My Approach To Family Photography | Northampton Family Studio Photography

I like to describe my photographic style as fine art documentary photography based in improvisation. My style draws upon my influences that range from portrait photographers including Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz to photojournalists such as, Margaret Bourke-White and Eve Arnold. 

In fact, I love this quote by Arnold, which is pretty much how I approach portraiture. 

“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”—Eve Arnold, American Photojournalist

I studied both fine art and photo journalism in college and graduate school. When it came time to choose which area to focus on in graduate school: fine art photography or photojournalism, I had a difficult decision to make as I felt like I belonged to both sides. Eventually I chose art, but I also felt like my style was a mix of both fine art and creative documentary photography. The summer before I entered graduate school, I travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland for a photojournalism course, and learned how to create documentary style photo essays. 

The trip coincided with The Fringe Festival, where thousands of known and unknown artists perform all over the city in various genres from theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, to spoken word. I photographed a number of performers from the Festival and loved every second of it. 

What I learned was the need to be technically proficient. More importantly though, I learned how to talk to people on the spot. I learned how to create authentic portraits that felt honest, emotive, and expressive. I’ve never forgotten the feeling of having to approach someone on the street, listen to their story, and ask if I could photograph them.  I was filled with nervous excitement, thinking they would likely say no, but thrilled when most everyone said, yes. 

Creating a connection with another person has always been the real work. The camera settings, lighting, and background are important, and yet, what makes a great portrait is so much more. During that course and over the years, I talked to people. We had genuine conversations. We shared details about our lives. Within the span of several minutes, we both had to allow ourselves to be heard and seen. Not as performers but as people.

I still use the same techniques during a family portrait session. I like to spend a few minutes talking to you and your loved ones. I want to hear about your day, share stories, and find out what your interests are. I expect the kids to get tired of being in front of the camera, it’s natural. I also don’t expect them to smile every frame. I build in breaks for them to go wiggle, dance, and snack. My goal for each session is to create a relaxed studio environment that is fun and memorable. I want to photograph meaningful images that you can pass onto future generations. Plus, I hand out chocolates at the end!

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