Lifestyle

Real family photos

Ditch the fake family photoshoot. Photographer Billie Charity explains how to take pictures that really capture the moment – as it happened.

Published

For me, photography is a way to capture a moment in time which would otherwise zoom past. When you have children, time moves along so quickly and if we don't take the time to take photos, these moments are gone before we realise.

Having children has massively accelerated my passion for photography. I feel that photos are so important to have, as a reminder of milestones, special occasions. Because children grow and change so fast, it’s very easy to forget things. Now my children are teenagers, I love looking through photos of them when they were little, and I know that in years to come I will love looking at them as teenagers too.

The classic family photo was usually taken in a studio against a white background, everyone including the dog looking at the camera and wearing their best clothes. And where some will still opt for this look, the more relaxed, candid family photos are becoming more popular, and they are definitely the type that I prefer. Posed pictures with forced smiles and ‘say cheese’ smiles feel weird to me, and they lack authenticity.

While it’s great to get photos of the family splashing in waves and running along beaches, I also find that it can be great to capture every day moments, like brushing teeth, cooking, even arguing - ­ these often give great shots.

Try to blend in with your environment and don’t make eye contact with your subjects, so they don’t feel self-conscious or intimidated by the camera.

A great way to get natural shots, is to conceal the fact that you are taking photos. Try to blend in with your environment and don’t make eye contact with your subjects, so they don’t feel self-conscious or intimidated by the camera. You could either position yourself at a distance and use a zoom lens or place yourself right in the middle of the action: both will give different results but are very effective.

Background

The background in your photos is almost as important as the subject/person in the foreground. So when taking photos, take note of what’s behind your subject. A natural uncluttered background is perfect, and you can think about the colours as well. I love it when the colour of a background matches or offsets the colour of a person's hair or clothes. You can also have fun with any text or signs that might be behind a person.

Lighting

Photos taken during ‘golden hour’ can be magic. Golden hour is approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. Because of the sun’s low position in the sky, it gives a very soft light. Try to avoid taking photos in harsh sunlight, ­ cloud and hazy days are perfect ­ or find shade, to eliminate shadows.

I always avoid using flash, and work with natural lighting. Flash photography is really hard to get right and the subjects usually end up looking washed out. I find that natural light is always best.

Focus

Always make sure the subject's face is in focus. Lots of cameras, even on phones, now do this automatically.

Perspective

Crouch down or shoot from above to get a different perspective. You could also shoot from the hip, where you hold your camera down by your hip and click away. ­ This takes a bit of practice but you can get some really fun shots this way. Bear in mind that some people don't love having their photo taken from below as it can be a bit unflattering especially in terms of multiplying chins!

Practice

Keep practicing! In this age of digital photography it costs nothing to take photos, and the more photos you take the better you will become. Also, encourage your children to take photos of the family - ­ a child’s perspective is often very different but really original.

... encourage your children to take photos of the family - ­ a child’s perspective is often very different but really original.

Printing and storing

It’s a good idea to print photos and not leave them on your phone or computer. My teenage daughters have recently discovered the amazing novelty of actual printed photos. Or make photo books ­ there are many companies now that make producing photo books inexpensively. Consider setting yourself up with an Instagram account, which is super easy to use and if you want you can stay private and just use it as a digital scrapbook.

A candid photo will take you right back to the moment it was captured, evoking the feelings and memories from that time. Enjoy!

Billie Charity is a professional photographer and author of new book Lockdown Light, price £25.

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