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  • Writer's pictureCara Hodge

Documentary Family Photography Dublin. What is it?

Updated: Apr 2


What is documentary family photography? In a nutshell it means not posed photography, or unscripted, unplanned moments.

An example, below. My son showering Zara the cat. I wasn't expecting him to do this (he usually washes our cat in the bath!). I grabbed my camera and got some of my favorite pictures of him washing her.

boy wearing shorts in the shower washing his pet cat under the shower. documentary family photographer Dublin
Recent Fave - Showering Zara

Capturing gesture & movement

Unlike a more posed family photography, documentary style revolves around recording natural movements & gestures. This means the main subject is often not aware of the camera at all.

After the shower, Zara dried off in bed with my son & I captured the moment he inserted his finger in his mouth, and she fake-gnawed at it. I love the squint in her eye at that moment, and the obvious trust & bond between them. (unscripted family photography/showering Zara)

cat squinting as boy inserts a finger into its mouth. documentary family photographer dublin. natural & emotive child portraits

Capturing the details in the environment

Aside from capturing genuine gesture & movement, documentary family photography can help to capture less obvious details. These are the details we might not ordinarily notice until they are frozen in time. For example, the beads of water on the shower screen really add to the feel of water and decorate the frame with texture.

boy showering a frenchie dog

Embrace the "in between" moments

As opposed to "an eyes on me" portrait - a person looking directly into the camera & aware of being photographed, documentary or natural family photography Dublin, focuses on "in between" moments. Action happening at the end of something & the start of something else. For example, below are two children are playing & we can see clearly what they are doing. But when they are jumping & end up on a heap on the floor, it is less obvious what is happening. As part of a photo story or a collection of images, this can add ambiguity and interest.

two children, girl and boy tumbling on the carpet surrounded by toys
Play wrestle

The jump for the bunk bed means capturing some imperfect blur!

two children mid air as they jump off bunk bed

The heap on the floor when it's hard to tell who is who! Documentary family photography captures the chaos, messy moments, of real life.

two children in a heap on floor so it is hard to tell who is who
Heap on the floor

Documentary newborn photography at home

Practicing documentary family photography at home means when I capture my client families, I am also on the look out for emotive expressions & gestures, for example on this in home newborn photo shoot, this tiny newborn boy made so many little gestures that changed from moment to moment

newborn baby looking like he is fist bumping the air
Fist bump

Also here, below the moment baby is dressed by mum and dad. I wanted to document how tiny he was & vulnerable, only two weeks old. (natural maternity photographer Dublin)

hands reaching out to dress newborn baby boy
Dressing newborn baby boy

The unexpected moment a dog licked newborn baby's feet when held by dad in an in home family photo shoot where I captured candid moments. (at home newborn photographer Dublin)

dog licking newborn baby feet when held by dad

Documentary family photography is perfect for family events

I always use emotive documentary family photography to capture events such as communion, baptism & christening photography & birthday parties. These are just a few examples. Anywhere where people are mingling & celebrating, family & friends, is the prefect environment for capturing candid moments. Lots of people gives a lot of potential for captivating storytelling moments.

Below a recent baptism photo shoot in Our Lady Queen of Peace church

boy playing in pews at church
Restless boy

The unexpected moment this little boy started to play in the pews! Or dad played with baby boy (below). Often unexpected moments can convey the most connection between family members. They are just plain cute!

dad turning baby boy upside down in church pews
Upside down

Below documentary family photography for an outdoor communion photo shoot where dad twirled his daughter around in the woods

with family watching.

dad in suit twirling his daughter in a communion gown

Below, a birthday party. I love how grandad looks tenderly at his grandson as he blows up his balloon for him. (Birthday party photo shoot Dublin).

grandfather tying a balloon for his grandson

Bringing authentic expression into child environmental portraits.

More posed pictures can be livened up by being on the look out for authentic connection. In this case, I knew I was taking a picture of these parents either side of the pram, but I love the moment this little girl wanted to feed her mum some of her yogurt!

little girl in pram feeding mum yoghurt from spoon
Feeding mum

Child environmental portraits are a form of documentary child & family photography and have a storytelling theme. (New: see mentoring with Cara Hodge Photography).

Below, these family pictures featuring my gorgeous nephew were taken in Glastonbury, England.

Even when a family picture starts off a bit staged, I love to find moments of natural expression and gesture within the scene. They make a child or family portrait come to life!

My nieces & nephews are just so beautiful with their dark hair and green eyes. My sister loves looking at the pictures of her children when I do the mini family photo shoots for her.

The light in the kitchen was low and flat, but I made use of the natural light coming from the kitchen window. I was looking out for expression and gesture in these child portraits, and I was pleased to be able to get the catch light in my nephew's eyes.

Please contact me for your family photo shoot here in Dublin, including baby & newborn family pictures. Making family photography forever light filled & fun! Natural portrait & documentary family photography Dublin.

Cara x

Boy at kitchen table with cereal bowl

 boy looking as though he is thiking, finger pressed to temple

boy thinking with cheeky smile, black & white child portrait

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