Family Photos: When Protesters Demonstrate And How To Convert Them

September 25, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Family Photos: When Protesters Demonstrate And How To Convert Them

Three generations of an extended family gather for a family portrait by Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography shot on location.Three generations of an extended family gather for a family portrait by Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography shot on location. When I started writing this post I began wanting to debunk what I thought were ‘myths’ surrounding good family photography.   As I reflected, it became obvious that these weren’t actually myths, but real and genuine protests that I’ve heard over the years.  Some of these protests could be fairly levelled at some photographers.  Others come from the other side of the camera and I thought I’d take a light hearted look at them from my perspective as a lifestyle family photographer who is deeply interested in families and their story.  The better I get to know you and your story, the better images I will make.  

Relationships take time and trust needs to be earned.  Then the magic begins to happen.  There is a case to be made for sticking with a photographer over time who will get to know your family on a deeper level and begin to unearth visual elements of your story that might otherwise remain hidden. 

So bear with me while I tackle these protests.  All I ask is that the placards and megaphones are lowered for a few moments and make a case for family photos that rock.

Three brothers photographed by Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. Three brothers photographed by Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography.

Protest #1 - ‘I’ll break the camera.’

I love this one.  While we all joke about it, there are two elements to this myth that I’d like to pick up on.  

Firstly, your face, body or personality won’t break the camera!  Today’s modern digital cameras are tough and robust and can handle anyone without breaking.  Otherwise I’d be out of pocket and Canon (and other camera makers) would be out of work.

Secondly, and more importantly, everyone, yes everyone, can have a decent picture taken of them.  It’s not a matter of having hundreds of images pristinely airbrushed within an inch of their pixels to create a desired effect, but maybe just one image that helps to tell a story.  The great thing is, you also don’t have to keep all the photos you don’t like.  The wonder of a digital age.

It’s also an element of trust that your photographer will find the right moment, angle and look to capture. We are also our own worst critics, which leads me to protest number two.

A girl poses on her dad's shoulders for a portrait with hands covering her face.  In monochrome. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. A girl poses on her dad's shoulders for a portrait with hands covering her face. In monochrome. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. Protest #2 - ‘I’m not photogenic.’

Now that we’ve established that you won’t break the camera being in front of it, we can address the ‘I’m not photogenic’ protest.  There is a place and a time in the midst of your story (aka life) that you have photogenic moments.  It might be full colour, it might be monochrome, but there will be points in our lives that are worth capturing and preserving to remember.  That moment, that event, those people, that achievement, where you were you, doing your thing, living your life.  It’s worth being able to capture that life moment in an image.   See, I think the focus should possibly shift from how ‘I’ think and feel about me to the bigger picture of your family’s narrative.  In the wider scheme of things we can possibly find a better place for us to sit.  I understand feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera, I really do.  That’s why I work extra hard to ensure that everyone I photograph feels as comfortable as I can make them feel.  This is also why we visit and shoot at locations that are personal to you, for it forms part of the wider narrative of life and takes the focus off the camera.

A young boy posing for a picture about to burst into tears.  Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. A young boy posing for a picture about to burst into tears. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography.

Protest #3 - ‘Just photograph the kids.’

Noooooooo!  I have to protest loudly at this one, in the nicest possible way.  It’s like writing a novel and leaving out some of the main characters.  The story would fall apart and not make sense.  Your story is as unique as your family and if you stay out of it, the story isn’t complete.  Some of the best photos I see of parents with their children are those moments when they’re just goofing around or being together.  They’re not thinking about having their photo taken or posing like their life depended on it.  They’re in the moment, enjoying each other and living their lives.  My motto is ‘capturing life as it happens’.  I spend time with people, living their lives, capturing those important moments as they happen and then preserving that story and presenting it as a work of art.  Your visual story would be incomplete without you.  Let me encourage you to join in.  No hiding behind placards. 

A man smiling while he reads a letter sat at his office desk. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. A man smiling while he reads a letter sat at his office desk. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography.

Protest #4 - 'I’ll need a second mortgage.'

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of companies that will charge you the earth.  They draw you in with all kinds of incentives and then do a massive emotive sales pitch before delivering the knock out punch of the bill.  Some are worth it, others are not.  Frankly though, you don’t have to mortgage your house in order to have quality family photography.  In fact, a lot of the amplification this protest garners is from those who've not resisted the urge to write and cheque or do a bank transfer.  Your heart strings are pulled, the atmosphere is ripe and you can have the lovely free print, but if you really love your kids then it will cost you an arm, and possibly a leg.  Jokes aside, lifestyle family photography doesn’t have to cost the earth, it can be as economical or as elaborate as you desire.  All our prices are available when you view your images in the comfort of your own home.  I can make recommendations if you’re not sure what to choose, but I never, ever pressure sell.  

I have two options for portraits.  The first is my Express Portraits.  Up to one hour session on location, a final selection in a password protected viewing gallery and one free 10 x 8 inch print.  This costs £75.

The second option is my Extended Portraits.  Up to two hours of photography on location, a final selection in a password protected viewing gallery.  You pay a higher fee of £360, but you have this as a credit to spend on print or digital.  This saves you £75 up front and allows for a good number of options from my range.  There is no minimum spend and you choose what works for you.

A photographer in winter gear surrounded by snow covered hills. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. A photographer in winter gear surrounded by snow covered hills. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography.

Protest #5 - Photographers are arty farty grumble bums.

Photographers come from all walks and backgrounds and have varying abilities.  Often a complaint you hear is that photographers aren’t friendly or approachable which can be off putting or make the experience uncomfortable and undesirable.  

If you’re not really keen on being in front of the camera in the first place, then an unfriendly or snooty person behind the camera won’t inspire confidence.

Thankfully, this is not true of all photographers, but when choosing a photographer, a friendly and approachable person makes sense.  You want to be able to communicate and trust the person that you are working with.  You’re trusting them to tell your story and in the short time you have together you want to be able to impart some of that story.

A good lifestyle photographer, like a miner, will unearth those golden story nuggets through talking to and interacting with the family.  

An extended family group pose together in front of Bramall Hall in Stockport, UK.  Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography. An extended family group pose together in front of Bramall Hall in Stockport, UK. Matthew Couper Photography - quality lifestyle family photography.

So next time the suggestion comes up about having family photos, don’t reach immediately for the placards and megaphone.  Find a few photographers that offer a style that works for you and your story and then have a chat with them.  A lot of us are approachable and willing to chat with you about the best way to tell your story.  We’re keen to get to know you and want to do the best visual storytelling that we can so that you’re able to share your story, not only with your family today, but in the generations to come. 

I’d love to meet up and find out about your story.  Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about our lifestyle family photography sessions in Stockport, Cheshire and all across the UK.  I’m happy to meet in person, chat on the phone or take a Skype call.


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