Where to do your family session

In the first part of this series of posts, I wrote about booking your session.  But where would you go?

Well, the simple answer is ‘anywhere’.

I’ve done sessions in many locations across the city and county and there’s never been a location that didn’t work out well.

There are however a few ingredients that make things easier for everyone.  The objective is to get a really good range of pictures of everyone having fun.  Choosing the right location gives us the a better chance of getting as many pictures as possible.

So here’s my guide to choosing a location:RLC_2445-1000px

Somewhere personal.  Do you have somewhere that your family visit regularly, somewhere you’ll look back on and identify strongly with this time in your lives?  These places are definitely the place to start.  Using a location which is part of your family history to create memories is very precious.

Feeling free.  RLD_7503Taking the photo session outdoors serves a number of purposes – it takes the pressure out of a studio session and everyone finds it easier to forget they’re being photographed.  Not many people have their private copse but many of the local parks and forests are quiet enough for us all to feel inhibited.

Backgrounds.  But the location will also for a background to RLJ_0400your photos – even though it may be deliberately out of focus in many of the pictures.  One of the reasons Autumn forest pictures work so well is that the trees are alive with colour and can be used to create stunning backgrounds.   Don’t assume your favourite location is deciduous though – many local forests are evergreen.  That still works but may not be what you expect.

Levels.  If you were to ask me what the hardest place to photograph is I’d say ‘in the middle of a fRLE_3094ield’.  It’s much easier to work with a range of terrain, benches, logs, trees, bridges, walls, summer houses etc to provide options for people to sit, stand and lean on.  It gives them something more natural to do (posing standing still is very unnatural) and it provides the opportunity for Small People to get more height and be closer to their parents (and Big People to hide a bit if they want).  The more things to climb and sit on the better.

Something to do. “Stand there now and look relaxed and happy”.  No better way to make somone tense and uncertain looking.  It’s all about providing a distraction and at it’s simplest it’s just walking, exploring, climbing trees or choosing colourful leaves.  But if you can think of other things that the kids love to do (without turning it into a competition) then we can work it in.  Most of the time they find something to do themselves and we photograph that.  Playgrounds sometimes work but they can be busy (and we don’t want other families coming in) and brightly coloured stuff can be distracting in the final pics.RLJ_6615

Cover.  The obvious concern about an Autumn session is the rain, but full sun is a problem too.  Either way it’s handy to have a bit of cover available to give options for shade as well as to keep out of cold winds.

Distances.  You’re probably going to have to drive to the location so just keep it to a managable journey.  If you’re all tired and cranky after the journey then it’s going to take longer to distract everyone out of it and we’ll get less opportunities for what we’re looking for.  Also consider how far we need to walk from the car park to the nicest spot and how old the kids are (bring the buggy if you need to but we don’t want anyone dozing off before we get some pictures).

In the next post, I’ll look at a few good locations around Cork that you might consider.

Thinking of an Autumn Family Photo Session?

This has to be my favourite time of year to get out into the woods and take pictures of the kids.  In this series of blog posts I’m going to take you through the what happens in a family photo session.

We’ll start with the hardest part of all: actually booking it.

It’s a great time for family photos

We get a lot of interest in family sessions and the pictures we have on the wall of the office, on the web galleries, facebook etc all ‘wow’ people who would otherwise be alergic to having a professional family photo session.  The pictures show families of young kids freely enjoying the woods and countryside.  Kids being kids: playing, smiling, laughing, enjoying themselves.

They are memories created of your family just the way you want to remember them.

The overwhelming feedback is that all the family enjoy the session.  Many Mom’s come in after the session saying their kids want to know when I can come and play again!

It’s also something that’s too easy to put off.  Unlike a communion or a birthday or another key date it could happen this week or next – and the reality of busy family life is that we are short of time at the weekends between clubs and matches and all that stuff.

But all it takes is an hour.

I try to be as flexible as possible: for many younger kids mornings are normally better for their routine but I’m generally available to suit your schedule.  I can do a Sunday session if that’s what it takes and I’m generally available on the October Long Weekend.

The school Mid-term is a great time to get a session done.

The weather is always going to be a factor but you’d be surprised how few sessions I’ve actually had to cancel due to rain.  The kids need to be warm and comfortable whatever the weather so as long as it’s not tipping down we normally go ahead with the session (I have done some great sessions in between showers too!).

So just go ahead and call.  Find the next weekend you’re all around and book the session. 

If you’re not sure where to go then I can come up with plenty of suggestions (more on that later) so don’t let that stop you either.

I’ll look ahead a couple of days before the booking to see what to expect and if it’s definitely going to be terrible then we’ll re-schedule.  No problem – just pick up the phone and book the session – 021 429 3714

Ask Yourself Why?

If you want to photograph a man spinning, give some thought to why he spins. Understanding for a photographer is as important as the equipment he uses. – Margaret Bourke-White

I found this quote while clearing out some stuff on a drive.  I captured it ages ago and meant to blog it (apologies if I did that already somewhere).

The file is dated 2009.  If there’s one thing that’s consistently struck home about photography in the last 6 years it’s summed up in this quote.

All Smiles (part 2)

The Boy also managed to prove quite convincingly that you don’t need to smile-to-camera to engage with your viewer.

He did a lot of his ‘Strong Man’ act including ‘Hulk Smash’ (which is where we lost the shirt) but in the midst of all that playing he was utterly himself.

Oh to live in his world…

More on those Dancers

Most people know at this stage that I don’t do a lot of Studio work and there’s no permanent photography studio here.

I have the space and the equipment to put it together when I need it and sometimes it’s what a particular photo asssignment needs.

