Photographing families – beyond the studio portrait

Last weekend I photographed a young family in their home just outside Brussels. It was the second time in a week that a client had told me: "We want something less formal, more spontaneous."

I had a great time, chatting with the parents, sitting on the floor with the children (aged three and one), and getting really close as they became absorbed in a story or a game. I started shooting the moment I arrived, and in the two hours I was there I don't think I even asked for a head to be turned more than two or three times.

A tripod or a flash would have made it much harder to get the children – and perhaps the parents, too – to relax and be themselves. So I was pleased that there was midday light pouring in through a big picture window. I shot fairly wide open in order to separate my subjects from the background clutter of furniture and toys. But despite that, I had to compromise with shutter speed and ISO, except for the 15 minutes when we went out into the garden.

 young Belgian couple at home

Technically, the resulting images are not as perfect as those that a studio photographer would have produced. But nor are they stiff or stilted. They capture the personalities of four members of a family on a particular day in the winter of 2017, enjoying one another's company in their own environment. That is, after all, what my clients wanted. And they are super happy with the results.

I'm not posting any images of the children here, because the parents specifically asked me not to publish these online.