The journey of discovering natural storytelling family photography.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like when you don’t need to pose for family photos? Someone would just follow you and record whatever is happening at that time. Like a photojournalist type of approach. Today I would like to talk about natural family photography or also called Day in Life photography.
I have photographed families since 2010. I have mainly done studio white background standard family portraits. I loved it for a while but got tired of it. Then I made a decision to focus on outdoors beach family photo sessions. Last summer I spent a lot of time capturing families outdoors.
These photoshoots were mainly posed. Sit down for the portraits, walk around, get some individual photos. There is definitely a place for this kind of photography but I was seeking something deeper more personal.
Around a year ago I got inspired by Kirsten Lewis. Her natural storytelling portraits are just amazing. She was talking about spending longer time with family rather than typical 2 hour shoots what I normally do. These sessions are called Day in Life or Slice in Life photo session. Depending on spending half or full day with you. I loved the idea of just being there and observing and waiting for those moments to unfold.
I was hooked and wanted to try out a more natural documentary approach to family photography. As a photographer, you want to evolve and keep trying out new ways of photography.
Dad’s birthday story
King family decided to do their family photo session on dad’s birthday. It was very special to them and perfect to do some baking and enjoy the day as a family.
Activities included baking, magic show, lego building, pillow fight with me, walk to the local park and to finish the day we enjoyed the cake. So much personality and connection in family captured. Perfect natural family photography.
Watch this stop motion video I created from the photo session
Why you would want to do a natural documentary style photography.
I totally understand that it might not be everyone’s ‘cup fo tea’ inviting a stranger into your house for a whole day or half a day. Some families just want that perfect looking into the camera smile shot and get done with it. It is totally fine and I do these family portrait sessions a lot.
However, if you really want a portrait of your family as real you, then I need to spend some time with you. Longer I spend with you on the day, less you care about me being there. You start to become much more natural and being really you around your kids. Sure, there might be a bit more intense moments too and a few tears from kids, but it is all part of the session.
One of my first natural family photo sessions with Numbro family.
If you are like me, I love those little in-between moments with my kids. Not looking into the camera, playing games with kids and just doing what we normally do. There is no need for the perfect shot. These portraits would make a beautiful story in album or collage for the wall. It would be up to you to decide what type of session you would like. Later we will be discussing all differences between sessions as well. Make sure you check those out.
Preparation for Day in Life photoshoot.
These family photoshoots are different from my normal photo sessions. The family would make a plan for what they are doing for the day or half-day and tell me what time they would like to start. Normally it would be morning start but I have done some afternoon-evening photography sessions as well.
Once I arrive we always have a good chat about family and what is the plan. I get to find out more from kids, their favourite activities, things they love. There is no rush and everything flows in a very relaxed manner. The family would show around the house, we would make decisions on clothing and we are ready to start.
Here is what Alison said about the photo session. Perfectly sums up the experience.
” We wanted relaxed, natural photos which would reflect Elicia’s personality and we could record activities she enjoys the most. Armands was very accommodating to our daily routine and came over to our house at 7am so he could capture the moments from Elicia first waking up. Armands took the time to get to know Elicia and instantly won her over with his fun and playful personality. That alone was an achievement as Elicia often shies away from people she doesn’t see very regularly. Throughout the day Armands was both imaginative & patient & made us all feel very much at ease. We went to our local park where Elicia loves to play and just did what she loves doing. This was very different to any photoshoot we’ve experienced or heard of before. Armands was able to create beautiful real life images that capture the spirit and essence of our family. I feel like we had a very special time as a family, focussing on Elicia. It really felt like a family day, not a photoshoot. He was lovely to have around & his energy and optimism are second to none. By the end of the day Elicia was having so much fun with Armands that she started putting on her shoes to leave with him when he was going home! “
What happens during the family photo session.
Once we know what are we doing throughout the session, I make a plan on where and what I am photographing. By this point, I have looked around and know where in the house we have the best light. If the family is doing baking activities then we stick in the kitchen, but everything else would happen in certain areas which work well for lighting.
I don’t do any direction. Say if families chose activity is to read the book together, I would decide where is the best to do that. Which room we are choosing for that. If the family wants to do game plays then again we find a place for that.
After that, it is just a case of photographing whatever is unfolding in front of me. There is interference, I just observe and pick the best angles to achieve the most natural family portrait look.
Differences between regular family session and natural Day in Life photo session.
Length of the session. The standard session would be wrapped in around 2 hours. Day in Life would be from morning to evening around 12 hours and Slice in Life would be around 4-5 hours.
Style of photography. Not just sit down portraits but a lot more in-between moments too. Everything that is happening, will be documented.
You can do more activities throughout the day. The home session then head outdoors, have a meal somewhere. Make a great day out of it with no rush.
Amount of portraits you would receive. You are doing a more natural session and it always results in more photos. This gives you the opportunity to make a nice collage of images for the wall or perfect to make an album.
Cost of the session. I almost treat this as wedding photography. The essential idea is the same. I am spending a lot more time with you. So forth I would need to charge more for it too.
I get to know your family very well and become your family photographer for life :)
And there you have it. Beautiful results and very special keepsakes for families. Personally I really believe that these types of special family moments will resonate better with memories then plain sit down portrait with everyone perfectly smiling at the camera. You get to see how your family was at that particular time and what the children were like. If they had a tantrums, too much fun or just quietly reading a book. I love documenting my own family this way too. Just those little snippets of life.