Celebrating her daughter’s very first summer by taking a photo a day for a month was only meant to be a once off for Bec Brindley, back in 2013. Little did she know it would be the beginning of an annual family tradition, still going strong 7 projects on…
Every January I love seeing Bec’s images pop up in my feed, which are equally as beautiful as the heartfelt words that accompany each one.
Each day she writes a letter to the subject/s of the photo. She chats about what was going on that day, and includes snippets about the kids, their loved ones, and their daily lives at that point in time.
It’s the most creative and detailed way to document a family’s life as anything I’ve ever seen.
Photographing our family’s special events is important. I remember how much I loved flicking through my own family’s photo albums (remember those?!) back in the day. But they didn’t tell me anything about our everyday lives. I learned what we all looked like at various times, and through those photos I was shown birthdays, Christmases, my first day of school…
But when it came to the stories? My mum doesn’t have a great memory for the details. She doesn’t even remember the name of our first dog! If only she’d written them down.
However, Bec’s children and their future generations will enjoy her gift of their everyday stories for years to come, which is much meatier than images alone.
Sooo… I had a chat to Bec, I was curious to know what it has meant to her personally to do this photo project every year, and how she goes about it. Also, I wanted an excuse to share her beautiful work!
Read on to learn why starting this photo project has come to mean so much to Bec, why you should start one yourself this summer… and some pro tips to help you take photos you’ll love!
I truly enjoy each 31 Days of Summer project.
My two kids are my favourite subjects to photograph, and they already love going back and looking at previous years’ images and letters.
When I write the letters, I simply tell them about their day and any particular funny or sweet things they did or said. If there are other people in the shot, I might also talk about their connection.
I often get teary as I write, and it’s a pretty cool way to remind myself of everything I can be grateful for.
With the exception of the first day of school, and the last photo of the month, I don’t plan the shots.
I just take a bunch of photos throughout the day, and choose my favourite at the end of the day.
I highly recommend making some time every night to choose your favourite image and write the letter. If I don’t do it that night, it’s too hard to remember what happened yesterday!
If we’re away on holidays and I don’t have a computer, I write the letters in my phone and save it for later.
When I save the images I add the date and time to the filename using the metadata from Lightroom. I always physically type those details on the image as part of the project.
Don’t forget to use a super fast shutter speed when capturing kids on the move to freeze that motion!
It’s important not to get caught up trying for perfection. You’ll only get frustrated, run out of time, take the fun out of it, and potentially give up.
I remind myself that I’m doing this for my kids, not social media. I don’t let less than perfect lighting stop me from taking a shot that my kids will love.
Sometimes both kids won’t be in each shot, but I’ve learnt to let go of that.
I also don’t give any consideration to the final gallery in terms of colour vs. B&W. I simply choose an edit that suits the image.
Experiment with your position for more variety and creativity in your photos. Stand up and shoot directly down, get down low and shoot up, using the sky as backdrop. Move yourself around, try different angles, wide, close, include negative space, use objects in the environment to frame your subject.
With the exception of the first day of the school or daycare photo, I don’t pre-plan the photos or set anything up. It’s important to me that the moments are a true representation of our family life.
I take my camera everywhere, even the supermarket… this is when the funny little things can happen.
This project lends itself perfectly to a documentary photography approach, in that including the environment and background, clutter and all, adds to the storytelling.
I almost always use my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, and when I’m going out with the kids it’s the only lens I take.
Get into the habit of putting your battery on charge every night… you don’t want something awesome to happen and you miss it!
A wide angle lens such as Bec’s 35mm is perfect for this project because it’s so verstile. It enables you to shoot in small spaces, and include the environment which is important when using images for telling stories.
Related: What Lens Should I Use?
At the end of the project, I design the images and stories into a photobook for printing. It’s my hope that one day these books will be passed on to their children and so on.
I’m so grateful I started this project and continued to do it every year, as it’s a tangible and more detailed form of memories of my kids’ early days and our family life.
Day 31 is always a whole family shot in the same location (except that first year!). I take it using a wireless remote, which are super cheap and make life a lot easier!
To get yourself in the frame you’ll need a tripod. Get everyone else in place, leaving a spot for yourself, and frame the scene.
Select your settings for correct exposure, using an aperture of around f/5.6. This will give you enough depth of field to get the average sized family in focus, as well as giving you a bit of room for error.
Focus on the centre focal plane, and lock focus by switching it to manual focus.
Set the timer, run back in place, smile!
If you have a remote timer, it’s even easier.
Aaaaand that’s a wrap. Ok, I’ll try and keep it semi-brief-ish!
Your Dad is the best. He loves you so much. He plays with you when he’s tired, he lives to make you laugh and he is a giant sook. He puts everyone in this family first. Miss W, he shows you how any woman should be treated and Master A, the man you should become.
You are going to shine this year. School is going to be so amazing for you and you will learn so many new things. You will struggle with the perfectionist that you are and wanting to know how to do everything yesterday.
You will (hopefully!) learn patience. You are so very kind and loving and the best big sister that Master A could ask for. Your ability to make friends easily is beautiful to watch.
You are going to test your Dad and I with your very strong will and feeling that you already know the best way to do everything, but I know this will benefit you greatly when you’re older. Nanny Rose and Poppy will probably call this karma.
Oh you are a funny little man. You crack us up so much. The age you are at right now is fascinating to watch as you are learning so many new words every day and working out your way in the world.
You are a running, climbing, full on little bulldozer. If you look closely at your right eye you will see your latest shiner with a nice cut from flying into your sister’s bottom bunk last night. You are a very big fan of the word no and are very clear in when you want to and don’t want to do things.
Your tantrums make us laugh so much because you run and throw yourself onto the ground in a dramatic show. You are a big sook like your Dad and love a ‘cuddie’.
You adore your sister SO much. I have heard you call out her name twice in your sleep this week and then have a big giggle. I would love to know what you’re dreaming. You are going to miss her this year when she’s at school. We love so much that you became part of this family.
They haven’t changed one bit, other than both have a lot more grey. Charch still lives for food, more so than ever actually. Asha would take a scratch and a cuddle over a snack any day… still living to please and trying to guess what we want her to do before we say it.
Charche is 10 this year and Asha 9. They’re both in good health and hope they’re in many more January projects to come.
Bec Brindley is a family photographer based in Bayside Melbourne, Australia. If you loved her work and want her to take your own family photos, head here and check her out!