Beth Jennings – The Journey Captured » I capture the journey of people in their personal and professional lives. I teach amateur photographers how to capture their life in beautiful photos. Photography, Melbourne Photographer, Photography Workshops, dSLR Camera Workshops, Creative Camera Course, Photo Course Melbourne, Camera Class Melbourne

BJP [reflective]


I had a viewing this morning with the parents of this little girl Hannah, and they were very pleased.  I thought I might use the opportunity to speak about my intent with all of this.  Why shoot families?

Let’s go back a step…I met up with this lovely family of five early in the morning at the National Australian Botanic Gardens – Melissa and Darren (the parents), Lauren (the eldest), Hannah, (pictured here) and Samantha (aged 4).  Darren is the director of Outward Bound Australia, which means that this family lives and breathes the bush. If you don’t know the Australian landscape, it’s textured, layered, soft in the colour palette, and the Botanic Gardens was the perfect venue for them.

I’d spoken with Melissa a couple of times on the phone and we’d emailed back and forth while I was overseas last year (they booked me for this gig before I left, back in April or so last year). I had not yet met them in person before, and that is the usual approach.  I know I’m pushing the envelope a bit doing this – there’s no prior understanding of the personalities and dynamics, I wait to see what unfolds before me on the day.  The surprise element encourages me to focus on my intuitive responses which then then governs my shooting decisions.

The interest for me in a Family Session like this lies in the hunt, the dig, the discovery, and making a permanent record of what I find.  I dig around various ideas as they present themselves throughout the session.  In the case of the pictures above, my gut response to Hannah was that she is a thinking, reflective, gentle type of person, so I decided to secure that idea in my images of her.  This was my approach:

I took a few frames at the commencement of my little chapter with Hannah, at the left and middle above, the usual.  Anyone can do these, to me they’re just glorified school photos, she could be anyone.  Sometimes I rattle off frames like this just to get my eye in and to allow my subject to become accustomed to the camera. I took some time to speak with Hannah, I asked her about school, I even asked her to close her eyes and to tell me what she could see.  When she opened them again, we got the frame on the right.  By then I was in her space, down on her level, and in close.  Because I’d taken some time to get to know her and speak with her, in her language, she could then relax that bit more and be that bit more of herself.  I deliberately set this frame off centre, to give the feeling that we, as the viewers, are just catching a glimpse of her little spirit, she’s looking off frame, over our right shoulder, something has caught her eye, her mouth is closed, she’s not talking, and she’s thinking about what she’s seeing.  We could just as easily not be in her presence, and she would look like this anyway.  There’s also a subtle sense of movement here, with the swing of the pendant, and the light falls gently on her neck, she’s delicate, and feminine and the lighting helps communicate that.

This is why photography is addictive for me.  There’s a challenge in that, to capture the essence of the person.  The only way for me to do that is to suspend judgement, step in quietly, be respectful, honour my subject, say thank you, and then go to work creating beautiful, artful images out of our session.  I do feel that Melissa and Darren will treasure the images we took for a long while to come, and Darren’s emotive response to the images when he first saw them was all I needed to see.

I’d like to know how you approach people – and you don’t have to be a professional photographer!  If you’d like to add something to this post, please pop in a comment, I’d love to hear from you.


Trish - February 24, 2010 - 7:38 am

I know this family well – well enough to be given the password to see the whole slideshow.

Beth, these are just stunning. In my opinion you have absolutely captured this family, their individual personalities as well as the different relationships between each and all of them. Seriously, some of those pictures are freakishly good. It looks as though you’ve known them forever.

I adore that third pic of Hannah – that one leapt out at me in the slideshow. And the pics of Lauren under the plants, and all the shots of Sam and her attitude. Wow.

The joy of photographing people comes in hoping to capture something authentic about them, something that they may not recognise about themselves until they see the image. The subtle ways in which people communicate with each other – a look, a stance, the placement of a hand on a shoulder or a knee – these are all fleetingly quick moments, barely a flicker – and yet when you freeze it in a photograph it’s completely unmistakeably ‘them’. Photography is magical like that. And yes, utterly addictive.

These are stunning. I’m not surprised at Darren’s reaction. Daddies and their daughters… gets me every time, too.

Beth Jennings - February 24, 2010 - 8:11 am

Gosh Trish, what a wonderful set of comments. Stunning, freakishly good, authentic – I’m so pleased that you’re seeing all of this in the work. It’s a funny thing really, that I didn’t know this family and then after 1-2 hours of shooting we ended up with those frames. Sometimes I think I must be possessed because I look later and wonder how some of them came to be…and yet there was a moment when I was there, and they were there, and the moments happened, and we got it! Yay! I love this game. Quality intent = quality output.

many thanks Trish,

Kathy - February 25, 2010 - 9:57 pm

You know, having been in the same situation as Hannah and her family, I can say that we were so pleased with how you captured our true personalities during our photo session. Jessica was acting like such a nut that day and thinking back to it – that’s who she really is. Often her teachers will tell me how polite and quiet and serious she is and they are always surprised when I tell them that I regularly find her dancing and singing and swinging her arms around in the living room – just enjoying the moment. I think you captured that during our photo session.

Ben on the other hand. Who really knows what a teenage boy is thinking? While he can be a bit of a nut sometimes himself, the older he gets, the more introverted he becomes, although he also is becoming more comfortable in his own skin. Again, I think that the images that you captured of Ben, show this sort of “transitional ” period he’s going through – half child/half adult.

Beth Jennings - February 26, 2010 - 12:40 am

Hi Kathy! I can’t tell you it’s so lovely to hear from you, and I’m so pleased with your feedback, it’s good to hear the details. For those reading this, Kathy and her family and I met up one afternoon in Toronto last year and captured the current chapter of her Family Story. We went with Mark her husband, and Jessica and Ben to the local baseball park. Yes, Jessica did have a few flying moments there and I’m glad I was at the ready for those. It’s interesting that it came out actually because initially when we met up she seemed a little wary of me or something?…And then Ben, wow, what a lovely chap he is, such a thinking man! Stay tuned Kathy as Ben features in the exhibition, such a fascinating person, he has a lot to say and a lot going on. I can’t tell you it makes my day to receive feedback from happy families like yours.


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