Ten tips for photographing your family

Helen Bartlett is one of the most respected family portrait photographers in the United Kingdom. For her work, she only uses natural light and no flash. Helen does all her work in black and white to create timeless family photos.

We asked her to share some of the secrets she learned during her long and prestigious career. Find out how to make beautiful pictures of your family during the holidays and all the rest of the year.


1. Keep your camera in your hand, not your phone

“The first step to taking good pictures is to always have your camera with you. Nowadays, smartphones allow you to take correct pictures, but a good camera will give you much more control over your images. The other disadvantage of phones is that it’s easy to be distracted by e-mails or work. A SLR or a good compact camera allows you to focus on your photos. Most cameras produce higher quality files, which is really important if you want to print your photos. I advise you to keep your camera in your bag or on the kitchen table so that it is always at hand when you want it. I would also advise you not to hesitate to ask relatives for photos. Or even to your babysitter. Babysitters are often with your children and can capture beautiful moments. »

2. Photograph your family’s Christmas

“On Christmas Day, it’s really nice to photograph the family’s little habits. For example, if everyone opens their gifts in bed, keep your camera handy to photograph the pleasure on all faces (or slight disappointment if they got the wrong gift!). If the weather is good, go outside: children are often more natural. Why not take a family walk and bring the new toys? It is in these situations that you will find the best opportunities to photograph your family in the most natural way.”

3. Start early

“I tend to start taking pictures at 8:00 in the morning. The children are in better mood in the morning at the first hour, when they are well rested and have had a good breakfast. As the day progresses, the children get tired, quarrel over toys and the complicity shatters. Try to take all formal or group photos at the beginning of the day. So, the rest of the time, you can all relax and get natural and fun images without worrying about getting a smile from the last kid for the picture. Think about the planning of the children to increase your chances of getting good pictures. Take lots of pictures, take some every day and at the end of the holidays, you can create a family adventure book that you can watch with pleasure.”

4. Don’t forget to participate

“In many families, only one person is always behind the camera; when I was a child, it was my father. Don’t forget to turn the camera on so that all family members appear in the pictures. These images will be important for your children as they grow up. To take a complete portrait of the family, put the camera on a tripod (or place it in a stable place such as a table or park bench) and use the self-timer. For a different and fun perspective, why not offer the camera to your children and have them take pictures of you? Then they can start to take an interest in photography.”

5. Focus on everyday life

“It is long past the time when people only brought their cameras for special occasions and holidays. Today, we can get many more pictures of everyday activities. Photograph how your family members meet on the couch at the end of a long day. Take the joyful look that your children jumping into bed, fresh and refreshed to play from 5am. Move in the background and use a larger lens or the zoom of your camera to photograph children who are playing in order to get pretty, really natural images. »

6. Use the place to tell a story

“Try to capture narrative elements in some of your images. It’s great to get a perfect portrait, but a wider angle of view can also provide a very satisfying result. Photograph your child in his room with his toys. Give a scale to the image of your children playing in the local park or woods by taking a vertical picture that shows the height of the trees. Use your environment creatively, looking for shapes and shadows, reflections and framing elements to add something special to your shots.”

“Children are in better shape in the morning first thing in the morning, when they are well rested and have had a good breakfast.”

7. Look for interesting compositions and angles

“Sometimes you can grab someone’s mind without showing their face. Particular angles and points of view can really make it possible to take interesting pictures. For example, take pictures of the details of your baby’s little hands or the fact that your baby insists on wearing his rubber boots in the wrong direction. Try effects with the camera settings. Use a high shutter speed to capture all movement details. Show your child’s intense activity through blur by setting the shutter speed to the lowest setting and using a tripod to stabilize the camera in front of which your child will run. Feel free to increase the ISO sensitivity when shooting indoors. I never use a flash. I prefer to use the available light so that my photos are more natural. Try to take black and white images that will have a timeless touch and should be appreciated by future generations.”

8. Get to their level

“Lower yourself to the level of the children’s eyes to appreciate the world from their point of view. Try to sit or lie on the floor. This approach can also reduce background clutter and distractions on the image. You can often fill the background with the sky, trees or walls rather than with the entire contents of the toy chest scattered at your feet… even if it can also be fun to take a happy child surrounded by the capernaum he has put on.”

9. Print your photos

“Don’t forget to print your photos, either from your personal printer or by printing them online or in a store. You can even get personalized cups, posters, etc. with your photos. You can enjoy it every day. Paper prints can be preserved and kept secure. They are not likely to be lost on a computer or memory card. »

10. Have fun

“Your children will be more interested in participating if they like to be photographed. Don’t expect too much from them, especially when they’re tired, and don’t involve them in the whole process. Take pictures of their favorite objects, their stuffed animals, the drawings they just painted. Play games, sing songs, climb trees. Take advantage of Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions to really take them when they are the most outgoing!”