It was almost ten years ago. I had just moved back from the west coast. I was doing lots of lifestyle photography on the side of my news and reporting career and decided it needed to be full time. I first aimed my lens exclusively on children because 1.) I love kids and 2.) It seemed like a fun way to explore creativity and hang out with awesome families. I did a lot of child photography in those days.
To be totally honest, it wasn’t what I thought it would be.
I couldn’t seem to steer parents away from the, “Let’s get dressed up, go to a park, pose and smile at the camera,” sessions. I pushed for straight-up documentary photos inside the home. At that time, about a decade ago, no one could be convinced. Seriously, NO ONE. I carried my portable photo studio to every single shoot. One morning (mini studio set up in family’s living room), the parents told me they wanted their kids in five different outfits. I think we were on outfit three when we reached a Code Red situation…three screaming children, two screaming adults and over a dozen outfits strewn around. I picked up my camera to document the crying and hilarity of it all and there was some drama about mom not wanting her child to be photographed with a pacifier (and wanted me to Photoshop it out). They were very specific about only wanting photos where the children were smiling and looking at the camera. Between bribes, screams, tears, all-out red-faced tantrums…I put my camera down, dropped my head and told myself, “I am never doing this again.”
And, I never did.
I despised that kids were being pushed so hard to pose and smile. Forced into so many outfit changes and given props that made no sense. Toys were being taken away because they “weren’t supposed to be in the picture.” How did something that was supposed to be fun turn into something so stressful? I wondered why it kept happening over and over again. Why no one could break this vision of, “Freeze, smile, look at the camera, keep smiling, look at the camera…”
The reality was, I thought the kids would all be happy if we just let them be and I could follow them around like a friend or playmate…sort of an embedded reporter, something I had lots of experience doing!
These day-in-the-life shots speak to my soul. My favorite childhood pictures of myself (and my family) are straight-up documentary (see below)…
Looking back, I love seeing what the house looked like and noticing cool stuff in the background. The two photos above perfectly summarize my childhood. Our mutt Scotty (and how cool is it that our family car is in the pic?!) and me at my grandmother’s house with cats everywhere. Caught in the middle of honest moments.
These pictures transport me.
Authenticity quickly became the bedrock of my business.
So, that’s where I’m at now. For those who love perfectly posed pictures? Go for it, there are so many pros who do it so well!
For the people who cherish tantrums as well as smiles and want to be transported back into a moment? You’ve found your photographer.
It took me awhile to find my way here, but I’m not going back.