In late December, just before we closed the studio for the year, I photographed Evelyn and her family at Balls Head Reserve on Sydney Harbour. Evelyn and her family were relocating to Melbourne over the Christmas break, and wanted some images that reminded them of their time in Sydney. I worked with Evelyn to design a very Sydney family portrait shoot, showcasing some landmarks and elements of their favourite area, but without making it too obvious and cliché.
This image is the undisputed favourite family portrait from this session for several key reasons:
- It delivers on the brief of making it “Sydney” – the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are present without being overbearing or too obvious.
- The interaction and laughter within the family perfectly sums up this group of personalities.
- Compositionally the image has plenty of interest points, starting with the arrangement of the family members, and working outwards to the fencing, the trees, the harbour, and so on.
- It absolutely ROCKS in black & white, which Evelyn LOVED.
With older children, my challenge wasn’t about “Can I capture these images before they run away?” Instead, the challenge becomes one of engaging and connecting with the older children, to ensure I get real, genuine expressions rather than bored faces with fake camera smiles. Using my amazingly quick wit, and sharp conversational abilities, I was able to get the kids on side almost immediately. Oh, and Dad was being a bit ridiculous just off the side of my shot…
A recurring theme with my portraits sessions is capturing an individual portrait study of each person – especially the children in a family. I find it quite profound seeing the different expressions each person presents me as I look through the viewfinder. I also am always able to tell a false smile from a genuine expression – it’s all about the eyes.
I’m not always going for a smile, I simply want the expressions to be honest and real.
In this case, each child is going through a new stage in life – school, development, growth – and an individual portrait study such as this helps preserve this sense of them being on the cusp of adolescence and/or adulthood.