Helen Bartlett is award-winning family photographer and a brand ambassador for Canon. She has been working as a professional photographer since 2003 and specialises in natural, black and white photographs of children and families. She is based in London but regularly travel throughout Europe photographing families having fun together and capturing memories for the children to look back on in the future.
Thank you Helen, for sharing your top tips…
The suitcases are packed, the kids are excited and the summer holiday draws near. This is the time of year that many of us reach for our cameras or our phones to record the fun times spent together as a family, to take photographs that the kids can look back on and remember the seemingly endless summers of their childhood, and the fun we have together.
In this article I want to share with you some of the tricks I have learnt over fourteen years as a family photographer. Tips that will, I hope, inspire you to make this year the best year for your family photographs.
1. Carry your camera with you
This might seem obvious but I’m as guilty as the next person of taking my camera away on holiday and then leaving it in my hotel room. If your camera is too heavy, then perhaps now’s the time to get a smaller one that you can carry with you and there are so many brilliant compacts out there that offer you a lot of creative control while still fitting in a pocket.
The benefit of a separate camera is also that you can be phone-free and concentrate on your time together as a family without the temptation to check in on email.
The main thing is to remember that the best camera is the one you have with you so work out what suits you best and carry it with you everywhere.
2.Pick your moments
There are two parts to this tip – good times for the children and good times for the light and they are both equally important for a great results.
The best light is in the golden hour just before sunset and just after dawn but equally, trying to photograph a toddler past their bedtime is a recipe for disaster.
Work around the children’s schedules and never miss a nap for a photo opportunity, tired children are not easy subjects for the camera.
I find that first thing in the morning works best for both the light and the children’s moods as everyone is full of energy, has fully tummies from breakfast, and kids are usually really happy to cooperate for some family pictures before the day gets started.
Of course, equally don’t let a great moment pass you by just because the light isn’t great, if everyone is happy and having fun then that is the most important thing.
3. Look for the light
Light can make or break a picture and the more you look for it the better your pictures will be. Open shade, such as under a tree, is perfect for family groups as nobody will be squinting and the light is soft and flattering.
If you are indoors then find a window and have your children sit nearby and look towards the light for the best pictures. Bright sunlight on the beach at the middle of the day can be very difficult for photography due to the wide contrast and harsh shadows so try to take beach shots early in the morning or towards the end of the day when the sun is lower in the sky.
At sunset consider taking silhouette images –expose your images for the sky and get the children to jump in the air or hold hands for a beautiful picture.
4. Photograph everyone having fun and engaging in activities
It’s tempting on family holidays to come back with a selection of pictures of the family posed in front of different landmarks. These pictures have their place, of course, but it’s also nice to mix in more candid shots of everyone having fun.
Instead of posing statically before a beautiful view perhaps get the kids to play a game and use the environment as an element of the picture rather than the main focus. If there are games or activities that will sum up your holiday, then make sure to photograph those.
5. Photograph the details too
These can be delightful to look back on, the teddy your child refused to leave at the hotel the entire trip, the crabs you caught by the sea.
Take pictures that will spark conversations with your children when you get home or when you look back on the pictures in a few years’time.
6. Tell a story
Engaging in activities and photographing details are all part of a bigger picture, that of telling the story of your holiday. Try to take pictures that remind you of what was happening and with whom.
If your kids are constantly winding each other up, do photograph that too, some of my favourite shots of my brother and I from my childhood we are bickering and laughing at the same time.
7.Take pictures of all the important people
Summer holidays are often the time we catch up with grandparents and it’s wonderful to photograph the children with the older generation.
Look for the activities people do together as this takes the pressure off posing for a picture and also makes the resulting images so much more meaningful.
8. Make sure to get in the pictures yourself!
In every family there is always someone who is the main photographer. In my family it was my dad and there are less pictures of him from my childhood than of the rest of us.
With smartphones and selfie sticks, self-timers on compact, mirrorless or DSLR cameras it’s easier than ever to make sure everyone is in the frame. Your children will love seeing pictures with you in and if you struggle with selfies, I always seem to have my hand over the lens, ask someone else to take your picture, or even think about hiring a professional.
It’s becoming increasingly common for families to hire a photographer for half a day while on holiday to accompany the family and take pictures of everyone having fun. This is a fantastic option, as it means you can be present in the action and leave the professional to take care of the pictures.
9. Edit your pictures
Back them up.
Make a book.
It’s easy to take pictures and then forget to edit them and once you are back home then normal day to day pressures take over and often the images get forgotten.
Try editing your pictures of an evening, apps like Adobe Lightroom are now available for your phone or iPad and are perfect for holidays.
I also love Snapseed and use it to process all the pictures I take on my phone.
Do keep a copy of the unprocessed version of your favourite images in case you want to go back to reprocess in the future. Do remember to back up all your images as phones and hard drives do fail.
There are a lot of cloud-based storage options available now and these are amazing. Then print your pictures, pop favourites in frames or tape them to the fridge. Perhaps make a book of thesummer of 2018 that you can all look back through together. Make sure the pictures are looked at as this is what it is all about.
10. Have fun
Most of all enjoy it, have fun. Taking photographs of our loved ones is one of the most wonderful and rewarding things we can do. Images that everyone will look back on in the future and remember the good times they had together, it’s a great gift for the children and it’s such fun to do.
This is so useful. I especially liked 7 and 8 – get yourself and the Grandparents in photo! Thank you Helen!