Celebrate World Photo Day - four ideas to improve the photos you take with your family

How many photos do you take in the average day? Whichever camera you’re using, there are always ways to make your photos more creative and interesting, and better preserve the memories you want to keep.

This Sunday, 19th August, is World Photo Day which is a great chance for everyone to celebrate the power of photography to have a positive impact on our lives.

Here are my top tips to improve your family photo game this weekend, and share a little joy in the process.

1. Move before you capture

How often do we swipe up on our phone’s screen and take a photo of our kids from exactly the position we happen to be standing? When you want to take a photo, think about whether moving before you capture the image could improve your photo.

The reason a photo from standing level looks factual but perhaps a little dull is that we’re used to seeing the world from this level.

Ask yourself: what level are your kids at? If they are down low, could you take a photo from their level to capture their perspective, or show their expression head on? Or from below to show a moment of triumph such as climbing to the top of the slide?

 By getting down to Ethel's level, we can better connect with her when we see the photo

By getting down to Ethel's level, we can better connect with her when we see the photo

2. Why does it matter that you take this photo?

Before you snap, think about the message you want to send, or the mood you want to remember, and how you can express this. Some ideas include:

  • If you’re capturing two children engrossed in play, could you create a lot of negative space (for example sky, greenery or a wall) around them to portray the sense of them being in their own little world?
  • Cropping in your photo to focus on the thing which is interesting, for example, showing just your child’s smile and hands showing off an artistic creation, rather than a usual portrait?
  • Trying to take a photo when your subject doesn’t realise, or they’ve forgotten you’re photographing. Can you capture a moment when they’re concentrating or in a moment of thought? This can make for a more authentic portrait.
 Create space around your subjects to tell a story

Create space around your subjects to tell a story

How often do we swipe up on our phone’s screen and take a photo of our kids from exactly the position we happen to be standing?

3. Can you get a catchlight?

You know why the eyes of magazine cover stars always look so bright? They always have a catchlight in them – that little spec of light which lightens up the eyes and makes them shine. To get this, you need to make sure there’s a light source (or at least a very pale surface such as a white wall) reflecting in your subject’s eyes before you take the photo.

If they’re not in a position where this is possible, take a photo from a profile perspective (if you don’t have flash available) or of something else until they’re in the right position.

 Get a profile image if there's no catchlight

Get a profile image if there's no catchlight

4. Bring your own perspective

The fab thing about photography is that, with very few tools, you have the chance to show the world how you see things – your own unique perspective. When I’m out and about, I like to think of my camera as like a little scrapbook where I can hold onto cool little details I notice, which could be something as simple as a combination of colours, an interesting story unfolding or a dappled bit of light.

Think about the sorts of things you’d like to capture to make your own personal scrapbook too and tag your photos #worldphotoday to join in on the action. 

Five family photo moments for little ones that you won't want to miss this summer

Summer is such a brilliant time to try new things and, for little ones, it's full of sensory experiences. 

If, like me, you love taking every chance you can to get outside with the family, get creative with seasonal photos, and don't mind getting a little messy, here are the top five cheap (or free) experiences your little ones will love which will look fab on camera too. Whether you're using your phone or any other sort of camera, try these top tips this season. 

1. Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Summer photography is full of opportunities to show emotion as your little ones explore the textures around them, and the beach is a great place to capture this.

Through their eyes...

Zoom in to see things from their perspective - the first feeling of warm sand and freezing waves on your feet.

Through your eyes...

Zoomed out photos can help capture the overall mood and story of the moment. Before you take the photo, pause and check the composition, are you expressing the beauty of what you see?

When I see this photo of my daughter from a recent trip to the beach I'm immediately transported back to the feeling of that afternoon when we stumbled across a stunning abandoned beach that she couldn't wait to explore.

Beach explorer

I thought very carefully about the position of the horizon and the sparse clouds, which I think makes her look like an explorer in an undiscovered landscape. 

2. Cooling off with an ice cream (or frozen yoghurt for babies)

There's something so essentially summery about the pastel shades of ice cream, and they're a chance to get some happy expressions. Get in close to the ice cream (whether you're using a phone or camera) or crop the photo in an unusual way to focus on this happy feeling and the texture of those irresistible drips.

Dripping ice cream

3. walks in the countryside

There are so many beautiful locations in Kent and Sussex to enjoy the summertime countryside. Get down low to take your photo to show the 'wide angle' view of a family walk like here at Knole Park, Sevenoaks.

Walk at Knole

4. exploring meadows

Always hunt for the best textures in your photos - in winter it's jumpers and knits and in summer it's got to be flowers like dandelion clocks and whispy grasses. At this time of year, different flowers and seeds are constantly coming in and out of season, and so you can even visit the same spot and find a completely different scene from one week to the next.

