Clients often know they want some lovely photos for their wall or an album, but find it hard to nail down exactly what it is they’d like.

Beautiful prints are an investment, so it makes sense to give this some proper thought.

Here I’ll talk you through how to come up with concrete ideas we can discuss. Don’t worry that your ideas tie you to anything; they are just meant as a starting point for discussion. Photography is a flexible process.

Think about the photos you already have, in albums, on your phone, in frames around the house. Which ones hold a special place in your heart? Why? What is it about them that makes those particular images special? It might be the expressions on your children’s faces, the fact someone caught you off-guard looking wistful, the location, the way the sunlight illuminates everyone in your family with golden light. Try to be specific about why you love a particular photograph. It will help to clarify what you really want from your shoot.

Then think about images you’ve seen in magazines or online which you’ve been drawn to. Have you ever seen a photo and thought, ‘Oh I’d love something like that for my children / husband / me.’ What was it that made you pause and take a closer look? Again, try to be specific.

It’s a good idea to collect a few images that particularly resonate with you. You can cut them out of magazines, download them to your phone or create a Pinterest Board if you’re so inclined, there’s no need for anything fancy; a few pictures in an envelope is fine. That way you can show them to me either at the consultation or email them to me beforehand. They make a great starting point and tell me a lot about which direction you feel we should head.

What are the different categories of portrait?


Formal portraits are posed and carefully lit. They can be serious character studies or more lighthearted but they are completely staged and directed. It’s important to note that we’re not talking ‘school photo’ here. It’s not point, shoot, smile, finish. The aim is to capture characters. Most often these are indoor shoots.


These often happen naturally with children and families when we start out taking a formal portrait. Somewhere along the way we are having so much fun that the natural exuberance of the child (or often dad) surfaces and formal becomes something a bit different. I’m a huge fan of these types of shots, where people forget about the camera and just let go. It’s why I’m a fan of shooting individuals and families in their own home environment. It’s where you feel most comfortable.

They can also be outdoor shots and these are rather lovely for engagement shoots or senior portraits.

Informal Lifestyle shots

Often these are outdoor shoots and they are great for families. Toddlers and kids can run around and do their own thing, and lots of little moments of family interactions present themselves. There will almost always be elements of formal and semi formal in these shots and they are great for providing a variety of groupings, solo shots and fun pictures. They can be soft and dreamy, with floaty dresses and flowers, or we can use bubbles and balloons or even ice creams; families might choose to bring bikes or scooters, or water guns. They can be sunny day shots or fun in the rain shots. It’s down to what you want to say about your family in the photographs.

Docu-style shots

I love these sorts of shots. Many of my favourite shots of my own family are documentary style, where everyone is doing their own thing and I’m an invisible observer. They aren’t right for everyone, but if you want ‘real-life’ images of your family these can provide truly wonderful memories. They are something I recommend for families of  children with special needs, such as autism or ADHD. It takes a lot of stress out of the shoot if a child doesn’t feel pressure to perform for the camera and means the adults involved can just relax.


These tend to be shot with a particular use in mind: a publicity shot for a business website or printed literature, or to add to an acting portfolio. They are clean, head-and-shoulder shots which capture you in such a way that your clients or a potential agent will connect with the person behind the photo.

Environmental Portraits

I call these the super-headshot! They are great for business use and advertising purposes. They incorporate a little of your business into your shot and subtly let your customers into your world, creating trust. If you own a beautiful shop let people take a peek at it by featuring it in the background. If you’re a carpenter, let them see you at work. This type of shot is powerful at building a connection between you and your potential clients.