How to capture ‘happy’ family photos
Let’s be honest, taking a great family photo is a challenge for anyone. A family photo with everyone facing the camera is an achievement. A family photo with everyone smiling is a bonus. But a family photo that oozes joy and reveals a little about everyone’s connection is absolute gold.
This month we’ve asked professional family photographer, Bec Stewart, to share her secrets on how to nail ‘joyful’ family portraits. Bec is the ultimate ‘happy snapper’ having captured thousands of photos for her clients, and of her own children, and she gives confetti, colour, and playfulness behind the camera credit for her success.
Who is Bec Stewart?
I’m a Melbourne-based family lifestyle photographer, wife to a fun, confetti-tolerant husband and a mum to four kids who have taught me more about happy than I could ever imagine. I’m a country girl at heart who believes confetti has the magical ability to pull anyone out of a bad mood, and clean, organised cupboards give me more satisfaction than I’d care to admit!
Where did your love of photography spring from?
My family. They are my greatest inspiration. I couldn’t see a better way of remembering their childhood and this wonderful chapter of our lives than through photos. The more moments I capture, the more I want to take. My love for photography really has allowed me to remember the day to day moments that come with being a Mum.
Do you take photos for your kids or for yourself?
I take them for us. When I’m old and grey, I want to recall the moments in my life that made my heart smile and those that filled me with so much pride I thought my heart would burst. I want to see the love my children had for each other, and the tenderness of my husband as he played with them.
I also want my grown up kids to look through our photos and see how happy we were and for them to know how much love they brought into our life. And to not just see it but to feel the love I felt as I folded them up in my arms and held them every chance I had. I think photos have the power to do that. They have an incredible way of transporting us back to the moments that matter.
What moments do you try to capture?
I’m passionate about capturing the everyday because I want to remember all of it. Especially the mundane, hilarious and messy moments that come with raising a family, because these moments are real. Photography has opened my eyes to seeing the beauty in our ordinary.
I’ve learnt that there is magic in a mess that only kids can create – Vegemite stained faces, spilt milk, unruly hair, the afternoon grumps and children who defiantly choose their own outfits and wear gumboots with everything! This is where the magic happens for me and they are definitely the memories I want to see in my family albums.
What makes for a great family portrait shot?
I don’t believe our life can be summed up in one perfect family portrait, it’s also about the moments before and after that. The ones where they run from the camera and play peek-a-boo behind Dad’s leg, when they didn’t want to sit still and we had to chase them for five minutes until they did. You can only get a real sense of family life through a series of shots over a period of time and that’s why photo books and albums are also important to me.
What compositional elements do you look for?
Definitely colour and movement. Not only do they look great but they often inspire more of an emotional response. They really can make the photos look and feel alive. Storytelling is really important too. Capturing the details like the way my children snuggle up together in the mornings or a close-up to remember their love of rollerskating and patterned leggings all tell a beautiful story without words. Confetti helps too!
What are your top tips for capturing ‘happy’ photos of kids?
You may not believe this but if you want natural smiles instead of cheesy grins, don’t say ‘SMILE’! Try laughing hysterically, doing a little bum wiggle to make them laugh, or tell a joke as you click the shutter instead. Your enthusiasm and silliness will be infectious and you’ll see the joy all over their faces.
Play! Playing with your kids, camera in hand, is the perfect way to get magic images because they’re happiest when you’re right there in the middle, interacting with them and getting involved in their games. I’ll pillow fight with them (with the camera firmly attached to my side) and won’t hesitate to surprise them with a handful of confetti as they come out of their room. So just be playful, and don’t ever be afraid to look like a fool for a great photo – kids love it!
What do you do with your own family photos?
I regularly print my favourite photos and put them in frames. I love having walls filled with special memories for us to see every day. Admittedly we’re not as good when it comes to getting them all up on the wall but they are framed ready for when my husband wants to hang them!
We also have a large selection of photo books with captions scattered through our home that the kids love flicking through and reading. This year I’ve made one as a Christmas gift for the kids plus both sets of grandparents. That way we’ll never forget! It doesn’t matter how many great photos you take unless you care for them by printing them out.
View Bec’s photo book
Flick through Bec’s gorgeous family photo book here, and learn more of her tricks in the workshop outlined below.
Get 25% off printed hardcover photo books and boxes until 15 November 2018
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The Art of Happy Photos Workshop by Bec Stewart
To master the art of capturing happy photos, check out Bec’s three week online workshop that teaches techniques to create and see joy, skills in visual storytelling and the way she connects with her children and subjects to create timeless family photos. You’ll come away with the ability to take the happiness you feel and translate it into happy photos that will transport you back to the moment. The course includes live webinars, photo assignments, group discussions and personal video critiques, plus three weekly PDF’s to work through. Prices start at $200 and the full details are available here.