Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Imaginative Play on Family Photo Shoots


Games and Dressing Up Create Wonderful Opportunities for Photographs

Photographing imaginative play is one of the joys of family photography and it’s one of the many reasons I’ve always loved taking pictures inside the home on every portrait session. Outside we have the beautiful backdrops, the lovely light, the freedom to run and to climb, but indoors also offers us something special as family photographers.

Children spend a lot of their time indoors and all children have their favourite things to do at home. There will be the game ‘of the moment’, the one you find them doing in the snatched moments of time between getting up and breakfast, between breakfast and getting dressed or between getting dressed and going to school as well as for long mornings or afternoons, hours spent in an imaginary world. There are often games that children will return to, day after day, week after week and which, in years to come, everyone will remember. I have such vivid memories of a pirate ship on the climbing frame in the garden that we spent a whole summer sailing around the garden and years spent making plasticine models, my brother’s models were always unique, imaginative and innovative, mine were pale imitations but I had fun making them. These little things, they have such resonance to remember.

When I visited Sarah this year, our third annual session together, she told me that the boy’s current favourite game was firefighters. It ranged from playing with the model fire trucks (as I saw with a high speed rescue going on as I drank a quick cup of coffee on arrival) to elaborate imaginative games in full costume as ‘Nick and Nicky’, the boys firefighter alter-egos, defended the world from perilous blazes rescuing people and breaking down doors.

Sarah was keen to have some pictures which caught the spirit of this game as it is such a huge part of the boys lives at this time and I was happy to oblige. It’s lovely to photograph something like this and wonder, will the boys still be playing it next year when I visit or will they have moved on to something new, only time will tell.

This shot was taken towards the end of our family portrait session. We had been out to the park dodging the rain showers that seem to be such a big part of autumn this year, and we were back at home taking some pictures before we stopped at lunch time.

The boys had put on their firefighter uniforms and were engaged in a daring rescue operation of Sarah who was stuck in the wardrobe – a brilliant game of imaginative play. It was hilarious to watch but I soon realised that the best pictures were not going to be available to me from my current viewpoint, the boys were talking to their mother, their faces were to the cupboard door. So, after the successful rescue mission I realised that I would need to take my turn facing toasted feet and terrible danger in the burning lift shaft (yes, I admit it, I LOVE an imaginative game). Facing the fire and squeezing myself, and all my cameras, into the bottom of the wardrobe I awaited rescue by the brave forces of the emergency services.

It wasn’t long in coming and as courageous Nick and Nicky broke into the lift, fire extinguishers at hand, I took this picture which I love and which I immediately chose as today’s Just One.

It tells the story. I love the full firefighter outfit, the sweet expression as he rescues me from danger and the composition using the doors of the wardrobe to frame the action and tell the story as we see Nick’s hand reaching in to save me. Beautiful light from the bedroom window illuminates his face, it’s all come together so well.

So, when you are planning your family photography session think further than shots outside at the park, think too about what your children love to do at home, what are their games of the moment the things that sum up how they spend their time at this point in their lives, think about imaginative play. These should be part of our photo shoot, these will transport you back in years to come and raise a smile as this next year passes and the children move on to different toys and games. Memories are a wonderful thing and I love being able to record them for you.

If you are new to the blog and would like to know more about my family photography sessions then do explore the website where you can find out how it works, my photography prices and see recent press coverage. If you have any questions then do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you and help you plan the perfect photo shoot for your family.