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Parental Guidance - The "Horror" Family Photoshoot

If you saw the TV show Parental Guidance this week (replays on 9Now), you would have seen Rachel and Sam Thaiday, AKA the Helicopter Parents "horror" family photoshoot. Whelp. I was their photographer.

And here's the big twist - it was a pretty normal session in terms of a family photoshoot.

Yes it was a bit chaotic, it was hot, the kids were not totally into having their photos taken and that made the experience all the more stressful for the parents, but....

What you didn't see on TV were all the giggles, tickles, laughs and even some of the fun that the family had during their session also.

Most family photoshoots include a few bribes and all my shoots include some play time for kids to muck about and be kids, that's what families are and those candid moments are some of the best to capture as your photographer.

So let me tell you how it all went down from my perspective.

Back in late February this year, I was booked by a TV production company to photograph a family for a new parenting show that was being filmed. I had no idea what to expect since it was a brand new format that hadn't been done before. I was emailed by one of the producers and after a bit of chatting we locked in a date, and that was about as much information as I had before the shoot.

It was a very hot Friday afternoon, around 35 degrees, the microphone that was supposed to be gaffer taped to my body kept sweating off. The shoot was at 1pm which as any outdoor photographer will tell you, is a lighting challenge for portrait photographers, and these images were going to be displayed on national TV.

I was starting to worry about what I had gotten myself into...

All I knew was that the family consisted of two young girls, a mum and a dad and that they were a sporting family and maybe we could include some sporty photos in their shoot. It was so surreal having a job where I couldn't communicate with the family ahead of the shoot, we usually talk about clothing, preparation and expectations and build excitement about photo day.

I was told during the shoot that the Thaiday family were given about one hour's notice that they were going to a photoshoot so they didn't know anything about what to expect from me, have time to prepare or get excited about it, and after seeing their TV clip, it turned out they didn't really want to do it either with the girls clearly gutted they had a family photoshoot when they were told.

Around half an hour before the shoot, I had a call from a producer saying they were on their way, and they said they could now tell me that the family I would be photographing were the Thaiday family, Sam and Rachel, Ellsie and Gracie. I'm not a sport fanatic, but living in Brisbane, even I know who Sam Thaiday is. So it was pretty cool to find out I would be capturing their family photos.

I was waiting at the front of our property with bottled water for the family and crew, and as the crew started to arrive a funny thing began happening. I knew most of them from my days working in the TV industry. We all reminisced about our days at Totally Wild, who was working where now and what the industry looks like these days. I've been out of that industry for around 10 years now, but still have a lot of friends working in different stations, shows and freelancing and it was really cool to see a few familiar faces again.

Then the Thaiday family arrived and the producer waved at them to park up and stay in the car until they were ready to film the segment. I know my own kids would be bouncing off the walls of the car having to sit there for any length of time, so this wasn't an ideal way to start the shoot, but that's TV land for you.

My instructions were different to the way I usually run a photoshoot. Usually, I chat with families ahead of the shoot and have a shot-list that I work through to ensure that we capture all family compositions and a mix of formal and candid moments, close ups through to wide shots and everything in between. This time, the brief was to capture only the family unit all together, and they were to tell me what they wanted to do. I was not to direct them too much and I was not to take control of the session, I was only to shoot when they were ready to.

The crew eventually waved the family out of the car to come in and we had an awkward "meeting"on camera. All I could think of to say was a daggy "I'm Tarsh and today I'll be your family photographer!" Oh god. I was like "Lady, what are you saying? Quick, move on..." but the crew were all "Ok great, now do it again and well get it from the other angle" and I was stuck having to re-do my daggy embarrassing line a couple more times. Thankfully, (I think...) due to their TV clip focussing so much on all the other events of the shoot, this didn't make the cut.

The Thaiday's were really so lovely to work with and their girls are so sweet and full of energy! They wanted fun, silly faces, lots of movement, and a human pyramid. Challenge accepted!

Heres where it started to get a bit funny though. This is a TV show following the parenting style, so of course, theres an added element of the purpose of the shoot is to see how the parents handle the kids in this situation, to capture the family interactions, not just a family photoshoot. So there were times that the kids were running off doing their own thing and I would normally step in and engage the children myself to bring them back into the photoshoot, but for this session I was instructed to stand back and wait for the parents to handle it while the producers are talking into their phones all "2.33pm kids distracted by chickens".

The crew had been following the family through these challenges for 3 days straight by the time they were here on that hot Friday afternoon and I can only think how stressful that would be as a parent. Sam and Rachel were so amazing though, playing and laughing with the girls, pulling silly faces and doing super hero poses, and yes - even the human pyramid! Kind of... It was more of a pile of hugs that dissolved into tickles and laughs, but it was gorgeous and so perfectly captured their vibrant, happy family.

After just one hour of shooting we were all wrapped up, the family were bustled off back to their car to wait while the crew packed up, it all happened so fast that I realised afterwards that we didn't even say good bye.

So flash forward 9 months and here we are. Seeing the TV edit of that day and how it portrayed a "horror" session that they were really underwhelmed by was a bit of a surprise because in reality, that was only part of the story and a pretty regular experience for me as a family photographer working with kids. That's reality TV though right?

Somewhere amongst all the chaos and craziness, there are still all of these little moments of love and connection.

And I am here to capture that for you, because in it's essence, that's what family is.

If this hasn't scared you off booking a family photoshoot of your own,

Family Photographer Brisbane | Newborn Photographer Brisbane


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