The way that I photograph portraits is to honestly, sensitively and joyfully capture your life. Your real life, full of movement, emotions and contrasts. A story of who you are, how you live, love and laugh. Your story, unique and precious to you so that it can be celebrated for years to come.
You are afforded the rare opportunity to simply "be" with your partner, your kids, your pets - whoever may be included in your session - and for that reason it's not uncommon to walk away from this session feeling recharged, energised and just plain great.
The images from your session therefore become so much more than just a photo. They are picture portals that in years to come, will transport you back to a place and a whole raft of feelings synonymous with that time. And what could be more precious that that?
I love pictures that make you feel something. They draw a reaction, a gasp, an emotion. They make you look just a little bit longer.
This is what I look to create for my clients. Portraits that get to the heart of the connections between people. Portraits that are able to reflect all the nuances, mannerisms and expressions that are unique to each person. Portraits that in years to come, you can look back on and instantly, remember a time, a place, a feeling.
If you are looking for a studio portrait where everyone is looking at the camera, all neat and tidy, saying “cheese”, then I’m not the photographer for you.
If however, you want a series of images that embrace all the things you love about your favourite people and favourite places, then we’re going to be a good match.
One thing to consider is where you would like to have your session. It can often be a difficult thing for people to decide so I encourage you to take your time and think it through. Location provides the backdrop for your images and it is important that in some way, the setting either has meaning to you or reflects who you are and what you love to do.
Most people think that outdoor family photos need to take place in a park because, you know, the neighbour got their family photos in a park and they were nice and like, everyone gets their photos in a park, don't they?
If a park is where you want to head, then fantastic - parks are beautiful particularly if we are going to hit one that has special meaning and relevance to you and your family. But do know, there are so many options for you to consider and some that will really give an edge to your images. Hidden treasures within local reserves, amazing coastline settings, rooftop carparks with urban city-skyline backdrops and pine forests. Let me know the kind of setting you fancy, or indeed the types of things you love to do as a family and I can offer some suggestions.
Home is where the heart is...
One of my favourite place to photograph families is in their family home. Yup - no traffic, no GPS leading you up the garden path, no trying to find a carpark. I come to you, to the place you love and really experience a slice of your family life.
There is nowhere on earth that is more comfortable for you that your own home, snuggled up on your own bed with the kiddos who have climbed in there with you a million times throughout their little lives. They have all their favourite toys and stories at the ready, you can bake, make pancakes, jump on the trampoline and the family pets can even be included (encouraged to be included in fact!). In your home, I can really capture you in your environment and show you just how beautiful your everyday is.
Sold on a home session? Yay! Here's how to prepare.
To prepare your home I always suggest a clean and uncluttered environment. Dark, messy cluttered rooms can make be challenging and whilst the aim is to capture genuine emotions, the atmosphere of a messy environment can distract from the genuine moments happening.
A "lived in" home is absolutely fine, perfect in fact! We are certainly not looking to create a sterile, pristine clean environment that takes away all your history and memories of the now. This is simply about removing anything that might distract from the moments captured in your images, so you just have to find the right balance. Look at your home with fresh eyes and image how you want it to be reflected in your images.
The main spaces I shoot in (depending a lot on the natural light available in your home) are sitting room, master bedroom, kids rooms and kitchens. Bedding shouldn't be too distracting either - plan colours and lots of textures work beautifully (think snuggly throws, pillows, blankets layered and inviting). If you have an outdoor space and the lighting is right, we might use this also - front verandahs, back decks and the backyard. Again, we will always be at the mercy of the available natural light but it's good to keep these spaces in mind as you prepare for your upcoming session.
Light – it's important to note that natural window light is my favourite kind of light and the most flattering. If possible, we will be using spaces with the most natural window light. Rooms that have fluorescent or tungsten lights can often give off weird colour casts, usually green or orange tones, which is not ideal. During our session, you will see that I prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light where possible.
What to wear?
First and foremost - aim to dress in a way that makes you feel:
1) fantastic; and
2) 100% you.
I always recommend that clients coordinate (and not match!) their colour scheme. Choose one to three colours for the day for all family members involved and look for similar tones that go nicely together, dressing each family member within that palette. For example, dark green, navy and burgundy all go well together. Or light olive, white and denims. It's an approach that allows you to look great together, but still dress to reflect your individual style.
For men, simple plain t-shirts are perfect. Sleeves are recommended and if you can, layer up with casual jackets or over-shirts. Checkered shirts (like, that ones you might wear to the office) aren't ideal - they often conflict with what everyone else is wearing and when the checks are really small, they sometimes act like a Magic Eye picture and I swear I can see a dragon coming out of your chest.
For women, you can get as dressed up or stay as casual as you like. Clothing again should aim to use just simple colours, avoid distracting patterns, and be free of any logos, text or prints. Once again, sleeves are recommended and short dresses/skirts should be avoided. I love a cute short dress, I just know that when it comes to rolling around on the grass with the kiddos or your lover, that things can get R-Rated pretty quickly.
For everyone - logos, text or large, distracting print should be avoided. Keep jewellery simple. Please remove wrist watches for the duration of the shoot.
Oh and finally, if you all turn up wearing jeans and white t-shirts, I might cry actual tears.
If you are stuck for inspiration, head over to Pinterest for some great ideas.
What to expect
If your session is being held at home, I'll arrive a few minutes early, kick off my shoes and ask for a tour of your home. During this time, I'll be checking out the best light in each room, taking a few test shots and observing items around the home that give clues to who you are.
For outdoor shoots, I normally visit the location prior to your session and will have a good idea as to where we should all head to when you arrive.
