When it comes to documenting family in photos, our story is best told through capturing the small, everyday moments from our daily lives. You know what I’m talking about… little things such as a sweet face smeared in pasta sauce, which will remind you in 20 years how much your baby loved lasagna back in the day.
But life doesn’t always happen in the best light, with a gorgeous backdrop… so if you’re passionate about documenting family through photos, a relaxed approach is essential!
Heidi Talic loves to capture her family’s daily life in this way, and as a mum of two very busy boys (Ollie aged 5 and Jayden aged 8), she’s mastered the art of beautiful storytelling imagery, in less than ideal light and surroundings.
Keep reading to learn Heidi’s top tips and ideas for documenting family at home in beautiful photos you can cherish forever!
Stop and think about the little things that you want to remember.
Christmas morning will happen, someone’s first birthday will happen, a first day of school will happen, and it’s a given you’ll have your camera ready to go. But I’m talking about the little things that show their personalities, the daily moments that tell the story of your everyday at any given time in your life, and the people and things that are most important to you and your family.
When you’re documenting family, these are the things you will look back on in 20 years and remind you exactly how that chapter of your life felt.
Ollie absolutely adores our dog Cuba, but the moments that happen between them are always quick and then they move on to their next thing. So I was on a mission to capture that connection, and I sat around with my camera waiting for their games to happen.
When Ollie was toilet training, the boys would often go together. Kinda gross, kinda cute, and not going to last forever so definitely worth a quick photo to remember what their brotherly love entailed!
You can’t always be sitting around with your camera in hand, waiting. But keep it nearby and be on the lookout for those moments. I often leave mine on the kitchen bench, with settings already dialed in that are likely to get a good exposure in my house give or take a stop.
It’s so easy to decide your home is ‘too dark’, ‘too small, or ‘too ugly’. But start looking for more small pockets of light, in places you would never think of taking photos. These pockets of light can be magical for half an hour here or there, at different times of the day or different times of year, and sometimes half an hour is all you need.
I don’t often shoot in my bedroom because it’s too dark most of the time. However, I’ve noticed for about 30 minutes in the afternoon the sun streams directly through the window onto the end of the bed, which is perfect for a silly selfie.
As the sun rises in the summer it streams directly through our side door and onto the floor. Our house is surrounded by trees which is great for keeping cool in the Queensland heat, but it also means lots of shade so when it falls across this spot, it only lasts a short time! So I plan ahead to get some action happening in there as it makes for a beautiful backlit shot!
Also, try to let go of the idea you have to expose everything light and bright and perfectly. Shadows are good and if you’re light challenged low key photos are beautiful. Also, silhouettes are a great alternative, like this shot below.
Related: Low Light Indoor Photography Tips
So many different shots can be taken of the one activity, all coming together to form a little story.
Step back to get a wide shot of the room/area, then move in a little to get the people and what they are doing, get in super close to show the details. Get down low to show their point of view, shoot from above to show more detail.
My ‘gardening ninjas’…
Don’t be scared, it’s OKAY!
Life happens at all times of day, in rooms with good light, and in rooms with bad light, so don’t let it stop you from taking the picture! Kids move fast and it’s much easier to fix up some grain using the noise luminance and dehaze sliders in Lightroom than to kick yourself for having blurry limbs because you were too scared to increase your shutter!
My boys invented a game they call Catch You. Basically someone says “catch you!”, then my husband growls like a monster and they all run around laughing and screaming like a bunch of maniacs until someone hurts themselves or hubby is too puffed out to keep catching and tickling them.
It’s a fast game! So I need a fast shutter to freeze the motion… and that often means a high ISO to compensate.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, some days are hard, some hours are hard, some kids are hard.
We don’t need to pretend that our lives are straight off a Pinterest board (or maybe I’m a mean mum who runs for the camera instead of helping her poor sad child!). But honestly they are some of my most treasured photos, because they remind me of the roller coaster that chapter of life really was.
The days are long but the years are short, and when the baby years blur into the toddler years and all of a sudden your kid is off to school, those photos of them crying will take you straight back to that feeling. And the kids think it’s pretty funny too!
One of the first things I learned as a beginner photographer was to isolate my subject and reduce chaos in my photos by clearing clutter and distractions in the background.
But when we’re documenting family, those unposed everyday moments happen when they happen, and if you take the time to clear the clutter, well… you’ll miss the shot.
That said, the point of documenting family is to record life as it is and tell our stories. And the best way to do that is to include our surroundings because they give context and layer our images with information. So there’s no need to aim for a totally clear background. Embrace the surroundings, and give some separation to your subject by using a wide aperture.
Uggghhh I know, your hair is messy, you’re wearing some pretty unattractive track pants, you could lose a few kilos blah blah blah.
Your kids don’t care! That’s how they see you every day and all they really see is the way you lovingly prepare their porridge, the way you look at them, the way you laugh when they do something silly.
It doesn’t need to be a close up glamour shot, start by including your hand or your reflection. Think about the daily things you do with your kids and either set up the self timer, use a remote or rope your partner or Nanna into taking some shots for you. You’ll thank yourself in 20 years when you have a few extra chins!
Then have fun!
Related: DIY Family Photos
Many thanks to Heidi for her amazing tips and gorgeous images! Heidi is a CLG Advanced Photography Course grad from the Gold Coast, Australia, where she offers beautifully contemporary lifestyle and portrait photography at Heidi Talic Photography.