A portrait session tends to be incredibly stressful for parents, especially for Moms who understandably want things to go well (I’m trying really hard not to say “perfectly”, but it often does seem that way!). And when stress levels are high, paired with solid expectations of good behavior, finding patience when dealing with your children can be really hard…
I've been photographing a lot of families lately that choose to keep their session images private, for one reason or another. And I get this question a lot.. "What if I don't want my photos out there?"
This is one of the reasons I don't do sneak peeks. I don't post any images until Mom and Dad have the Ordering Appointment and a chance to review them first - to tell me which they're okay with me using, and which they would rather keep private.
I'm not huge corporation. I'm not a photography Studio chain. I don't have a boss or a manager, or a customer service department. I care about my clients and their needs over my own. And I would never use or post an image (no matter how much I can from a legal standpoint) without explicit verbal approval from the person who appears in it (or that person's parent, as it stands).
And as my photography business grows, I encounter more of these kinds of questions. The ones that people ask because they're used to established businesses treating them like customers and not like human beings. I have policies in place for when kids get sick and when rescheduling needs to happen.. and no, it's not a big deal because I keep gaps in my schedule just so I can do that. I don't mind if my clients are running late, because I know how hard it is to get out of the house with kids.. and I never, ever schedule sessions one after another.
And so, I photograph families in their home if it makes the most sense for them. If their kids are little (like Ella and Josie) and if they only have a few hours on Sunday morning when they're all together because Dad works most days (he runs Ada's Kitchen and Coffee, which is my absolute favorite spot in town and if you haven't been, definitely check it out!).
And then, I only share the photos that Mom and Dad are okay with me sharing. And that's totally fine with me! :)
Doing an in-home family session with an 11-month old baby boy is kind of like setting aside an hour or two to play, read books, go for a walk, and generally just do whatever makes him happy. It's all very casual. And relaxed. And really pretty perfect for a super-casual Riverside family who isn't into a Studio setting.
It sometimes feels a little odd that I provide both in-home photography and Studio portrait sessions. They seem like total opposites. But I truly feel like my approach to both is pretty much the same.
The fact is, I use artificial light for in-home sessions. Most of the indoor shots were taken with the help of an off-camera flash. It's the kind of lighting that helps me take a beautifully lit photograph in any space, and not the kind that overpowers the photo with hard shadows. It took a while to master this technique, but it's so incredibly helpful when I walk into a space I've never seen before.
And my Studio sessions? They include a lot of the same posing direction as the home version. The big secret, of course, is that you really can't do any detailed posing when you have a baby or a small child in the photo. So I watch for the big stuff: an awkward expression, unflattering positions, and tension in the hands. And then it's pretty much a free for all. Ok, not completely, but you get my point. :)
So, it really doesn't matter what the location is! At home, where everyone feels the most comfortable, or in the studio, where you just have to show up.. family is worth documenting! And I arrive with the tools (and that means both the equipment and the knowledge in my head) to create beautiful portraits no matter what.
Parents are short on time. When I was in my 20's, I thought I was busy. I was always working, commuting, running errands, and it seemed like I never had time for anything. And then I became a parent. That's when I laughed (or was it, cried?) about the actual lack of time.
Sophie's parents are no different. They wanted newborn photos, and somehow, it was 6 months later and they still haven't had the chance to arrange the whole professional photoshoot thing. I don't blame them! Who has time for that? When you have a little baby relying on you to basically keep her alive, what else could be important enough to take time out of the day? When both parents work and prioritize spending time together over shopping around for the best photographer, other important life things win in terms of priority.
Sophie and her parents also happen to live in Boston.
Seriously, that's THREE hours away. But Sophie's Mom stumbled upon my card at Ella & Henry in New Canaan while visiting grandma (who does live locally).. and things clicked. She finally had an easy(ish) way to get those precious baby photos. And I certainly try to make things as easy as possible.
That sometimes includes working on a national Holiday (which, I actually don't mind at all). It means blocking out a day so we can catch the best time between unpredictable naps and family obligations. I even did a 32-hour turnaround on images to make sure I could still do a photo reveal in person before they head back to Boston. This wasn't exactly a "typical" family session. But the payoff is worth it. The fact that we were able to make this happen, that we finally got photographs of Sophie and her family, is absolutely worth it. It's the entire reason I do this. It's why I'm really quite likely to refer potential clients to another well-qualified photographer if I feel that she will better serve their needs. I'm not in this for myself. I'm here to make sure families end up with a photographic legacy for their children.
And I do everything in my power to serve that purpose.
While editing James' newborn photo session, one thought was running through my mind.. "I really wish I had photos like this of my boys". The truth is, I don't. I have a few here and there, mostly when my boys are a bit older.. but I have no great images of me with my babies. Nothing I would feel comfortable displaying in my home, no whole-family shots, and certainly no siblings together (which is one of the hardest images to get, btw).
