Ah… Pinterest-inspired summer. Happy family all dressed in colour-coordinated outfits, walking along the beach, holding hands and laughing. Perfectly dressed children running in synchronicity across a pristine stretch of white sand. Wind artfully blowing your long dress while your hair stays put. Al fresco dining, everyone laughing, sipping pomegranate cocktails from frosted glasses…. Bliss…
Wait. Stop right there.
Do your summer days look like this? Mine sure don’t.
We don’t wear matching outfits (well sometimes we do when I’m wearing blue jeans and a blue hoodie and so does my son, but trust me it’s because we didn’t do laundry so I literally had nothing else to wear). We don’t walk holding hands along the beach and smile all the time.
Yes we have fun and we go swimming and sandcastle building, but we also veg out when it all gets too much, our kid does crazy annoying stuff, we often stay in rather than heading to a beach every day. And while the idea of having the perfect summer photograph does appeal (and I must confess, I’ve tried more than once), looking back on those photographs doesn’t do anything for me.
It doesn’t bring back memories (apart from getting annoyed with my kid for refusing to run beautifully towards the sea) or reminds be of the sounds, smells and feels of that summer.
I’m sure you often feel the same.
Trying to live up to the perfect Pinterest / Instagram family illusion, and failing miserably.
But what if you gave yourself and your family permission to just be? Crazy, imperfect, loving, tired, funny, inquisitive, exasperated, patient, hyper and covered in ice cream?
What if you could document your summer days just the way they were – so that next year you could remember all of it, not just the physical likeness and how much bribery it took for that perfect smiling picture?
Photograph your favourite summer places – with your kids in them
Photograph them doing their thing, whether quiet and inquisitive or crazy and wild. It could be somewhere you go regularly regardless of the season (Sunday’s farmers market for example), or something only open over the summer, for example a splash park. Or maybe your summers mean lazy picnics in the park? Photograph that!
Shoot wide and incorporate the environment
You don’t have to stand your children in front of a landmark or a view and ask them to smile. Allow them to do their thing (however crazy it might be!), while you look around for the best angle. Take a few shots from different angles and show their smallness in this great big world by shooting wide and including the whole scene in.
Let them be themselves, and don’t pose them
Capture not just their likeness but also their personalities, as crazy and annoying as they may sometimes be. Does your kid cover themselves with ice-cream? Do the try to eat soup with chopsticks? Do they have a… shall we say “unique” dress sense? Photograph that.
Don’t be afraid to “shoot through moments” as they are happening. Sometimes it’s impossible to get a great image with just one shot. I often take 10 and more of the same scene just to get that one photographs that would speak volumes. Embrace the power of the digital age (but don’t forget to delete all the duds afterwards)
Photograph seemingly ordinary moments
The everyday ordinary things are what we would want to remember as the years go by and we forget what it was like in the haze of crazy demands of parenthood. Have your camera nearby at all times and capture the ordinary things – they often turn out to be extraordinary things.
Show us what they see
I must confess some of my most favourite pictures of my son are where his back is turned on me and he’s off exploring. Those are the ones that I like for my walls and in albums. I think it’s because that way I’m able to capture world from his point of view and his adventures without having to be in his face with my camera all the time.
Get down to their eye level
A cardinal sin of every parent with a camera is not bothering to bend their knees. Honestly, your knees bend for a reason, so do it! Don’t just stand there aiming your camera down – kneel, sit on the ground if you must, but get on the same eye-level as your child. Your photographs will be so much better for it.
Photograph all the little things, all the details
Dirty fingers, missing teeth, wiggly toes, wet hair, freckles, grazed knees. All the little things that make your child unique, and makes them – them. A nifty technical trick to isolate the detail from the rest of the picture is to zoom in as much as you can and/or use the lowest aperture your camera will go to.
Be in the pictures with your kids!
And finally, don’t forget to be present in the pictures with your children too. Use a tripod and self-timer, ask someone to take a picture, hire a photographer or use a selfie stick if you must, but don’t forget to be in the pictures too, however insecure you feel about the way you look. I can promise you your child does not see your (perceived!) imperfections, but they will wonder why their mum is absent from family pictures, and in the unique way of the kids they’ll most likely think it’s there fault somehow. I kid you not, when I was 10 I secretly thought the reason my parents were not in any of my childhood pictures was because I wasn’t their child! Seriously. We don’t want that, do we?
I’m Antonina Mamzenko – a natural light newborn, baby and family photographer based between London and Surrey. I specialize in creating candid, natural family photographs with zero cheese and no posing. I work all over London and Surrey, including Cobham, Esher, Thames Ditton, Richmond upon Thames, St Margarets, Twickenham, Teddington, Hampton, Kingston upon Thames, Surbiton, Kew, Chiswick, Putney, Fulham, Wimbledon, Holland Park, Kensington, St John’s Wood and Hampstead. Find more information about my photography sessions or get in touch to check availability and book your family photoshoot.