Image Credit: Briony Walker

Life isn’t just about milestones. It’s often the moments in between that mean the most, and it takes a special kind of photographer to capture them well.

One such example is Briony Walker (@briony.walker), a professional commercial photographer who’s specialised in documentary-style family portraits since starting her own family. Unscripted, unstyled and unprompted, Briony’s images capture unique, authentic moments that become treasured legacies. 


From choosing gear to dealing with different ages and personalities, here’s how Briony approaches the art of family photography.

Image Credit: Briony Walker

How and why did you come to do what you do?

After I left school I travelled to Egypt and Europe with my first film camera and no idea how to use it. I returned from the trip 8 months later with rolls of memories (many blurry and badly exposed!) and I knew that I wanted to be a photographer and storyteller.

Image Credit: Briony Walker

Tell us a bit about your style and process.

My style for capturing families is documentary – not styled, scripted or prompted in any way. I spend from 4-12 hours in their home photographing the daily rituals and ebb and flow of family life.

I photograph my branding/commercial clients by first learning from them (over a coffee or now, a Zoom call) what their brand story is, then capturing the most authentic images I can for them to use to stand out in their market. I have recently studied kinesiology and it really helps me to connect with clients and put them at ease in front of the camera.

Image Credit: Briony Walker

What sort of gear do you use and why?

Because I am often shooting for a full day I need light gear, so I use the Fujifilm X mirrorless system: X-T3 camera bodies and an assortment of gorgeous prime lenses. I’m a seeker of the most interesting natural light for the purpose of getting the story across. I love harsh light; I love texture and the mystery of shadows. The Fuji has wonderful colour straight out of camera, and excellent low light capabilities.

In my camera bag:

Image Credit: Briony Walker

How do you approach photographing people of different ages – newborns, young kids, teenagers, families, older people?

Finding a common ground with any age is important to put your subject at ease. I spend lots of time getting to know the family before picking up my camera.

For me, documenting families always starts with a cup of coffee! It is another chance to talk about how their day usually runs. I answer any of their concerns and reiterate the documentary approach – i.e. not directing, moving anything within the frame or asking for anything to be repeated. I really am there to observe and photograph their story as I see it. 

With young kids I spend time letting them show me their room and favourite toys.  

I love shooting families with teenagers and my style works really well with them because no one has to DO anything but be themselves and go about their day.

Image Credit: Briony Walker

What’s the best way to deal with shy or uncooperative subjects?

Asking them what it is about having their photograph taken that makes them shy, or simply investing a bit of extra time talking before whipping out my camera, can make all the difference. 

For ‘uncooperative’ subjects in the family setting I give them plenty of space and time, focusing on other members of the family. Usually they will emerge once they see how unobtrusive and painless documentary family photography is. Often I’ll show them a couple of the photos I’m getting of them so they can see what I’m doing and how awesome they look!

Image Credit: Briony Walker

What about fussy clients?

The majority of my work is referred to me by previous clients so I am really only attracting those who want my style of shooting. Since becoming more confident of my visual style, if I believe we have different expectations or aesthetics I am happier referring an enquiry on to a colleague than I am trying to shoot outside my style.

Image Credit: Briony Walker

Tell us about your favourite shoot to date.

Such a hard question!

For commercial shoots my favourites are where the brief is “Just do your thing” – to capture the event or session my own way. It means they trust me and allows me to be as creative as I can be.

For families…well…. I always think in the car on the way home, “That was my favourite shoot ever!” Every. Single. Time!

Image Credit: Briony Walker

What does a successful shot (or shoot) look like to you? 

A successful shot for me evokes strong feelings and stories in the mind of the viewer. It needn’t be ‘perfectly’ lit or exposed but it has you lingering over it, reading into it.

My measure of success in a shoot is repeat clients: those who rely on me as an integral part of their marketing team or as their family’s photographer. It is such a thrill to walk into a client’s home and see a wall of our photos documenting their family over the years.

 

Want more advice on documentary or family photography?

Just ask one of our team of photographers.