. I wait for a combination of light, expression and feeling to come together in front of the lens.
5. Allow the individuals to have their place in the story, let their personality come through. The less posed the photographs the more true each image will be.
The story in the shoot below centres on a local family enjoying spending time at one of their most favourite places. I will call it Skye’s secret Shangri La. We planned this shoot for a long time but as Dad works overseas it was often difficult to schedule and in the end we decided to make the images while he was away and give him prints from the day for his birthday suprise. We met at the family home and I was told we were going to a secret location. I couldn’t wait! Setting off with the family’s two beautiful dogs we walked into a valley and started to climb up the side of a mountain river. When I finally saw the the natural pools where this family swim and picnic I was overwhelmed. In the late afternoon sun the water glistened and sparkled. Within seconds children and dogs had plunged in! In my mind when I look at the images from that afternoon I can hear children’s laughter ringing around the pool, shrieks as they pushed each other into the green waters and slid down the rock slides, the splashing as dogs belly flopped in after the children and the feel of icy cold droplets of water landing on my skin as a dog shook herself dry beside me.
As the sun started to set we strolled back to the car and headed back to the family home to make some more images in the wild gardens around the house. As Mum made coffees the children and I chatted in the meadow. The sun was warm, the air rich with the scents of summer.
I am grinning broadly as I write this, remembering. Enjoying their story. Telling their tale.
All words and images Rosie Woodhouse at Love Skye Photography