A New Beginning
Okay. Deep breath. This post has been a long time coming. Like over two years long time. I’ve struggled a bit with sharing this idea. It’s been roaming around in my brain and I couldn’t decide whether or not I’d like actually like to pursue it.
As some of you know, I’ve had a break in photography for the last few months due to the arrival of a little large bundle of joy last summer. While it’s been crazy in some ways (more children, less time, more responsibility, less sleep), I have had some quiet moments to reflect on my thoughts. In the spirit of spring and new beginnings I have decided the time is right to plunge headfirst into a new direction in my photography career.
My photography journey began, well, out of the womb, really. I was always the girl with the camera through junior high, high school, university, and beyond. Keep in mind this was back before EVERYONE documented EVERYTHING with their smart phone. Not everyone back then was willing to cart around a not-so-tiny and/or portable ACTUAL camera, but this girl sure was.
When the idea of actually considering photography as a career started to take root in my head, I was excited and terrified at the same time. Excited to be doing what I love as a job, but also super scared that nobody would like my work. Like most newbie “professionals” I took any job that came my way. I couldn’t afford to be picky; I wanted to get my name out there and grow my business as quickly as I could.
I also fell victim to the idea that people wouldn’t be happy with my work and with their photos unless everyone in them looked ABSOLUTELY perfect. Everyone’s teeth had to be white, everyone’s smile just right, everyone looking at the camera, and everyone posed perfectly in a flattering light. As you can imagine this created a little stress before each shoot and a lot of post-processing work (aka “photoshopping”) because let’s face it, in real life everyone is not perfect and does not look perfect (which is okay!!). Photo sessions started to become less enjoyable for me, and taking photos started to really feel like a “job” rather than something that I loved to do.
Contrast this with the photos I was taking of my growing family.
Photos of my three-year-old getting her tiny little nails painted by her older sister.
Of my daughters running through the sprinkler in our back yard.
Of my oldest performing “surgery” on her dolls (Doc McStuffins has been a long-time presence in our house).
Of the two of them entertaining their new baby sister on our bed (there is a whole blog post coming in the future on that subject).
Of course I realize that part of the reason is that the photos were of my own family; however, as I would go through the photos from the latest family sessions I had done, my favourites were always the photos of people looking at each other rather than at the camera.
The photos that highlighted the relationships between individuals.
That illustrated the love that exists between people.
The photos of real laughter, real joy, even the ones of the toddler in the family red-faced and crying rather than looking at the camera and smiling. I still remember the mom in that session saying “well, just take one of her crying, that’s part of our life right now.” I did, and it turned out to be a favourite of the session; let’s face it, anyone who has raised a two-year-old knows this is an inevitable part of the process.
I was lucky to discover the website Fearless and Framed, where the motto is “real is the new perfect.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and it helped me realize that I didn’t want to continue down the road that my career was headed. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this, but as an artist, I wasn’t being fulfilled by my photo sessions anymore.
Entire sessions composed of Pinterest-worthy, perfectly posed families with everyone looking and smiling at the camera were not what I felt I was supposed to be shooting. Newborn studio sessions that, while resulting in beautiful photos of little babes perfectly wrapped up with adorable props, were stressful for me at the time.
I want to clarify for past clients that this was in no part caused by the parents and/or babies during the sessions. I was just constantly in my own head, caught up second-guessing myself: are these the right colours, is there enough texture, should there be more props in this, did I give enough variety, are the parents going to hate this experience?? …on and on. They just never did feel like they came naturally to me.
I also don’t want to minimize the importance of ANY of the past sessions I’ve had with my clients; they were all meaningful and important because they were of YOU!
While these posed types of family and/or newborn photos certainly have their place, and it absolutely takes skill and technique to shoot them well, I’ve come to see that they just aren’t for me as a photographer. I want to photograph real life.
I want the photos that result from sessions with my clients to show not only what people look like at the time, but also what they ARE like at the time. To capture the relationships and the emotions that they evoke. To capture the cute little things that your kids do at this exact moment in time. Because if having three children aged 6 and under has taught me anything it’s that you will forget little moments and little things that your kids did…which is the precise reason why I love taking photos. To help us all remember the details.
Allow me to illustrate my point with an example from my life: I chose to have our birth story last summer documented by a photographer (Hobbs Photography; for real, go check them out, they are AMAZING). At first my husband thought it was a totally weird thing to do (okay, he might still think that) but I really do feel it is one of the best investments I have ever made in my life.
There is no getting those moments back, and as any mom who has endured the birth of a child can tell you, there are certain things that you just forget. As time passes your memories fade a bit; seconds blur into minutes and those blur into hours. You can write it down to try and remember the details, but nothing jogs your memory like a photo. That exact thing happened to me when I received the photos from the lovely ladies at Hobbs; I was scrolling through the images and there was one from when my two oldest came in to meet their new baby sister. It was a photo of a detail, a close-up of just my three year old’s hand in mine, our fingers interlocking. Simple, right? But so so powerful. The reason I love this photo so much is that it was a real moment; I honestly don’t even remember holding her hand like that, but looking at it I feel the exact emotion I was feeling at that moment.
Pure, absolute love. That’s the power of documentary photography. And that’s what I want for my clients.
Ah. That feels better. Now that all of that information has been unloaded from my brain into yours, I’ll take a break and let it mellow. And if it feels like I’ve been speaking DIRECTLY to you about EXACTLY the type of session you’re looking for then please please contact me! I would so love for us to tailor a session together. Let’s get real.
To my past clients: if this doesn’t sound like something you are into, I totally get that. I will not be offended if you choose to continue with traditional family photos and go with another photographer…though I would love if you wanted to try something new and exciting with me!
Stay tuned for future blog posts where I tell all about my first in-home documentary session and how much I LOVED it, I get to explain the process of planning a documentary/lifestyle shoot (hint: it involves some of your favourite activities and no awkward posing), I explain how this type of session is NOT the same as the photos on your smartphone, I share some of my favourite sessions so far using this approach, and much more.