All I have are iPhone snaps. Dark, grainy, and low-resolution photographs of my babies sleeping during those first few weeks, when I had a couple of minutes to myself. I have some photos that my parents took that first day after birth with their point and shoot camera, when I looked sick and terrible and my baby looked red and blotchy. I didn't need photos documenting the hardships of that first week, I needed something that actually looked GOOD. I wanted photos that showed my babies how I saw them - beautiful, flawless, and mine.
The truth is, I am a pretty good photographer and more often than not, I'm inclined to do things myself. I didn't think I needed someone to show up at my door and photograph me with my newborn. But even more than that.. I didn't feel comfortable trusting someone to make me look beautiful. Because I didn't look beautiful. I hardly had time to take a shower. I had trouble adjusting to my "new life". And the last thing I needed was to worry about looking good for someone else.. But.. there's no going back. I can't return to that time and decide that hey, maybe this is pretty important. It's too late for that.
But about a month in, things get easier.
That's why I insist that my clients take their time that first month with their baby, and we usually schedule a session about 4 weeks after birth. More than anything, I want Mom to feel like she has a good grasp on her new daily routine. I want her to feel comfortable with her new baby, and with herself too. I am not embarrassed to admit that I use Photoshop to retouch the images, because I would want that for myself, too. And the scheduling is always super flexible, because I think a photography session is really NOT the top priority after having a baby.
So here is James. He apparently has a permanent baby mohawk (which is totally adorable!). A big brother who will undoubtedly teach him all about baseball. And two amazingly loving parents, of course. But most of all, he will have GOOD photographs documenting the first month of his life. Photographs showing how much his Mom loves him and how much she cares. And for that, I am so grateful.
Happy is a home where children grow up surrounded by photos of their family. Griffin and Madeline's parents have been slowly creating little photo nooks, picture frame collections, and photo displays since Griffin (the older brother) was born. They're art-lovers and designers and have beautiful framed artwork decorating their walls already.. so photographs of their children are simply a natural extension of that.
Family photographs in the home actually boost children's self esteem. Framed photos create an inviting space and make sure kids feel loved and cared for. And most of all, I am incredibly honored that Mom and Dad have chosen me to create their family portraits for the past three years for serving that purpose.
Photography is about preserving this time in their life. The kids' rooms and their interests. Their life at home. Their interactions. The quirks and the expressions. But it also goes beyond that.
The truth is, this is the most photographed generation of children, but also one that will end up with nothing once we upgrade our technology in 10 or 20 years. We have tons of photos on our phones and very little that's actually printed.
When I visit my client's homes for the second or third time, I do a little happy dance (on the inside, of course) when I spot photographs on display from their previous session. And they're always on display, because of one very simple reason. I make it super-easy to walk away from the photo session experience with a ready-to-display product. Whether it's the standard matted print which fits perfectly into any 8x10" frame, a set of prints that come with a beautiful stand so you don't have to do any work to display them, or an already-framed wall-sized photograph that comes with a nail and hook. The value isn't in the specific images my clients take home, it's in the fact that they can enjoy them every single day and then pass them down to their children so they have something to remember from their childhood.
Griffin and Madeline will have that. They will have images to remember their childhood. They will see what their parents looked like when they were little. And they will truly appreciate how special these images are when they have their own children to love and cherish, as much as their own parents cherished them.
Photographing a family with two older girls (Morgan is 12 and Jessica is 7) is completely different from photographing one with a toddler or a newborn. I don't treat older kids all that differently because I address all children and babies with the utmost respect and consideration. But tweens have well-formed opinions at this point. They need to feel comfortable in front of the camera. They have rooms that are just full of personality and little treasures. And their preferences are both strong and willful.
This is also the least photographed age. For some reason the tween phase is known as the 'awkward' stage in kids' lives. Let me tell you something. There is nothing awkward about these girls. Not only are Morgan and Jessica so lovely to be around, but they are actually pleasant towards each other (I know, I'm as shocked as you are)! They spent a bunch of the session hanging out together, being themselves, and the portraits we got are absolutely stunning as a result.
My favorite part was afterwards, when Mom told me that the girls really enjoyed the wardrobe styling process (I spent some time before the session picking out the perfect outfit for each girl, especially since they needed something warmer for the outdoor shots). Girls this age usually have their own sense of style, but unlike with Mom or Dad, they're actually willing to listen to my suggestions.
And it all comes back to the whole respect thing. I treat kids with consideration. I ask them how they feel about things. I collaborate. And we work together to create something that is impossible without mutual regard. I credit my clients with the artwork we create just as much as I credit my own abilities.. and as you scroll through my favorite images from this session, I think you will agree with that statement.