How We Do: Family Photos

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You’ll remember my tirade on Christmas cards, but I’m a true sucker for the family photo shoot. Still, because I can’t not have a controversial opinion on anything these days, between you and me, I’ve been feeling they’re a bit….overdone?

I grew up in a time of high-key photography. My mother is a professional photographer, and she owned her own photography studio for most of my life. She was a master of the portrait, and her studio was filled with props and backgrounds. Back then, we sat on bright white backgrounds held or sat on props.

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Now, we drag our props into the middle of fields. We sit on velvet armchairs in fields of wheat, curl up our newborns on tufted stools on the beach and casually pose on perfectly antique trucks on Christmas Tree farms.

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When one friend was looking for a newborn photographer last year, she was told there was an extra cost for siblings, an extra cost if the baby was more than 10 days old and an extra cost for coming to her home. Kind of reminds me of when I stay at a luxury hotel I’m spending way more, but everyone seems to cost extra.

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Photo shoots have become so stressful that I’m relatively sure there isn’t a husband in America who doesn’t die a little inside when he sees the shared Google calendar invite. True story, I once fed my kids over 300 tic tacs to get through a Christmas Card shoot.

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So, when I serendipitously met a fellow mama at ballet class for Marilyn, and she happened to be a documentary style family photographer, I jumped at the chance to spend a morning with my family, and her from a safe distance away, doing the things we love to do – exploring, walking, playing hide and go seek in the heart of our new town.  We scheduled the shoot, hastily chose outfits, and spent an incredible morning together. The images from that Fall morning perfectly capture the blessed imperfection of our lives right now.

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Last Friday, I saw a grown woman in an adult sized floor length tiered pink tutu pull up her minivan, unload a gaggle of tutu-clad little girls, and a sad man dressed in a pink bow tie and head to her family photos. Now, maybe she loves tutus, lives in them, and they’re her happy place. If so, I expect she had a great morning, but I have a sinking suspicion she was on her way to the middle of a field to perch on top of a pink velvet couch.  I’m here to say: it’s ok for your family photos to be a reflection of who you actually are, instead of who you think you want to look like. There isn’t a single photo that you see in a magazine or on social media that isn’t edited. There are untold costs to the perfectly posed images we receive every year from across the country.

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I urge you to look beyond the annual Christmas Card, and forward to when you won’t always remember exactly how it looked or felt to be in your family. You’ll forget the sassy expressions of your toddler, or the delicate eye raises of your husband. You’ll forget the way you looked at each other when you were trying not to crack up, or pointing out something to your kids. Capturing your family annually should be more than just capturing a still moment in time, it should be about freezing time so you can remember these days as they were.

If you’re looking for a new way to capture your family, I urge you to seek out a documentary photographer in your town. If you happen to live in mine,  Brittany Maynard is offering readers $50 off a family session if you book by March 1st. You can find her and book here. You’ll be so glad you did. 


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