“What do you actually do all day?” – A week in the life of a family portrait photographer

27th January 2019 Child photography , , , ,

Two questions people often ask me about my work is what I do when I’m not actually taking pictures and how I manage to balance my work with having two young kids, so I thought I’d share a week behind the scenes to shed some light on it. All photos shot on my new phone (it felt very weird not to use my proper camera, but allowed me to take photos places where I wouldn’t take a hulking great Nikon D5).

The week I chose was not a typical week – but then I don’t think I ever really have a typical week! January is usually quite a quiet time for photographers but last week ended up being really busy, with the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Convention and two photo shoots (people have babies and move house at all times throughout the year).

Monday

The day started off with a lovely big cuddle with both my children in bed, although the eldest then turned grumpy when I had to rush him to get ready for school. On Mondays I’m at home with my nearly 2 year old daughter. Today we went for a long walk/trike ride around our local streets.

Girl riding trike.

I find walking a creative practice, a great way to allow the time for ideas to come and develop. On this walk I started mentally planning a personal project about the area I grew up in – mulling over the logistics of dusting off my medium format camera, shooting on infra-red film, and where I could process and print it. It was also inspirational watching the wonder my daughter experiences in the mundane – how excited she is when finding a nice pebble, for example. The job of a family photographer is to find the beautiful in the ordinary and watching a toddler explore the world is a great reminder of how to do that.

Mother and daughter napping together

After lunch we had a long nap together (she still doesn’t sleep fantastically at night so I grab my extra sleep where I can) and then picked up my son from school. On Mondays we usually go to Woodcraft Folk, a very positive organisation that had a large influence on my childhood. I’m privileged to have been a leader of our local group since it’s beginning. However, today my son wasn’t feeling well so instead we all played at home. There’s quite a big age gap between my kids so it can be difficult for them to play with each other but today they really enjoyed making a bed for all their cuddly toys together.

Due to one ill child and one teething child we had to be in and out of the kids rooms all evening so didn’t really have any time to relax, which is very hard.

Tuesday

My friend and very talented make up artist Amina Salahuddin popped over this morning. It is great to chat to another freelancer about things like pricing and projects we can work on together. My daughter is a cuddly little girl who was happy to sit on my lap while we chatted and to do her favourite thing – playing with play-doh.

Girl playing with play-doh.

Another long nap together in bed and then my in-laws came in the afternoon as they do every Tuesday. They played with the kids while I started the homework for an online course I’m doing. My mother in law brought dinner which meant I didn’t have to cook and got to chill out a bit in the evening.

Wednesday

My daughter was at the childminders. We’ve been very lucky to find a local husband-and-wife team with a small dog that she absolutely loves going to. I never feel bad leaving her there. They send us photos of her throughout the day so we can see what she’s up to. While she was there I went to the SWPP convention. I go every year to the trade show but this is the first time I have been for the Masterclasses and they were brilliant – really informative and inspiring.

It was a very long day. I got up and left while everyone else was still in bed and although I hate getting up early it was really nice to have a calm, quiet house to myself first thing in the morning. On the walk to the station I was struck, as always, by the amount of birdsong. When we lived in Loughborough Junction no one had front gardens and there were few birds. The first time I walked to the station early in the morning from our current house it sounded like a rainforest in comparison.

As well as all the interesting talks at the convention I met up with a few photographers – some I know but haven’t seen for years and met some new ones. Working freelance it’s really important to make connections with other photographers as you don’t have any real colleagues and it can get lonely. It was also a nice change to have lunch and dinner on my own and have some thinking time, but as soon as I got home I had to deal with a baby who had missed me all day and consequently had no evening again.

Thursday

My daughter was with the lovely childminders again. This morning I photographed the youngest newborn baby I have ever done – she was only 4 days old. It was one of my favourite types of sessions – a newborn joining a family with an older sibling. The sister was the same age as my daughter, which made it easier as I spoke her language. After I got home I downloaded the pictures from the session and got the shopping delivery.

I then picked up my son from school. He usually has a swimming lesson on Thursdays that I take him to and try to cram in as many lengths as I can myself. However, he still wasn’t feeling great so we took advantage of the time his sister was at the childminders to make badges together at home instead and my day was a lot less rushed as a result. 

Home made badges

Friday

On Fridays my parents come to help with the kids – we are so lucky to have both sets of grandparents living nearby. Our kids have a very close relationship with all their grandparents and love spending time with them. This allows me to have Friday morning as my time to do my favourite thing – swimming at Tooting Bec Lido. It’s my favourite place in the world and I’m so lucky that I can go so regularly. On a weekday morning it is full of freelancers and retired people so there are always some interesting conversations in the sauna – a few weeks ago I was hearing about working in the Fire Brigade all over London from an ex-firefighter. I used to feel bad about taking this time for myself when I should be working or looking after the kids but then I signed up for the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships, which took place yesterday. I competed in my first ever swimming race, the 30 meters head up breaststroke (in the 40-49 age group, which is a bit of a shock). No wetsuits, gloves or socks allowed – just swimming costume and swim hat. To make sure I was able do this I had to stay acclimatised to the cold water so simply had to prioritise going to the lido every week. No more feeling guilty. (The water was 3.5 degrees yesterday and I came 2nd in my race and 13th overall in my age group, which I was very pleased with).

Temperature board at Tooting Bec Lido

After a hot drink and big lunch (swimming makes me really hungry) I went to photograph house interiors for my friend Hannah’s property management company. I then caught up with her over a cuppa and saw her newly landscaped garden. When I got back I worked on the coursework for my online course.

Dinner was my mum’s fabulous Spaghetti Bolognese and a lovely opportunity to spend some time with my family (kids, husband, and parents) all talking over each other at the table like the family in Saturday Night Fever (or our own English/Greek/Indian version of it). My parents also tidied up while we put the kids to bed, so me and my husband actually had time to chill out and watch a whole episode of True Detective together.

Saturday

Another early start for another full day of seminars at the SWPP.

Julia Boggio's talk at SWPP convention

I spent the breaks between seminars choosing a new album supplier and stopped to chat to the makers of Light Blue, the amazing studio management software I use to run my business. The show finished early so I got home in time to see the kids, which made everyone very happy. My youngest was quite unsettled in the evening so my husband and I only had time to watch a quick episode of The Mighty Boosh before bedtime.

Sunday

Finally, a relaxing morning. My husband took our son to Ninja School and my daughter and I had a nap.

In the late afternoon we all went to see the Winter Lights at Canary Wharf. It’s a thing me and my son usually do together but it was so much more crowded this year than when we have been previously, which made it difficult with a toddler who was insisting on walking. It’s also quite a late night for the kids so we didn’t manage to see much of it and I didn’t get a chance to take many pictures this year, but the kids enjoyed the adventure of going to London on the tube at night and went to sleep really quickly when we got back. Still, a pretty tiring end to a very tiring but fun week.

Boy's face at Winter Lights in Canary Wharf

 


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