Why not incorporate a bug-hunting expedition too!

Dandelions

5. Trying their gardening skills...

Little ones love getting messy, and this is a great opportunity for summery shots... like little E here who decided the woodland floor just had to be explored!

Getting messy

Activities like growing vegetables from seed are also a great chance for a series of photos, from the process of planting the seeds, to their gradual growth, watering, harvesting and - the best bit - eating. Get creative with your shots and think about how you tell the story through your children's eyes - can you angle your camera over their shoulder as they busily work, or shoot upwards through the plants? This summer, we're growing strawberries and tomatoes and can't wait to enjoy the results.

What are your favourite photo moments on summertime family adventures? Share your best in the comments below.

Amanda and Scott's family engagement celebration in Hove, East Sussex

It was such a joy to revisit Amanda and Scott's photos from their intimate engagement celebration at Hangleton Manor, Hove, East Sussex, earlier this month. 

This lovely pair came across from LA for a family engagement celebration in Hove with Scott's side of the family. Their wedding's in California in spring 2019 (I know!), and I was so excited when they got in contact to ask me to capture their family celebration, especially because some of their beloved relatives won't be able to make the wedding.

 Scott and Amanda

Scott and Amanda

 Take a look at this ring

Take a look at this ring

 Joyful moment

Joyful moment

 Beloved Grandmas

Beloved Grandmas

 

 

 

Celebrating the spring with natural family photo sessions in Tunbridge Wells, Kent - or, why I never put away the camera until you're literally leaving

o you remember being told 'Patience is a virtue' when you were little? It was usually at that time when you were so excited about something that you felt you could burst: opening your birthday presents, that delicious dessert just about to reach the table or hurridly pulling off your shoes without even undoing the laces to experience anti-gravity on the trampoline.

I make it my mission to capture this momentum in action, because we'll too soon forget. Those tiny candid expressions which make up the unique personalities of these little folks. 

It was an experiment, and I was a little nervous. It was my turn to use my patience to find ways to help everyone relax, feel at home, and to begin to show their true selves. It was such a huge privilege to spend time with each and every one of you.

Here are just a few of my favourite moments.

It was so great to spend time with this amazing bunch, and I have loved every minute of working on their images. 

And, to finish, a confession - I absolutely love a 'putting on the coat' shot (yes, a niche to corner I guess...). There's just something so caring and sweet about a parent putting on their child's coat. A lesson to never stop shooting till people are literally walking out the door. 

Putting the coat on - one of my favourites

Getting ready for a photo session...and why I adore textures and patterns

We're all really used to have our photos taken all the time on camera phones, but when you're getting ready for a photo session it's worth keeping a few simple pointers in mind. 

Here are my top five tips to help with the really fun bit of getting ready.

1) Plan ahead what everyone is wearing

When I work with clients to plan a photo session, I tend to suggest including some prints because it's all too easy to keep your photos in a digital format and never display them around your home where you can enjoy them each day.

 Classic clothing means you're drawn to the emotion of the moment

Classic clothing means you're drawn to the emotion of the moment

Remember this when you choose your outfits - wearing classic clothing rather than anything too trendy will help your photos to remain timeless.

I'd recommend you try to avoid:

- obvious brand names, labels or slogans as these will be distracting

- uncomfortable clothes or clothes you feel awkward wearing because they're ill fitting, and you might feel tempted to adjust them.

I really like to get everyone moving around during their photos to create natural and authentic moments. If you are having a family session and your children are small, you might end up sitting on the floor with them or running about so bear this in mind when choosing your outfit.

2) How do your outfits work together?

I adore patterns and think clashing patterns can look amazing, especially in close up photos. I'm also going to go totally snap happy for any details, like embroidery, lace or chunky knits (if you sit still I'll probably be taking macro photos before you know it. Sorry in advance).

The only thing to avoid is matching patterns - if one of you is wearing stripes, polka dots or anything bold, no one else is allowed to match.

 Different patterns together - I'm in love!

Different patterns together - I'm in love!

Try and make sure everyone is wearing similar tones too - all bright colours, neutrals or darks can look great, but a mixture might be harder to pull off.

3) Where are you having photos taken?

Bright colours in outdoor locations can look incredible. Take harsh urban environments with lots of grey, beach locations or countryside and they'll look brilliant with a pop of colour.

 Natural colours with bright outfits

Natural colours with bright outfits

If we're doing photos at your home, on the other hand, you'll need to consider how your outfits work with your décor.

Texture can really add depth and atmosphere to photos. If it's a cosy winter walk,  a woolly scarf and hat will look great against your smooth skin in close ups. Similarly, lighter fabrics in the summer will work beautifully with sunshine.

 I love these different textures and patterns together, the spots, stripes and fluffiness!

