He now has five children, and thousands of prints, negatives, and digital images of his family. His award-winning shots of his family growing up, and latterly of the children with whom he works at an adventure playground are vital, full-of-life, fresh and unposed. We asked him for his tips for taking the best possible shots of your family.
“It wasn’t until i was given my first proper film SLR – a cheap, second-hand Practica – in the mid nineties, that I really started in photography. I bought a pile of 70’s in-struction books and set about learning. I became obsessed, inspired and alive, shooting three or four films a week. You find a lot of photographers forget to photograph their actual families, and I was very aware not to be like that.
The best shots are often the impromptu ones. Sometimes a favourite is a one-off mistake in a roll full of something else. I can still hear and smell the excitement in some of those old images. A successful photograph is worth as much a story or a poem. All photographs age brilliantly eventually. They say your best camera is the one you have with you, and that’s true. The quality of mobile phone images is now phenomenal, when on a small screen, but for me, they still lack the romance. My very first SLR images 30 years ago just looked incredible compared to the images shot on my ‘do everything’ compact cameras. And mainly because of those wide open apertures that can make the background soft and dreamlike, while your subject pops and is pin-sharp.
I use anything as a prop. I’m always searching for vintage props online and in charity shops, especially clothes and toys. Details found in classic clothes change everything, a duffle coat, a knitted jumper, or the fabric of an old T-shirt are brilliantly timeless and so photogenic.
I think family photography is possibly the easiest type to master. I’ve learnt every-thing from photographing my children. A child’s imagination and creativity is far beyond our adult minds. Children are usually honest and comfortable with them-selves. They lack that self-consciousness we have developed as adults.
SAY CHEESE - Tips to turn your family album into a work of art
- Shoot everything and when nothing is happening make it happen. Go for a walk at sunrise or sundown. Shoot the rain. Shoot your pets. Create a situation, watch it unfold where the light is good. Don’t say “no” to an idea. Most ideas are great, if a little exhausting. Children are unpredictable in a very predictable way. Keeping things alive and enjoyable means they will hopefully want to do it again, and again.
- Let them get involved and take their own pictures. Digital cameras specifically for children are becoming cheaper so get them their own and start them shooting the world. Show them all the images and let them help choose which ones to enlarge or how to edit them.
- Buy an old film camera, A classic Olympus trip, Polaroid, Canon AE1 or box Brownie and a roll of 120 film; they’re all easily available for under £10 – and let your children experience taking film images and seeing the final prints.
- Printing your shots is a must! Digital or film. Get them hanging them on the wall. Turn them into postcards, and post them.
- Photography should have no rules. Be quick. Be candid. Shoot into the sun. Get on the ground. Roll on the floor, Get close. Get impact. Get excited; a little silliness goes a long way.
- Chase the moment. Shoot from the hip. Shoot from the heart.