Amy Phillips + The Story Behind

When we came across this photo from Amy Phillips, it struck us as without a doubt the exact version of a photo we’d love to have of our own families, in our own homes. With its unforced connection amongst a sun speckled background, it remarks us as the perfect keepsake to remind parents of that era when their children were tiny, a time capsule “just as they were”. Read on to found out more about Amy’s serendipitous shot and how she drew out her confidence after this very shoot.

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Where was this photo taken?
This photo was taken at Riley Wilderness Park in Coto De Caza, CA

How did the location add or hinder to your image?
The location was perfect because the golden hour sun filtered through the lush trees perfectly without washing out my image.

Can you tell us “The Story Behind” this shot?
The story is actually a very typical one for a family shoot. The subjects are cousins of mine that are themselves professional photographers. We had decided to trade services and on this evening we tag teamed posing and shooting for each other and our kids were a MESS! I’m talking screaming, clawing at our faces, not even candy bribes help sort of mess. When I tell my clients that their child/family is not the worst (no family comes out of a family photo shoot unscathed haha!) I’ve experienced, I am never lying – my own children are hands down the worst when it comes to sitting for photos!! Both of us mama photographers were stressed! We had just wrapped shooting each other in a different location and were walking towards the next when I asked Heather’s family to stop on the bridge as the lighting behind them was so too yummy to pass by! Heather was gathering her children towards her and Grayson, her husband, had leaned in for a sweet kiss, probably to comfort her and I loved the way they were just living their little moment of family chaos so I snapped my shot.

DSLR, iPhone, instant or film?

What were your camera settings for this image?
ISO 200
Shutter Speed 2000

What speaks to you about this image? What specifically made you press the shutter?
What made me take this photograph was how beautifully the kids were falling into the frame as they gathered towards their parents on the bridge, like it was just the natural move to join together as a family. What really sealed the sweet deal was how Grayson, the husband, had leaned in for an impromptu kiss on his bride’s forehead. I thought that was so beautiful, to give a second of peace and joy amidst the chaos of family photos! The lighting was so golden and perfect that evening but the connection and love between these kids and their parents is what really touches the levels inside.

What was your composition technique with this shot?
Because this shot happened serendipitously, I didn’t have time to compose it. I was already in position to begin snapping away but I stole this shot before they were “ready” so I didn’t follow any rules, I just tried to capture a sweet moment in time.

Did you have any lighting challenges? How did you light the image?
I almost always back light, especially at golden hour. Because the light was behind my subjects and trees helped diffuse the light brilliantly, I was set up to take a wonderfully exposed image!

Was this photo happenstance or did you visualize it prior? If so, how did you envision the image and set up for it?
It was both. I had the family stop en route to another location we had previously chosen because the trees and lighting were just too good to walk by! I had dropped down to a squat to capture the height of the trees and in my head I was going to for an unposed, hold the family tight sort of shot but I snapped a few moments before the family was assembled and I’m so glad I did because there is real emotion and movement in the candid.

Did you use a preset to edit this image, your own selective edits or a combination of both?
Twig & Olive presets, Noor package.

Your subjects look like dream clients! How was it shooting another photographer’s family?
The subjects are professional photographers who own Jagger Photography. I was terrified to shoot them (we had agreed to exchange services for family shoots) because they are award winning photographers and I’m just an underdog. When Heather, the mother in the photo, commented on the image first with a huge “I LOVE THIS ONE!!!!!” it melted away the anxiety I had leading up to the reveal. It’s difficult to be and remain confident as an artist because we are all unique in our approach, in our understanding of beauty and in the execution of subject to finished image so we fear how others will perceive our work. I value the approval of fellow artists on my work because they’re on the inside just like me, fighting through insecurity and chasing light and beauty all the same so this shoot was a big leap for my confidence as an artist.

For more from the Los Angeles based sun chasing Amy Phillips, check out her IG feed.