Recording your summer in family photographs

Recording your summer in family photographs


As summer is well in full bloom and plane tickets are booked then excitement rises about what are often the biggest trips of the year.  Family holidays; the fortnight that summer is built around is often the high point of the entire year. These are times where the family get to spend time together and visit new places or return to a favourite spot, perhaps a grandparent’s house or second home in the country. Memories will be made and many of us will record these in photographs that we can look back on in years to come and re-live the long summer days.

But how to get the best pictures? As phones become more sophisticated and our children more camera aware we are taking more and more pictures, recording every moment in detail.  Often these pictures just languish on our phones, not quite matching the images we had in mind. So today I’ll share some tips to improve your pictures and help you to take the best images of your family over the coming summer.

  • Don’t aim for perfection

It’s really hard to take a perfect family photograph which is why professionals are paid well for their skills.  So don’t judge yourself by the best images you see on Instagram, instead, be inspired by others and then bring your own ideas to your images.  A joyous moment will always be better than a technically perfect photograph where nothing is happening, so look for the things you want to remember.  Focus on how your children interact with each other, the knowing looks and belly laughs and take pictures of these things that make you smile. The more pictures you take the more your technical skills will improve and soon you will be shooting like a pro.

  • Take a lot of pictures, digital has revolutionised photography by allowing us to take more images and learn from our mistakes.  Embrace the freedom this gives you and take lots of images. Carry your camera throughout the summer whether it’s a phone or a digital SLR, the best camera is the one you have with you.  If you do want to improve your photography or want an excuse to leave your phone at home then there are lots of amazing cameras on the market now from tiny, but powerful, compact cameras that will fit in your pocket to professional level DSLRs.  If you are unsure what to buy visit a shop where you can talk to someone and look at the different models to find which will suit you best.

  • Experiment with your pictures.  The more creative you get then the more fun it becomes.  Try different angles, shooting low down at your child’s level to see the world from their perspective or shooting from above to get a bird’s eye view.  Try slow shutter speeds to bring out a feeling of movement if your child is on a bicycle or a swing, or a wide aperture (or portrait mode on your camera or iPhone) to get a beautiful creamy background.  

  • Look for the best light.  In the summer months then first thing in the morning is often the best time as good light and great moods combine.  The sun will be low in the sky offering beautiful soft light whereas in the middle of the day the high contrast makes photography more difficult and increases the likelihood of people squinting in pictures.  Make use of the fact children wake up so early to get out and about to the park before the rest of the world wakes up, it’s wonderful to be the first people on the beach.

Open shade is perfect for family photography, get the activities happening in the shadow of a tree for soft even light and flattering photos.

  • Think about your composition.  Before you take a picture look around your image – does the subject fill the frame and are there distracting elements that could be removed if you step to one side or another – a tree growing out of someone’s head or a litter bin in the background.  Take a moment to think about how your image could be improved before you click the shutter and you will see a radical improvement in your photography.

  • Get the kids involved choosing activities and outfits

The children will often have great ideas for pictures so take the time to ask them what they would like to do for your family shots.  Asking the children also gives them some ownership of the activity which can greatly increase their co-operation, which is particularly important when photographing teenagers.

The children might also have favourite outfits they want to wear and if they don’t match with the ones you had in mind then do some in both to keep everyone happy.

  • Think about what you will want to remember from this summer, what is the activity that will sum is up.  I’m hoping for weeks of beautiful weather and lots of fun in the sprinklers in the garden, but your children might love playing board games or reading books indoors.  Photograph their activities of choice as that is where memories are made.

  • Do take time to get in the pictures yourself.  Whether using a self-timer, a selfie stick, asking a friend or hiring a professional, make sure that everyone is present in the images as these pictures are for you now but also for the children when they grow up.  You can be sure that it’s the people in their lives, the family who they love, that they will want to see in the pictures when they are older.

Let the children take pictures of you, then it becomes a family activity and a future hobby for all involved.  Encourage the children to experiment with their pictures and then print them and frame them on the wall. What better way to encourage a budding photographer than having their picture in pride of place on the mantlepiece at home.  

  • Most importantly have fun.  If photography is fun for all involved then the kids will love having their pictures taken and you, and they, can create memories you will all be able to look back on as the years go by.

Helen Bartlett is an award-winning family photographer and brand ambassador for Canon. She specialises in natural, black and white, photographs of babies, children and families and is available for commissions in the UK and Europe.

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