Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Creative Composition in Children's Portrait Photography


Something I really enjoy about photographing children and families in black and white is the opportunity to explore graphical compositions and create pictures that have a very strong component of design. I love shapes and lines and looking at how an element can work through an image creating something that is visually spectacular. It’s often images that use the environment in this way that are my favorites from a session.

I love to photograph children as an element in a wider composition so we get a feel for their place in the wider world. Of course I take lots of beautiful headshots and close up portraits but I love stretching myself photographically to create something more, something that reflects my style and which I know relies on the way that I personally see the world. This picture is one of those, I’m so pleased with it.

We spent the most wonderful morning in Richmond Park taking family photographs, exploring different areas and playing different games. One of our favourite locations was this incredible fallen tree and I really enjoyed taking pictures as the children played, climbing and exploring involved in their own games. I saw the possibilities for using this branch as Tom climbed higher and became almost silhouetted against the sky. I had to move fast as we were all a little unsure about just how high was really safe and immediately I concentrated on all the details to get the shot quickly and then encourage Tom to come down to a slightly lower level. For the shot to work it was essential that the branch rose above the tree, it’s shape mirroring that of the foliage below.

Tom looks like a statue up there, part of the tree itself with his stunning profile clear against the sky. I love his pose, so perfectly in sync with the fabulous shapes of the wood, still and yet somehow dynamic as he fearlessly looks towards the next adventure.

I hope it’s exactly the sort of picture that Tom will love as he gets older, it feels timeless to me and I hope that it will be enjoyed for generations of his family in years to come.

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