While we may have a friend with a camera, or good old Uncle Harry or Aunty Betty with their you-beaut camera and lens package to help record our special day, there is a lot to be said for having a professional there to ensure the job is does well.
I recall seeing an advertisement for Kodak film many years ago which had a line that read something like “a great family portrait isn’t expensive, its priceless!”.
Another advertisement Kodak used had words to the effect, “capture the moment now, and enjoy it over and over.”
Photographing a wedding recently I was struck by how many of the guests had their cameras and phones out snapping away at the happy couple as the event unfolded.
I wondered how many of those images would be “up on Facebook” before the end of the reception, shared with friends across the country or across the world.
These days we all have a digital camera of some description, whether it be a digital SLR or a compact camera or even our phone. One way or another we are able to take a photograph and record a moment for posterity.
Many of these images are snapshots or happy-snaps designed to make a quick record of an event and share it with friends or family via Facebook or Flickr, while others are often more considered moments destined for an album or frame.
I recently received this feedback from a client who had commissioned a portrait with her family to give as a gift to their mother for her 60th birthday.
“Just wanted to pass on a huge THANK YOU! The photos were beautiful. My mum cried when she saw them.”
I love being a portrait photographer, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work, especially when the result has such an effect on people.
Getting back to the Kodak advertisement – what makes us cry tears of joy when we see a beautiful family portrait? Moreover what makes a beautiful family portrait, and how do you choose a photographer to create it?
The photographers I’m most influenced by have a gift for seeing a moment before it happens, they have wonderful anticipation for what is about to happen and incredible skill to capture that moment.
These are skills which take years to develop, through experience, knowledge and practice.
I model my own work practice on these principles. I have been photographing people for 20 years and feel I have a keen sense of how people respond to being photographed.
The most difficult part of a good family portrait shoot is creating the right environment for something to happen. I like an outdoor location as I feel it helps this process by providing an open space not enclosed by walls. Out in the elements my clients feel the environment around them, they can explore and be themselves, if its cold they can cuddle into each other, its a physical event.
What follows is anticipation and patience – being ready for that moment goes a long way to producing unique and beautiful images to enjoy over and over.