My husband and I have several shared To-Do Lists in the brilliant life-hack app Wanderlist. One list is titled “Fun Stuff”, and it’s full of ideas for when we are not in the mood for the dull list (inheritance planning, buy new parking vouchers etc).
“Organise family photoshoot” features as an action point, but we’ve never done it because it has never quite been the right time. Silly things, such as wanting get pictures hung on the walls first, or the ongoing saga of my stupid orthodontic braces linger on – there was always a reason. In essence, I didn’t think us or our home were perfect enough to warrant a professional photographer.
I came across Brigitte & Thierry Photography and was instantly warmed by their bohemian, artful aesthetic and convivial tone. We chatted online and arranged for Brigitte to visit us at home on a Sunday morning. We often make pancakes for brunch, and together we decided that would be the ideal basis for our natural family photoshoot.
Following the shoot, I sent questions to Brigitte for the blog. I also feature my top 5 tips for preparing for a natural family photo shoot below.
A Q&A WITH FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER BRIGITTE VERES, BRIGITTE & THIERRY PHOTOGRAPHY
Why do you like photographing families in their homes?
“Most of my ‘photography theories’ I base on observations about myself, the things that are dear to me and the people I love and the things that they value. I believe that this is what keeps this otherwise highly competitive industry still authentic. Putting one’s heart and soul and personality into what one creates. Beside my obvious fascination with interior design, a home is very high up on my list of interests. Home is a very core part of everyone’s life and I believe in creating a physical space where you are cosy, safe and at peace is a privilege and also a memory of a lifetime.”
“No matter for how long you lived in a certain house or apartment, documenting the rooms you once filled with life will make for valued treasures one day in form of photographs. Allowing someone into your everyday life with the purpose of photographing you is a beautiful but vulnerable experience. Chances are that people will allow themselves to be more themselves in front of the camera when they are in the comfort of their own home. We find this to be a truly magical experience both for us and for our couples and young families.”
How contrived or forced is a family shoot and how can families avoid this?
“When it comes to lifestyle photography, we consciously and intentionally avoid posing and staging people too much. We might ask you to come up with ideas prior to the shoot, listing your family rituals and things that you enjoy doing together on a regular basis. As the aim of the photoshoot is to capture life as you know it, it would feel fairly out of place to take this occasion to try out an activity that you have never actually done before.”
“A useful tip is to prepare a few ‘natural props’ in advance to use during the photo shoot. By ‘natural props’ I mean your favourite everyday objects that you can hold onto if you need to. This helps to avoid some potentially slightly awkward moments when you don’t know what to do with your hands, especially at the beginning of the shoot during the first few minutes of possible shyness. This beloved everyday object can be a favourite coffee mug, a board game for the family to play together, for children a favourite cuddly toy, for couples their favourite books. Really, whatever you feel comfortable with.”
“Most of all though, hold on to each other. Our main purpose is for the photo collection to reflect the love and connection you share as a family. We always try our best – and I’m proud to say we usually succeed – to put our families and couples at ease and make them feel as comfortable as possible in front of the camera. Some of the at home photoshoots I (Brigi) carry out by myself and, whenever our schedule allows it, Thierry joins in and second shoots these sessions with me. We genuinely enjoy being invited into people’s houses and we are the happiest when our lovely clients just ‘roam free’ in their homes for us to capture. I may be biased but I truly feel like we have the loveliest clients.”
What are most people’s reservations about booking a family shoot? How do you reassure them?
“I love this question. People’s reservations about booking home family sessions can vary, but they ultimately come down to one of two things:
- Parents worry that their young children may be out of control
- Parents worry that they or their home are not ‘photogenic’ enough
To us, neither is a concern.
While we may suggest little adjustments like moving an arm into a more relaxed position sometimes or giving each other a kiss – we mainly aim to capture real memories for real wholehearted humans.”
“In a home we are looking for the soul, and in a family we are looking for the happy chaos. We seek the connection in the domestic everyday. Connection to your surroundings and love that you share with each other – and this requires honesty and sometimes it requires taking a short break from the camera and waiting for a baby or a child to feel comfortable again. Out of experience I can sincerely say that when looking back at photos from the past, the ones that reflect reality are the ones that bring back all the feelings of those memorable times, and this never depends on the most amazing interior designs. Perfection is an illusion. Joy and happiness and love aren’t.”
5 TIPS FOR CREATING A NATURAL FAMILY PHOTOSHOOT
Brigi’s empathetic approach is very powerful in this context, and it’s certainly one my children instantly responded too. Brigi was still on the doorstep when my girls’ decided they liked her, and were jumping up and down inviting her to come and see their their bedrooms and toys. It was a reaction hat meant my husband and I could relax into the shoot, knowing they were happy with the concept that Brigi would just be in the background for 90 minutes. Here are my tips for making an at home photoshoot run smoothly:
1. Be Prepared
I knew exactly which three rooms I wanted to shoot in, so I didn’t have to delay to tidy up as we moved around the house. It also meant I didn’t have to spend hours preparing the whole house either, which reduced stress and workload for me.
2. Go With the Flow
My youngest was hell-bent on clutching onto a toy that I’ve never really liked. I tried to swap it for a prettier toy, but she wasn’t having any of it. I chose to give in and the ugly owl remained, reckoning it makes for happier photos to just surrender to the moment. Looking through the final portfolio of images, it’s really not a big deal and I’m glad I didn’t start WW3 prising it away.
3. Keep it Short and Sweet
Young children get bored quickly, so I was happy to hear Brigitte set a 90 minute deadline and then I knew where I stood. We could change environment a few times – dining space, living room, garden, both girls’ bedrooms…- to keep all our spirits refreshed. I felt neither rushed nor bored, but was able to manage our time accordingly.
4. Stick with Familiar Favourites
We make pancakes every weekend and I know when we are old and wrinkly we will look back fondly on this reminder. We bundle together in the “Story Chair” almost every evening, and I love our photos of us reading one of the girls’ current favourite books.
5. Be You
Maybe not everyone’s children get so excited about growing tomatoes, but we are green-fingered and proud. I know that means the photos will be most poignant to us and those that know us best. They will make brilliant grandparent gifts, fill our albums and we’ll put several on the walls. If your thing is watching TV all together, or dancing, or playing instruments – do that thing for the shoot.
Though the result is not 100 images of everyone looking absolutely perfect in every shot, is it a perfect time capsule of how we really are. We are so grateful to Brigi and Thierry for helping us smash through the pursuit of perfection and capturing us in the real world. So many of the images are make me laugh and smile and I strongly feel the essence of our family has been frozen in time. It’s a brilliant experience and I also think it would make a wonderful “big” birthday present or special anniversary gift. I’d love to do it all again in a year or two to help us preserve all these precious and fleeting moments.
This experience was gifted to us by Brigitte & Thierry Photography
Prior to our shoot, I read Brigi’s useful blog post full of insightful tips for couples and families preparing for their first at home sessions: How to Prepare for Your At-Home Photo Session