In April 2020 I found myself, along with families around the world, in the most unexpected situation, locked down with my family and looking for some positive inspiration. With that in mind, I created a 7-day photo challenge on social media to help followers document this historic and unprecedented time at home together. I shared 1 tip every day for 7 days and while I loved sharing some tips with you, I equally enjoyed the challenge myself. It resulted in photos I know I wouldn’t have otherwise taken and many of which I know I will cherish forever.
If you missed them at the time, I’m delighted to say you can now find them here! Exactly one year on, I’ve put together all the tips I shared into my very first blog!
If you value photography and capturing memories with your families, or if you’re looking for some simple and easy to implement tips to improve how you document your family in your own home, then this is for you. You don’t need a fancy camera or equipment. Your phone will do. The key principals don’t change!
- Location 1 – A north-facing window or a window without any direct sunlight. This will give soft, diffused light, which is ideal for a taking a beautiful portrait of your child.
- Tip 1 – Get your child to face towards the window and notice how they are evenly lit and the light catches the eyes. Experiment by turning them at different angles to the window and notice how this dramatically changes the look of the image. When the window is to the side, the mix of light and shadow gives more depth and creates a different mood. Or if the window is behind them, they will be in silhouette. In this situation, try directing their gaze away from you to catch some light on their face while leaving the rest in shadow, for a more creative portrait (as in the one above).
- Location 2 – The bathtub (or kitchen sink) with LOTS of bubbles!
- Tip 2 – It’s hard to beat a photo of your child splashing about in the tub! But here’s the tip – never ever ask your child to smile for the camera. Or worse again, to say “cheese”! Unless you want one of those rabbit-in-headlights, awkward grins! If you want to capture that genuine gorgeous smile, play games, be silly, engage with them at their level… and be ready to press the shutter when the magic unfolds. Don’t be hung up on them looking at the camera, either! And if it’s just not forthcoming, don’t force it. Sincere portraits are always more beautiful.
- Location 3 – The bedroom
- Tip 3 – A double or king-size bed is the perfect setting for cosy, homely and personal images and can fit all the family! Use white/pale bedlinen if possible. Not only is it a natural reflector making the most of the available light even in a small room, it also serves as a beautiful minimalist backdrop, which ensures all the focus is on your subjects.
- Location 4 – The kitchen or heart of the home
- Tip 4 – There’s a good chance you already photograph lots of the activities your kids have been busying themselves with during lockdown. But to really capture the essence of the moment make sure to keep it candid and consider all angles. Don’t just point and shoot. Instead, stop, observe and try taking a fresh perspective to capture it in a more interesting and memorable way! For example, position yourself low down / at eye-level for more engagement and a sense of depth. If possible, take a bird’s-eye view to capture the detail and show the full story. Or, try taking the photo from below and shoot upwards for a completely unobtrusive and unique alternative.
- Location 5 – Anywhere, but use light to help bring this to life!
- Tip 5 – Pay attention to the details! You have heard the phrase, “It’s the little things.” Well, that also applies to photos. Close-up images that capture small, unique and delicate details can be really compelling and are an important part of the story. Notice those little features so unique to your children and capture at least one. Be it a birth mark, golden curls or exceptionally edible cheeks, preserve these details. Trust me, they will have changed in no time and you’ll wish you had! Here I’ve included two little sets of sparkly toes, a treasured bear and thumb that bring immeasurable comfort, and enviably long lashes!
- Location 6 – West-facing room (if possible)
- Tip 6 – Capture Golden Hour. In the first tip I advised to avoid the direct sun, but not if the sun sets in your window! If you want to give your photos a beautiful warm glow, look out for golden hour. This is the last hour before sunset, where the low-lying evening sun baths your subject in soft golden light and casts long dramatic shadows. This can make for some magical portraits.
- Location 7 – The front door (the doorway provides a frame for your photo as well as context for these times).
- Tip 7 – Get in the picture and be a part of the story! This is probably the most important tip for documenting your family journey. Many of us often avoid being in our own photos, waiting for the “perfect” time when we’re looking our best. But there is rarely the perfect time and we’re always our own worst critics! What’s important is that you are present in the photos, regardless of how YOU think you look, because these are the kinds of photos your children will cherish more than any others in years to come. So, I really hope you can take a moment every so often to ensure you are a part of your photographic legacy and exist in photographs with your children, for your children. Use a tripod, ask your partner or other family member, or… when lockdown is over, maybe consider asking me!