7 tips on how to have the most relaxed documentary family photoshoot

Documentary family photography is all about capturing real life - which can sometimes feel quite daunting. People can be nervous about being themselves in front of a camera. You might worry that your house is too messy, your family life isn’t interesting enough, or that your child might throw a tantrum. Please don’t be concerned about any of this!

Here are some tips on how to have a really relaxed and fun documentary family photoshoot:

1. Have a different mindset about the “perfect picture”. Just have a think about how you’d like to remember the time when your children were young. Try to let go of control, the more you let go of the expectation of the “perfect picture”, the more real, natural and beautiful the moments will be.

2. Plan your photo session around your daily routines. These routines play a great part in your little one’s life and things like bath time, reading stories and having lunch together are all great moments to document. It also means that you will be occupied so you probably won’t pay as much attention to the camera.

3. Allow plenty of time for pictures. In order to get those “real moments” we need a bit of time together . The longer I spend with a family, the more time we have for those events to unfold. It always takes a little bit of time to forget about the camera - I use the first 10 minutes to get to know the kid(s) - and to get a good variety in your photos. It is also nice not to feel rushed and to allow plenty of time for your family photo session.

4. Don’t worry how you might look in the photos. I know - easier said than done, right? But trust me, I will deliver pictures of you that reflect you and your family, and are flattering but natural at the same time. 

5. Stay present. A family photoshoot is a great time to engage and connect as a family. Apart from shooting your daily routines it’s also nice to allow a bit of playtime where there’s enough room to enjoy your time as a family. When you stay present and are having fun with your kids those real and fun moments will happen naturally. 

6. Don’t try to “act natural”. Families that have a really fun and relaxed family photo session don’t really think about the photoshoot too much. Don’t stop being silly with your kids, just let me shoot the events as they come. 

7. Last but not least: don’t prepare anything! There’s absolutely no need to do so.  I am a mum myself and I know spaghetti stains on the sofa, a floor covered with toys and crayon on the walls is just part of family life. I promise you will feel at ease in my company, I will just hang out with you and your family and will bring your story to life through my photographs.

Newborn photo session | East Dulwich

My Life in Lockdown project brought me into contact with so many different people from the Dulwich community. I took a doorstep portrait of Helen (and her dog Coco!) when she was about 7 months pregnant. A few months later she contacted me to ask if I could do a newborn session with the new arrival, little Oscar. At the time of the photoshoot he was about 7 weeks old. 

People often ask me when they should book in a newborn session, and what the “perfect” age for this is. My answer? It’s really up to you! A newborn photo session can be booked in any time - from just a few days after you give birth to a few months after your baby is born. I always advise people to do whatever feels right for you and your family. 

Babies younger than two weeks old are still very sleepy, so this age is great for those curled-up sleepy shots, and photos of feeds and cuddling moments. Babies older than two weeks tend to be more alert and they can already show so much personality by then! They won’t be asleep all the time so there will be more “eyes open” shots and maybe even some first smiles.

My newborn photo sessions tend to take a bit longer than my Slice of Life family photo sessions. Mainly because I don’t want you to feel rushed. There should be time for feeding, sleeping, nappy changes etc. I will document all of these moments as well, but I don’t want it to become a stressful experience just because we are trying to fit it into a set two hour window. So I allow up to three hours, to give the time and space for it to be as relaxed as possible.

Below you’ll find a few of my favourite shots of Helen’s session. I hope you like them!

Mini family photo sessions in the park | Dulwich or Peckham Rye

I love my mini family photo sessions but I don’t offer them very often as it’s definitely a challenge to make these shoots purely ‘documentary’ in the same way as my longer ‘at home’ family sessions. But when I do run my mini shoots I always try to make them just as fun, relaxed and informal. 

I hold my mini shoots in Dulwich Park and Peckham Rye Park, and sessions take about 45 minutes. I typically combine natural, unposed ‘documentary’ shots with some more traditional family portraits. After your shoot you will receive the very best 10 images from your session as fully edited high resolution digital files. 

I always ask families to bring a few of the kids’ outdoor toys - anything from a kite, ball or scooter to (everyone’s favourite) the bubble machine! This way the photo session becomes instantly more relaxed, giving the children plenty to keep them entertained and enabling me to get the natural, intimate shots that I’m after. 

I am planning on doing a few more family mini photo sessions before the summer ends. If you would love some professional photos of your family taken, but can never seem to find the time, then book one of my minis! Send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon I can. 

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