Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Photographing Teenagers in Sevenoaks in Kent


I first photographed Tara and her three wonderful children back in 2007 when my fledgling business was still in it’s early days. Since then we have kept in touch with my regular newsletters and I was thrilled when Tara booked in another family session at her home in Sevenoaks. The little children who I had played hide and seek with and enjoyed finger painting in the kitchen of their old London home are now wonderful young people, intelligent, interesting and engaging teenagers with whom it was an absolute pleasure to spend a morning.

When I’m photographing older children and teens I like to divide the session – to start with a walk where we can take family pictures and portraits in a beautiful setting. Tara had the most incredibly fields at the back of her house and I felt like I was in a film walking through the paths between the corn. It made a brilliant location for family photos.

The family dogs joined us and were happy to be part of the session, keeping everyone laughing as they bounded through the pictures, adding a brilliant extra dimension to one of the family portraits. The children were great fun to photograph, completely confident in front of the camera and it was really interesting to discuss the use of imagery with them – how teenagers use Instagram and the power of a really good portrait. Young people are so switched on about the world around them, it gives me so much hope for the future, with this generation in charge I think good things will happen.

On our way home we stopped at a rope swing and bridge, an area where the children had played a lot when they were younger. It clearly had so much resonance for the family and it’s lovely to think that when they look back on these pictures they will remember their teenage years but also the setting will take them back further to their childhood and to the hours they spent in and around this stream, having fun together and with their friends.

Heading back to the house and garden I was keen to incorporate the children’s hobbies into the session – teenage years are a time when so many interests are developed and skills refined. It’s lovely to have pictures of these things as they may be taken forward into adult life or they may not, they may be a passing phase that will be looked back on with fondness or they may be the building blocks of future careers. It’s too early to tell and so great to photograph it all.

The children were all incredibly sporty with rugby being the family sport and I had a great time photographing them playing together. It’s good to see that all three of them took the sport seriously and clearly having someone to play with meant that their sporting prowess had increased with practice. Jack was also a keen boxer and I found it fascinating to photograph him hitting the heavy bag. As a keen (and very bad) boxer myself it was great to chat about the sport. Emma is an artist and photographing her adding to her beautiful sketchbook was a privilege, I’ve never been able to draw but it is a skill I admire so much. Her work was beautiful and inspiring. Rory, the youngest, was a keen model maker as well as a cyclist and I loved seeing his precision work on his Airfix models – it took me back to my childhood as my brothers and I had all enjoyed that hobby.

We finished in the swimming pool with some incredible jumps and acrobatics, the shot of Jack twisting as he jumps is a recent favourite and one that I hope to enter into some competitions this year – I hope the judges will share my appreciation for the balletic feel and perfect timing of the shot.

It was a brilliant shoot and one that I will remember for a long time. Photographing teenagers is becoming a larger and larger part of my business. It’s so rewarding to photograph older children and take pictures that they will appreciate, pictures that show them at this time of their lives in a way they want to be presented but that are also really natural in feeling and tone, images that they can take forward into their adult lives and which will remind them of this time when they are on the cusp of adulthood. Photographing teenagers is collaboration and one that I feel very lucky to be involved with.

If you have been thinking of having your teenagers photographed this year then do get in touch, we can have a chat about their interests and plan a brilliant photo shoot that everyone will enjoy and that will result in pictures that you will all love.

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