QLD Family0030w

I was shooting a Day in the Life for a family of seven up in Queensland recently. Camera in hand, I was observing the array of objects strewn across the patio, including half a headless mannequin, glow in the dark string and a lighter. As cryptic as this was, I turned my attention to young Apollo. The kids had awesome names! He was taking off his pants and although it was stinking hot I knew what was about to happen. Screwing up his face as if he owned the planet, Apollo let a stream of urine soar into a glorious arc for the world to see. The world being the photographer, in plain view, and his two sisters who only stopped for half a second before continuing on with their ruckus as if this was clearly the most normal occurrence for them. I lifted the camera and took THE SHOT. Relief. And not just for Apollo. It wasn’t until I uploaded my images that I realised that every photographer’s nightmare had taken place. The glitch! The image got lost in translation. Doh! Had the glitch not taken place, I am sure that his family would have been able to hold onto this memory with tears of laughter every time they were to look at it. And probably a comical embarrassment to have been able to bring out at his 21st birthday. “The moment Apollo p****d on the patio.”

I get asked these questions a lot: should we wear matching outfits? should I clean the house? what if the light isn’t right? No please don’t, no, and I can get around that. I’ve put together some tips on how to get the best out of a DITL shoot.

1) Wear what you feel comfortable in

If your husband likes to wear his worn out star wars t-shirt from his teenage years while playing ball with Jack on a Sunday, let him. Be yourself and wear what you love, whatever that may be, because that means you will feel comfortable and at ease. More than likely, the images will portray this and a true representation of you will emerge. Wear what YOU feel good in. I only have one rule in this area. No matching outfits. Please!

2) Your child knows best

Kids know how to do authentic the best! They are so caught up in the moment, they don’t really have time to worry about the past or the future and what the photo might look like. On the off chance your child decides to pee in inappropriate places or exits the walk in pantry with a smeared nutella mouth, let them be who they are in front of the camera. Embrace the chaos. This is real life I’m documenting. Their uniqueness will be brought out in the story. And for the love of God please don’t tell them to smile at the camera. I won’t usually take shots when they’re camera aware anyway. You probably already know this since you are interested in family photojournalism, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

3) Trust the process

Drop any pre-conceived ideas of images you may have seen on pinterest that you would like me to make. You don’t need to direct your kids so that the composition is better for me. I move around the subjects to get the best angle, light and above all else, MOMENT. It won’t help if I take a shot of molly with chocolate on her face and mum frowning in the background. More than likely I’ll throw that out. There will be tender moments, happy, sad, even ugly moments if broccoli and homework are involved (unless your kids like broccoli and homework). It works best when your family is authentically interacting, just as you would any other day. This is family photojournalism at its best. If you tell your kids to behave or smile for the camera, the photos will look fake. If you want the photos to look natural, then do natural. If you aren’t sure what to do just talk and play with your family: do something fun.

4) Embrace the mess

People are so used to making sure they and their surroundings look absolutely perfect before a shoot. I get that. We’ve been trained to do so by many a portrait family photographer. But when it comes to family photojournalism, this aint the case my dears. The whole aim is to capture you and your family just as you are. Grime, mess, stains and all. It would be odd if a news photojournalist wiped the blood from a wounded soldier’s mouth before taking a shot.

You can let out a sigh of relief and not feel compelled to lift a finger. There is no need to go out of your way and stress about having the perfect looking home, or child for that matter. It wouldn’t feel right if I turned up and was welcomed by you looking exasperated and half frazzled with a bottle of spray and wipe in your hand. Breathe 🙂 If your home usually looks untidy on a Saturday morning, then that’s what will make the BEST images because they are a true representation of your family home on that given day.