I love these different textures and patterns together, the spots, stripes and fluffiness!

4) Have a few options

This is a tip especially for those with little children, make sure everyone has at least one change of clothes they'd happily wear as an alternative. Children fall in puddles (or puddles which look shallow end up being thigh-depth), people get stuck in mud and babies...well we all know babies can get through more than one outfit an hour. 

5) But most importantly, be yourself

It's your unique wonderfulness that you're bringing to the photo session and so you can throw all of my rules out of the window if you fancy, and let's just do the pyjama photoshoot (yes, you know who you are ;-)).

Do you have one outfit you always go to for photographs?

 

If in doubt, cut it out – Why I want you to photograph less (and it’s not the reason you think)

When you start learning about photography, you study your composition – how to arrange the photo so that it conveys your message. You might want to take a minimalist and calming approach, with horizontal lines and lots of space, or, for something more hectic and busy, diagonal lines and a crowded frame might work better.

The next time you click, ask yourself: ‘What is it that made me stop and think: I want to keep this?’

But, there’s something else which really rang true to me from way back when I started learning and that I’ve remembered ever since; John Garrett and Graeme Harris say: ‘By getting closer you will improve your photography immediately.’

When we’re taking a photo, it can be tempting to try and cram everything in. We might try to capture what our eyes are seeing, rather than thinking about why we want to take the photo.

The next time you click, ask yourself: ‘What is it that made me stop and think: I want to keep this?’

This is why some of my photos zoom into the details, which I think are beautiful. It might be a gesture, a certain expression or a tiny detail which really catches my eye.

For example, in this photo I was touched by the way that Mum held her hand supportively on her little daughter's neck as she was busy doing her colouring in.

 Supportive hand

Supportive hand

When you pause for a moment and cut almost everything out of the frame, your image can become a lot more powerful and you’ll remember why you took it.

Do you have any photographs which evoke a specific memory or feeling? Tell me about them in the comments below.

If you like what you see...

If you and your family have some special treasures you’d like to be photographed with, I’m at Support Local Pop Up on 18 March where we’ll be celebrating spring with relaxed photo sessions.

Bring along your favourite seasonal finds, or choose from a selection on the day.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a set of five images from your session, simply sign up to my email list before the end of February. Find the full terms and conditions here.

Why there's nothing bleak about midwinter photos - Three tips to improve your winter photography

Happy New Year! For my first post of 2018 I want to convince you why winter is an amazing time for photos and share a few tips for winter photos too. 

In the UK we're not only obsessed with the weather, we're also eternally disappointed with it.

During winter we bemoan the sprinkling of snow that soon turns to slush, wishing we could properly experience the Danish comforts of Hygge while truly snowed in. We hold out all summer for those fabled two weeks at the end of July when it'll be 30 degrees in the shade and Eastbourne beach rivals the French Riviera, only to find ourselves eating our ice creams inside. 

If winter's starting to get you down, here's why you don't need to wait for warmer days to enjoy outdoor photography:

1: Think about the colours

At the start of winter I photographed a woodland event for pre-schoolers. The day of the event was wet, windy and a little cold, but the children loved it anyway. When I sent the photos to my client she asked 'How did you not make it look as wet as it really was? Also, no one looks soaked!'

 Bright colours in the woods

Bright colours in the woods

The wet weather and grey skies made everyone's colourful waterproofs and woolly hats stand out against the neutral colours of the background. 

 Approaching the woods

Approaching the woods

TIP 1: Before you take a photo, think about how you can simplify the colours you include to make them really stand out against winter scenery.

 

2: Look at the light

Yes we complain about the darker evenings in the winter time, but it means the sun is lower in the sky earlier in the day giving some amazing chances to play with light and create atmosphere in photos.

 Rupert and his Daddy

Rupert and his Daddy

Even in the early afternoon, the sun's rays can add atmosphere to photos at a time which would be way past little ones' bedtime in midsummer.

If it's cloudy that's no problem either because a cloudy sky creates a very even light which is very flattering for portraits.

TIP 2: Experiment with where your subject is placed in relation to the sun. When the sun is low in the sky, it can create some interesting effects.

 

3: Incorporate winter treats

There's something else really beautiful which happens when many of the colours in nature become more muted, the little treats like berries and seed pods which we celebrate as part of our seasonal traditions also stand out. 

 Reaching for cherries

Reaching for cherries

There are other delights to include in your photos too - if the cold weather gets a little too much, a lovely warm hug and a hot chocolate is always the ultimate treat after enjoying the best of the seasons!

TIP 3: Make a feature of seasonal treats in your photos.

What's your favourite thing about winter? Do you enjoy the great outdoors or do you prefer to stay snug and warm inside? Share your ideas in the comments below.