We will always start with a 5 minute chat as to how you are all feeling about your upcoming session - anxieties, excitement, questions - and I'll walk you through how I foresee the session running to make sure that we are on the same page and achieve all you are wanting to achieve. I will have an idea of what needs to be captured but please also note that I always - ALWAYS - come with an open mind as I've never had a shoot that has gone 100% to plan (in the best kind of way!) Children in particular, will determine how the session runs and the best thing we adults and photographers can do, is follow their lead.
I will give direction and guidance throughout the shoot and if I feel we need a change in energy, I'll suggest we move to a different spot in your chosen location. I will often simply place you in the best position for light and framing and then let you get on with being yourselves, taking a real fly on the wall approach. Other times, I might offer little prompts for close interactions but in my experience, once we get into the session, all the lovely connections just start flowing naturally.
Please always allow up to 90 minutes for your session.
It's all about timing.
If you have decided on an outdoor session, it is vital that we only shoot during certain times of the day. At midday, the sun is smack bang in the middle of the sky, which causes unforgiving shadows under eyes, squinty kids, potential sunburn and harsh, uneven light all round.
Where at all possible, I recommend that we shoot your outdoor session either first thing in the morning, or last thing in the day.
The term Golden Hour is used and describes these very times. For morning shoots (and depending on the time of year), we would typically commence between 6 and 7am before the sun gets too high in the sky. For afternoon shoots, we would commence between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the winter, and between 4.30pm and 5.30pm in the summer to give us the best chance of that soft, most even and beautiful light.
Yes, the early mornings or late afternoons can be a challenge (particularly early mornings in the height of winter) but the results are well worth it! These times may conflict with your normal routine so if you have small children involved, be sure to prepare the kiddos and bring along snacks, water, toys and blankets.
Your unique story.
As your photographer, I actually aspire to do much more than simply take your photo. To be honest, there are probably a whole lot of people out there who can point and shoot a fancy-pants camera and do just that. I go further than that and look to capture who you are and the way you interact with those you love the most and that involves a lot more than simply taking a photo. I work with you in the lead up to your session to really understand who you are. I sometimes lower the camera so I can really see what is happening in front of me. Feel what's going on. And then I will pour over your images in my editing cave, piecing together your story carefully, creatively.
Telling your story beautifully does require a little bit of commitment your end. First and foremost, a commitment to be yourself. To let your kids, be themselves. Trust the process and trust me - that during a session of what feels like just having fun, can result in some pretty epic imagery.
A great way to achieve this, is to find an activity and a place that you and your family LOVE. Is it a trip to the beach to eat ice-cream? Or finding a secret hideaway and playing hide and seek? Teddy-bears' picnics, kite flying, pool parties, Sunday breakfast-in-bed sessions - pick something that you wish you could just bottle up and keep forever. When you land on this, everything else will just fall into place.
Let the kids be kids
I work a lot with children and whilst we all know the saying working with about kids and pets, I have to be honest - the kids rarely the issue.
Adults - in this little section, I'm going to be pretty blunt. And it's for a reason, based on loads of experience and an absolute commitment to achieving the best images for you and your family.
Out of countless* photographers out there (*okay, so maybe you could count the number of photographers out there, but you'd have to have a lot of spare time), you've chosen me. You've either heard about me from a friend, followed me for a bit on social media, or just by luck somehow landed on my site and spent a few minutes scrolling through some of my favourite images.
You'll see from my images, that I'm not wanting you to all stand perfectly in a line, turn to the camera, and say "Cheese!" Ever.
Quite simply, let the kids be kids. Abandon your need to control the situation and trust that I will be able to get the best images based on my experience of working with families and the fact that your kid is kicking back, relaxed and having fun.
These are precious times that will not be here forever. And when they are skulking around the home with their mouth full of braces, heads buried in their phone, you'll want to look at an image from years ago that instantly returns the memory of their giggles, their dirty little feet in the air, sweaty, their hair messy and falling all over their face. Loving you more than anything.
Tears and tantrums
Parents - no matter the bribes you offer, the amount of sleep they get the night before or the full meal you all had before heading out the house - your kids may have a meltdown during your photography session.
Do not panic! The kids are going to pick up on your vibe, so if you are anxious and want them to behave like perfect angels, then they are likely to do the exact opposite. I'm pretty good with kids so we will make it work, I promise. We will just embrace whatever is going on because families are wonderful and frustrating and crazy and amazing all at the same time. Some of the images my clients love most in the end, are the ones that capture "his petted lip!" or "her cranky face!"
And if nothing else, you'll have some pearlers to pull out on their 21st birthday.
You will see a sneak peek in the first few days after the shoot - this usually happens as I'm uploading my memory card and getting so excited about what I'm seeing.
Then, within 2-4 weeks, I'll get in touch with the very exciting news that the rest of your images are ready to preview. You will be invited to your Design + Ordering Appointment which takes place at my home studio where I'll invite you to sit down, partake in some kind of baked treat and watch the slideshow of your beautiful story. I have to say, this is one of the best parts of my job, getting to watch your reaction to your images for the first time.
At this time, you will get to sample first-hand the many beautiful ways you can enjoy your images, be it up on the wall in amazing canvas displays, or boxed print-sets or stunning fine art family albums. Then, you make your image selection and we complete your order. It's as simple as that! All orders must be placed within 5 days of your design and ordering appointment.
Please note that your session fee does not include any prints or digital images. Prints start at $150, wall art at $575 and stunning fine art family albums at $1000. Payment plans are available to all clients, with no set-up fee required.
Within 2 weeks of your order being placed, I'll be in touch to arrange your collection date and before you know it, you will have these beautiful keepsakes to cherish and share for many, many years to come.
If you have any questions in the lead up to our session together, please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0466 579 658.
Danielle (the Lightsmith)