In my minds eye I had dance pics in an informal studio setting, I can’t find the reference (Leibovitz?) but the isolation of the backdrop focuses attention to the dancers but leaving the stands (and the lights even in some cases) in shot doesn’t constrain them to the environment I’ve created for them.

It’s almost like they’re so full of energy that they’ll burst out.

It’s also probably a bit of me pushing back against the falseness of the studio background.  Leaving the stands in is like saying ‘lets not pretend that this isn’t something articfial’.

I love working with Dancers – they’re so aware of themselves and their form.  And these are just kids – my kids too!!!

All Smiles

I finally got the kids into the Studio* in the last couple of weeks.  The girls wanted to get some Dance photos after all the work they’ve put in over the last year (and who can resist taking photographs of dancers – especially when they’re your own kids).  The Boy therefore also needed a session of his own, so he came in and threw some shapes for me.

I also got them to sit for some more traditional portraits while there were here.  They are still very good for me in front of the camera but the problem tends to be that I know them too well: the smile isn’t that smile or if it is I know there’s another one I love in them just as much.

So I did a little more directing than I’d normally expect to do in a portrait shoot.  Just to see how they would take more artistic direction and what reactions we could enduce for the camera.

We might have a handful of actors on on our hands!

In my daily Family Portrait business I deal with smiles.  Really, that’s what people pay for.  Even in the Commercial Photography arena we’re looking for that ‘Confident Business Smile’ which invokes a reaction of trust and confidence that a business person will look after you comewhatmay.

But in reality there is a whole world of human emotion that photography can capture – all valid, all compelling.

And sometimes people have a way of looking at you that cuts in to you…

*More on the ‘Studio’ later…

Girls in White Dresses


Another busy weekend of Communions coming up – I hope everyone has a great day.

Remember that we also do a lot of sessions after the day: it’s a nice chance to get dressed up and have a relaxed photo session without the pressure of the Big Day.

Contact us now to chat about how a session like this might work for you.

First Holy Communions: The First Weekend

First Communion Photos

Back in the office today after the first busy weekend of First Communions.

Everyone was in fine form – despite the untimelty downpoor on Saturday.  It’s a lovely time to be doing family photos and there are always some lovely photos coming out of the Communion sessions.  The kids are a great age: full of fun and confidence.

I’ve my work cut-out getting through all those pics before next weekend but if you had a session with me over the weekend then proofs will be available shortly.

If you have a Communion coming up then we’re fully booked for the 23rd May but there are some slots available on the 9th and 16th May so call now 021-4293714

Quick Thinking

Hours of Practice

It’s in the nature of what I do that many assignments come at short notice.  Yesterday lunchtime I was asked to photography my daughters for a promotional image for the dance company they work so hard for.  My pleasure.  But what to do?

What do we have to work with: it’s sunny, we are blessed with a large garden but it’s a bit cluttered (trampolines, sheds, swings, nets etc), we also have access to our neighbour’s garden which is a lot greener (but quite narrow).  Thankfully it’s half-day at Secondary school and the girls are in fine form and have matching dresses.

So we’ll work out the garden thing but the sun is the first challenge.  Nice and bright but we need to make sure we deal with the contrast between the direct sun and the shadows.  There’s no real shade at this time of the year so we need to plan to shoot in full sun.  Personally I generally shoot into the sun or at a slight angle so that my subject is in reasonably even shadow and we might get a bright rim light.

Fine but now there’s a stop (or more) between my subject and the background.  You have two options: expose for the shadow and blow the background by overexposing it; or get some additional light into the subject using a reflector or an artificial light source.  I want my background so it’s going to be the second option.  I’m a big fan of the reflector but I don’t have one big enough to light a full length shot and no time to find something to improvise.  On site I’d normally use on-camera flash to fill in here but I have a little more time and enough kit at home to try something else: off camera flash to one side.  This gives me the option to get more dramatic lighting (since it’s a dance pose).

When we get to the bottom of the garden there’s actually some lovely dappled shade at the bottom of the garden from the bare trees.  Two bonuses here: the back-lighting is now way more interesting and textured; it’s also somewhat diffused so there’s slightly less contrast between the sun and the shade.  Result.

As it happens my first few test shots show that the camera’s exposure is pretty much bang on so we work away.

Some lovely stuff in there and hopefully we’ll be seeing them around Cork very soon ahead of the show in May.

Daughter Number One has been on at me since Christmas for some nice shots of her dancing to balance out the swimming pics on her wall.  So as well as the duets for Tina we do a few of her on her own.  I’m sure Other Daughter will want some now too when she sees these…

Springing Back

After what has proven to be a number of false-dawns, I’m back on the blog and determined (this time) to generate some interesting and useful content.

A Promise of New Growth

Many people have commented on seeing my work in a particular local press publication (and an associated magazine).  Although that gig was fun while it lasted, that relationship has run its course and I’m now able to focus my efforts back to my core business.

It was a good experience on a number of fronts:

  • I had the pleasure of shooting profile pictures of a wide variety of interesting and entertaining people – photographing ‘normal’ adults for profiles is quite a different experience to chasing kids around a park and you just can’t do enough of it.  Especially when you have limited time and resources and have to think on your feet.  You learn something about them, about yourself and about they way you work every time.
  • I was reminded of why I went to work for myself and the good and the bad of doing so.
  • It also served to remind me of my core values in business and how they separate me from others.  I firmly believe that a business differenitates itself by how it behaves much more than what it produces and the key to success is to do the right thing by people and walk the talk.

So I need to make a public apology to everyone who didn’t get as much of my time and attention over the last six months due to the distraction of The Press.  I vow to re-focus my efforts on doing that I do best: looking after people and their memories.