Lori Satterthwaite, a.k.a. lolamedia, is a natural light photographer and graphic designer based in New Zealand. Prior to settling down, she was an expat for 15 years, living and traveling through countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South Pacific, and Central America. Her travels and her family have inspired much of her photography, but her career as a graphic designer has heavily influenced her commercial photography, where she helps small businesses and entrepreneurs create stand out brands online. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveller magazine, and many blogs and websites.

Below, she shares the story behind one of her adorable portraits, which captures the bond between siblings. Plus, some tips on how to capture authentic and endearing moments of children.

This image was shot in my youngest girls’ room, which the two share. It has a nice natural light—its only window provides side lighting (à la Rembrandt lighting). They were playing so happily that it inspired me to get my Nikon D800 camera out and my portrait 50mm lens to capture the moment. Born in two different countries—one in Fiji and one in Bahrain—these two don’t always get along!

Sometimes, to capture photos of my children, I give them prompts like, “Jump!”, “Twirl!”, “Hug!” or “Sing!” In fact, you can’t even say “Hug!” now that they are older. So I say things like, “Put your cheeks together”, “Stand side by side and link arms”, or “Stand back to back.” Making it a game and not a forced cuddle goes a long way to getting natural shots. The game Simon Says is great for getting wonderful expressions from older children.

Two sisters enjoying a happy cuddle at home by L O L A   M E D I A on 500px.com

Any photographer’s kids get tired of the camera, but I find that it’s because for them, they feel it’s one-sided. So I try to engage them by allowing them to take turns to shoot photos on my own camera. I have even started teaching them to think about lighting when taking photos. By now, they know my favorite time of day is either morning or evening when it’s, “pretty light”, but they also know to not commit the cardinal sin of standing in front of a window, and taking a photo of themselves! Now they know to turn around and get the light on their faces; most importantly, they know how to catch lights in their eyes.

Young girls having fun at the beach in Sri Lanka by L O L A   M E D I A on 500px.com

Like any craft, to master photography, you need to do it daily. Find inspiration in the ordinary. It’s hard to take great photos of common subjects, so by doing it anyway, it forces you to keep looking at things in unique ways. There are photo opportunities everyday—in your backyard or hometown. You don’t have to be in exotic places to get great photos. There is a great quote by Ira Glass, the amazing host of my favorite podcast This American Life. He says, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Two young girls laughing on the swing by L O L A   M E D I A on 500px.com

My second piece of advice is to print your photos. Photography is ultimately a documenting tool, and that’s why I love travel photography, but family photography as well because it supplements my memories. So for this purpose, they are no good, just sitting on our phones or hard disk. I have a great print supplier in America, WHCC, who ships to me all the way in NZ (shipping is included) and I use blurb.com for photobooks for our family. The kids take these books to bed, and look at them before going to sleep. They absolutely love and cherish them as much as I do.

You can browse my portfolio here on 500px or my website. For my latest work, check out my Facebook page or Instagram, where I give free tips on how to take better photos for your business.