Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Variety and Creativity in Family photography


What Do I Look For in Images?

What has always drawn me to family photography as a genre is the huge scope for variety and creativity that it allows me in my work. There are no rules. I’m booked to create beautiful images but within that wide remit I can find new images on each shoot, always pushing myself to make new and interesting images. I’m not working to a shot list or repeating the same poses week in week out. Instead, I follow the action, am lead by the children, and work within their own environment to create family photos that are full of variety and creativity, and most importantly that will be full of memories for the families I work with.

This photo shoot was such a treat, two wonderful little girls who were such great fun. We wanted to take images in their home, garden and local park as the family are soon to move house and wanted a record of where they had spent so many happy times. It was brilliant, a beautiful home, and a park that I didn’t know well (although after a while of thinking it was new to me, I remembered I had been there before but a decade ago. I wonder if I have photographed in every park in London by now). We were even lucky with the weather which feels like a miracle this May, it’s not been the kindest when it comes to sunshine.

I have chosen these three images today to show a bit of the variety that I like to include in my work and to talk a bit about creativity and composition and the fun of working in different environments.

Let’s start with this glorious family photo. I love taking family pictures indoors, the light is often very beautiful and here we had two lovely big windows in the drawing room giving us this soft diffuse light. We were just hanging around, playing some games. After taking a few shots of the girls together on the sofa I was letting the story develop in front of me, just watching and waiting and taking pictures as moments arose. I could see that there was a wonderful possibility to create an image with two distinct layers but what I needed to really make it sing was something that would link the two. I wanted to use differential focus to add interest and ensure the image wasn’t overloaded, but I needed to link the dad and baby at the front with the mum and older daughter at the back. What I wanted some kind of repetition of mood, action or emotion and I didn’t have to wait long. Here we have this wonderful repeated gesture and laughter between the two pairs. I love how the two girls smiles are exactly alike as they are snuggled with their parents, and how the hands and arms hold it together in these matching cuddles. It’s just what I’m after in a family shot, a beautiful natural moment, photographed in a way that brings it all together.


Next up a lovely shot of the girls together in the local park. The sun is shining and the blossom on the trees was glorious, this image sings of springtime and the girls beautiful dresses with their lovely lace skirts were the perfect outfits for this setting. It feels completely timeless. I love the connection, the little one walking so purposefully but being looked after by her wonderful big sister who is looking down on her with such protective love. The interaction between siblings is such a joy and something I always work hard to capture in my family photographs. I love how the trees here give the image context and balance, they hold the image in and also will remind the family where the image was taken, a park that has been such a big part of their lives in recent years.

I included the final image to show a different type of creativity, how using different techniques can produce such exciting and dynamic images in locations which might not be the easiest to photograph in. London gardens, while an absolute treat to have, can be a little limited photographically due to constraints of background and direction of light. Here the back garden was being used as a tennis court, the stone slabs being the perfect material for a bouncing ball. I wanted to take an image that really showed the energy that was being put into the game, something that had movement. I chose to use the Zoom Burst technique which worked brilliantly. Using a slow shutter speed, I zoomed my lens as I was taking the image creating these dynamic lines. It’s as if you can feel the energy with which she’s about to hit the ball. As always, with a shot like this, it’s important to have the eyes sharp and they are showing us the determination in her gaze. I love it, it’s a very different and creative portrait and all the more exciting for being unusual.

There are, of course, so many other exciting images from this shoot showing a wide variety and creativity in my family photography. I hope you like this sneak preview and enjoyed reading about the thought process behind the images.

If you would like to book your own family session this year the do get in touch, especially if you would like a summer date as they are getting very booked up now. I’d love to hear from you and to meet your family to create wonderful pictures which you can enjoy for many years to come.