How would you describe your style?
"I describe myself as a documentary family and wedding photographer. During my 'day-in-the-life' shoots, I spend up to 12 hours with a family, getting to know them better so that I can show their true personalities. Unlike traditional posed family photoshoots, my work has lots of layers. I don't show an unrealistic perfect version of my families, but try to reveal their true personalities. I want to show the tired parents who are still able to hug their children at the end of a busy day. I want to understand the dynamic that each child brings to the group, and to ultimately provide an authentic depiction of life as it is at that moment that will endure long after the moment fades."
How does your approach enable you to get closer to your subjects?
"Before the shoot, I interview the parents to ask what a normal day looks like in their family's life. It's often something like, 'On Saturday, we wake up at 9am, have breakfast, go to the supermarket, visit the grandparents then go for a bike ride, before making dinner together.' Some families are surprised that I want to be there to capture everything, but this is how I develop an understanding that I think shows through in my work. When the shoot begins, everyone is often a little on edge. I don't act like a fly on the wall – I talk to everyone and get to know them. I don't take any photographs for the first 30 minutes, until everyone is comfortable with me being there. Throughout the day, we eat together, travel in the same car together and I become an honorary member of the family. After a few hours, they don't even realise I'm taking photos and this is when the magic starts. Sometimes I'll accompany families on vacations, and rather than capturing pictures of the places they go, I'll focus instead on their emotions and how being together in a foreign place makes them feel."
What kit do you use, and what are your favourite settings?
"I call my Canon EOS R6 Mark II my 'go-to-war' camera for documentary family photography. I switched to mirrorless in 2019 and the upgrade really changed my career. I was suddenly able to focus more on the stories I was trying to tell, rather than my settings. I also have a Canon EOS R5, which I use with my EOS R6 Mark II for weddings, alongside the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM, Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM and Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lenses. For personal pictures or when I'm on holiday, I take a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens. I always shoot in manual, never go below 1/320 and have recently been exploring narrower apertures such as f/7.1 or f/8 because I like how much more detail they include in the backgrounds. I love Canon colours and narrower apertures mean I can make the whole image pop. Thanks to the capabilities of my mirrorless set up, I'm not afraid to shoot up to 10,000 ISO. The only setting I leave automatic is my white balance, because the scenes I'm shooting always change."
What are some challenges that are unique to documentary family photography?
"The hardest part of my job is getting my subjects to open up. Families book me because they see my work and like my style, but sometimes find it hard to let me in. In order for me to capture authentic emotion, I need people to let their barriers down and allow themselves to be vulnerable around me. More and more people are choosing candid style family photoshoots over posed shoots because they prefer the authenticity that can be achieved when you're comfortable with your photographer, but sometimes it takes longer for my subjects to open up than I'd like."