Lifestyle Family Portrait shoot in beautiful autumnal woodland

Dec 11, 2018

I love autumn and it couldn’t be a better time of year for outside portraits. The colours are just divine, it’s still warm and the sun is low in the sky and casts a much softer light. So it was a great time to be approached by the Roberts for a natural, documentary, family portrait session and, despite a dreary forecast, we were blessed with a great day for it.

So here are the Roberts; parents Vicki and Elliott and their two beautiful children, Amelie and Harrison. I will mention now that Vicki is actually my cousin. We spent our childhood years playing together, mostly at my grandparents’ house or on holiday in Dorset, playing games in their garden or country dancing around my nan and grandad’s lounge rug! We have one of those relationships where we don’t see each other very often but when we do we go all nostalgic and usually laugh so much we cry. So I knew this shoot would be a great opportunity to catch up as well as make some amazing memories for her family. I wasn’t quite anticipating the near disaster that unfolded but more of that later.

I was given two tasks by Vicki before the shoot. The first was to get some updated images for Amelie’s portfolio. Amelie is deaf and communicates mainly through Makaton signing and she is also a model for a modelling agency for disabled adults and children. The second task was to take a picture of Vicki that she didn’t mind looking at, as like many people, she hates having her picture taken. There are some very simple ways to achieve this and it comes down to the documentary style of my work. 

If you spend time with someone you become more comfortable with them. This is why I hate to rush my shoots. The best shots will undoubtedly be at the end. It’s also the same reason that I love doing engagement shoots with my wedding clients. By the time the wedding comes, I’m part of the furniture.

Another way to achieve natural portraits is to be occupied. We chose a great location where Amelie and Harrison could be kids! They could run around, play on the swings and hide in bushes; hardly any effort is needed from me to get a smile on their faces, I just have to look for the composition and light. Harrison also had his remote controlled car with him to keep him busy whilst I got the portfolio images of Amelie. But the images of him and his beloved toy made for some gorgeous story telling and in years to come will be a reminder of the things he loved.

So, if I told you that the near disaster started when, before the shoot Vicki passed her phone to Elliott to look after, you may think you know where this story goes. You are probably right! We spent a couple of hours in the woods and then, as we gathered our things together to head back to the car, Vicki asked for her phone back and yes, Elliott patted his pockets and looked up with that ‘oh no!’ expression on his face. Elliott and I retraced our steps, looking on the paths covered in orange leaves for a phone in an orange case – brilliant. Amazingly, after about 20 minutes and with the aid of ‘find my phone’, we spotted it and headed back to the car. Vicki and I were giggling away at how funny it was, only possible because of the relief at having actually found the phone, when Elliott said, “have you got the car keys Vicki?”, to which Vicki responded casually, “I didn’t have the car keys, you had them”.

Yes folks, that’s right! Not only had they managed to lose a phone but also their car keys in the same 2 hours. The happy and slightly remarkable ending is that we found the keys too and far from being a disaster, we got some amazing shots of their family. I will always laugh when I think back to the shoot and it has given Vicki and I yet another story to giggle about when we next meet up. I may also add to my ‘pre shoot advice’ to make sure that things are safely tucked away to avoid them getting lost! 

Enjoy some more of my favourites and if you’d like to know more about my family portrait sessions, get in touch via my contact page x


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I'm a documentary wedding photographer based in Kent and also cover Surrey, Sussex, Essex and London. I also love to shoot family portraits in the Kent area.

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