Nousha in the News
How to take a good photograph of children Wonderful company Nousha tells you how
BY SASHA SLATER (formerly Deputy Editor) 21 APRIL 2015
There is no better present for a doting father, aunt, or any other family member, no matter how distantly related, than a really touching photograph of a child they love.
But how to achieve such a thing? For years, I’ve been putting together calendars for their grandparents of my children as they grow month by month.
Summer snaps are of bronzed urchins clambering in the branches of a mulberry tree in rural France.
September is always taken on the first day of term and is all shiny shoes and apprehensive expressions.
The December picture is generally shot in some department store Santa’s Grotto with a long-suffering Father Christmas flanked by two slightly puzzled kids who are privately wondering why on earth he’s not off wrapping stocking fillers in the North Pole.
These calendars are touching memories of a fleeting childhood, but I am afraid the pictures themselves are not works of art.
I wanted to produce a truly beautiful image of my little family before it was too late, and the children started refusing to pose. But how?
I have been to commercial photo studios infinite times for work and seen how exquisite a portrait can be when shot by a talented professional, with proper lighting, who takes his time to get what he wants.
I have also (twice) been inveigled into the kind of studios you buy sessions in on Groupon where the photographer is a bored teenager who clicks away with a timer and stops short when your 15 minutes are up, and then traps you in a little edit suite and bullies you with a hard sell until you’re so confused, hot and cross that you part with hundreds of pounds for a picture in which one person’s blurred while whirling round, one’s picking it’s nose and the rest are looking in the wrong direction. I needed to find
someone who recreates the values and perfectionism of an editorial shoot for families.
I needed Nousha. This company was set up by Lionel Cherruault, who was an approved royal photographer for years, and shot covers for Paris Match.
But his first love was portraiture and, after years honing his talents shooting the young Princes William and Harry, he has come back to it.
What’s good enough for the Windsors is surely good enough for me.
His base, just off Battersea Park, [note: we are now in Clapham] is far removed from the cramped and seedy basements adorned by a single light and a grubby Colorama roll of other portrait studios. In a former Victorian laundry, which makes a surprisingly huge and elegant building, the space is light, bright, and decorated with the most exquisite images of children, not merely fetching but thoughtful and revealing – the way all good photographs are, and those of children are so rarely.
Nousha has a house style: always black-and-white photographs; no shoes; and logos are kept to a minimum – which contribute to a timeless image.
As anyone who’s ever desperately shouted ‘cheese!’ at an unresponsive toddler knows, getting children to co-operate with you in front of a camera is a challenge but Cherruault wisely removes half the stress by banning parents from the set.
Banned that is, except for the first few frames which Cherruault encourages the whole family to pose for since, as he says, ‘if you get divorced, at least you’ve got one nice photograph of yourselves as a family'.
This ordeal over, out the adults go, to wait in the anteroom with the Saturday papers. You’re in earshot but unable to intervene or to remonstrate fretfully with a tot who is playing up. Cherruault tells me a lot of children he shoots have autism spectrum disorders who are
uncomfortable with strangers and flash lights. As a result, he and the other two photographers who work with him take infinite pains to get insecure or disengaged children to relax for the camera and relate to.
Having daughters of his own means he knows how to communicate with a child without either talking down to them or getting impatient, which are invaluable skills. After about half an hour, our children emerged good-tempered and we scampered off to walk through Battersea Park and feed the swans. There had been no hysterics and no tears.
There were tears, though, a few days later when I went back to the Old Imperial Laundry to view the pictures. No hard sell here, and no rush; Cherruault sat with me as I gazed at picture after picture of my children on a large screen in a comfortable sitting room. They were not beautified, or forced into awkward but ‘flattering’ poses, but presented to me as if afresh, as individuals. I was unexpectedly moved as I sat there and saw glimpses of their faces as they had been as tiny babies, and vague foreshadowings of what they would look like grown-up. It is rare to spend so long focussing on what your children actually look like and even getting a sense, through their eyes, of how they are feeling and thinking.
There were hundreds of frames to choose from and, though I have edited pictures professionally for decades, I would have been stumped had it not been for Cherruault, who encouraged me to keep in some and lose others that, though charming were perhaps not so thoughtful and wouldn’t have the same longevity.
Unlike other, lesser, studios, Cherruault offers a retouching service that meant stray hairs wisping into the air, or a too-obvious jeans label, could be edited out, leaving images that are magazine-perfect.
A few weeks later, Nousha sent me three glorious prints, beautifully framed, that have captured a precious moment in my children’s lives forever.
Here are Lionel Cherruault’s secrets of taking successful pictures of children:
1. The technology should become invisible so don’t fiddle with the camera too much.
2. Never talk down to children – treat them as intelligent, sentient beings.
3. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t do silly stuff and blow raspberries to make their eyes light up.
4. To begin with, let them mess about a little bit, roll around and jump up and down – you can get great pictures that way and it helps them relax. The moment they know you’re on their side, you can ask them to get into the pose you want.
5. When a child sits cross-legged it always looks good.
6. But if they lie on their tummies you get a wonderful close-up of their face.
7. Get them to take off their shoes – they like it and children’s feet are gorgeous.
8. Use black and white – colour pictures age badly but black and white lasts forever.
9. It doesn’t matter what camera you use (though I use a Canon 5D mark 3) what matters is the lens and the relationship you build with the subject.
10. Minimise the props – teddies and sweets in the picture are distracting. If a teddy has to stick around, put it on your head and make it help you take the picture – that way the child will look at the camera and laugh.
FEATURED IN THE TATLER SCHOOLS GUIDE 2016 AS PART OF THE IT LIST.
If your child is sick of you chasing after it with your iPhone shouting ‘Just one more picture, darling!’. Then make a booking at Nousha. Its professional photo sessions will have you showing off the results to everyone. nousha.co.uk
When Time Stands Still
By Liane Nelson
Founded by husband and wife duo Lionel & Claire Cherruault in 2009, children’s photographic studio Nousha (quirkily named after the couple’s cat) specialises in portraiture which aims to convey the personality and individual beauty of every child.
A personal service with exceptional attention to detail is in place to make sure that your little one will be captured in just the right light.
All post production, printing and framing is handled in-house by the team to ensure the best quality, with a bespoke framing team using traditional techniques and beautiful hand crafted mounts. Nousha doesn’t just deliver a photograph but a memory that can be cherished forever. As Lionel himself says, you’re buying “a one-of-a-kind collection of images of your adored children that could never be repeated.
When you come to think of what we do, in that way, you will understand the joy and the pleasure from such objects of beauty; they are laden with emotion. Your children will change over weeks, months and years, but those glorious naive years will be there for all to see for years and years to come”.