We all know that family photography is important. In this technological age, we take pictures almost every day.
We also understand the power of documentary photography, when it comes to travel photographers documenting culture or creating images on political and social topics. We know it’s perfect for wedding photography. Real candid moments.
Whenever I talk about Documentary Family Photography ( aka Day in Life session ) people seems to love the idea. Everyone understands the value and the importance of family history preserved in photographs forever. But even when they understand the concept, and love the style, some of them convince themselves that it’s great for others but may not be suited for them. Don’t let these excuses rob you of your memories.
1. My house is a mess, or too dark, or too small..
This is a common one. One of the first thing I hear when I talk to people about a documentary session is “ oh.. I couldn’t do that! My house is so small, and it’s so dark. Plus there is always a mess and ..” You know what? So is mine. And at the same time, it’s not. You know why? Because it’s not important. I’m not there to photograph your house. I’m there to photograph you and your family. Also, we don’t have to stay at your house. Do you love taking your family to the beach? Park? Awesome, let’s go! Plus, it’s a documentary session. Many years down the road, when you look at these photos I want you to remember where you were in your life at that point. The smell of coffee, the way the morning sun fell on the bed in your old bedroom, how tired and strangely happy you were changing your baby’s nappy for the 6th time that day, even though it was still before midday! Those photographs will be able to trigger your senses through the memories captured and be a reminder of how much love you had in your life. Nothing else matters
2. I’m totally going to do it, just not now. Next year, Or maybe during the summer
Remember how every year you think to yourself “ Wow that year went fast..”. Or when on the last day of your vacation, you can’t believe it’s already over? When you looking at your sleeping daughter and you notice how tall she is? Her legs use to reach only to here, and now her feet are almost at the end of the bed. What happened? Time is flying, and kids are growing so fast. Sooner than we expect they will have driving licenses and will be filing college applications. Freckles will fade, and there will be no more smudged fingerprints on the windows.
Remember those “first times ”? We all do. First steps, first words, first bike rides, but do you know there are “last ones” as well? There will be a moment when you will give her a piggyback ride, put her down on the ground and you will never do that again in your life. The last one. You will not realize it was the last one until long after it happened , and you will probably never be able to recall exactly when that was. There is a chance that you will do one of these “last ones “ tomorrow. There is no time like today to capture what matters. Later will be different from now.
3. I take pictures on my phone everyday. I’m fine
We all do that. Snapping countless pictures with our phones. I sometimes even manage to upload them to my PC. But most of the time I don’t. I just keep them forever on my phone, and I glance at them occasionally when showing the photos to my friends and family. At the moment , I have four broken phones (more, if you count my wife’s old phones) in my drawer. My kids play with them. I know there are images on all of them. But it’s highly unlikely that I will ever recover them. I don’t even remember what they are. Remember floppy discs? MiniDiscs? Cds? Nobody cares anymore. What will happen in two or five or 25 years to the medium that we are using right now? How long will Facebook last? Who remembers MySpace? Our kids and grandkids will not be able to see any images that we are storing right now. But an album or print on a beautiful quality paper? That will last a hundred years.
Plus, there is nothing exciting about it. Seriously. There’s nothing exciting about having a beautiful image living on your iPad. You know what’s exciting? Enjoying a beautiful 30×40 custom-framed wall portrait above the fireplace in your family room that you’ll walk by every day. It’s a reminder of the love and appreciation you have for your family. It’s a breath of fresh air and a reason to stop for even just a moment and smile when everything around you is buzzing by at lightning speed. It’s a reminder that even in the busiest of times, all the work is worth it because you do it for your family.
4. But ..we.. don’t really do anything exciting
Your family is unique. There is no other like it. I believe that the most significant days of our lives are disguised in routine and monotony. That there is magic in the mundane and beauty in the ordinary if we are just willing to stop and recognize it. This “nothing” that you are doing right now – helping your kids brush their teeth in the morning, getting them ready for school, snuggling on the couch, playing board games, reading a bedtime story – will be everything to you in a couple of years, when they grow up and spend less time with you. Plus, I can see things that you don’t. Simply by standing outside the situation. I see the little pat on the head you give your son just before sending him to school. I can see the little moment when they play on the carpet, and you are looking at them for about 5 seconds, and you have this look in your eyes. You know which one. The one that says “ I can’t believe how awesome they are and how much I love them” I assure you there are lots of incredible and meaningful photographs in your life.
5. I don’t really need pictures..
Remember Chinese Whispers? Taking turns whispering a message into the ear of the next person in line? By the time the last person says it out loud, the message has radically changed. It’s been altered with each retelling.
It turns out your memory is a lot like Chinese Whispers. Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain network changes and alters the memory itself. So the next time you remember it, you probably won’t recall the original event but the version you remembered the previous time. Your memory of an event grows less precise even to the point of becoming totally false with each retrieval. We remember things fairly accurately the first time because our memories aren’t that distorted, but it’s all downhill from there. Day in Life session are a way for your family to revisit what your life was like then. Almost transport you back to that moment in time. I believe that documentary session preserves history. The history that’s going to be looked at years and maybe even decades later.
6. I don’t have time
The beauty of documentary photography is that you don’t need to put aside any time for your photo shoot. There is no need to prepare nice clothes, get you hair done or come over to the studio. You can wear whatever you like, do whatever you normally do. You just live your normal life and let me take care of the rest. The best photographs are created in the most unexpected situations!
You need to take your youngest for his first haircut ? Take me with you. Imagine having that memory forever in the photo album. Your fridge is empty, and you need to go shopping? I’ll tag along. And yes, I know grocery shopping with kids is not a walk in the park. Now. But in 20 years that will be a precious memory. And that’s the whole point.
7. Letting a photographer into our life feels just..uncomfortable.
I’d be lying if I told you that I will be fly on the wall, and you will not even notice me. You will. First of all, I’m not small. Also, I believe that being engaged in the activity makes me more invisible than trying to stand on the side. Trust me, after an hour you will not even notice the camera anymore. I will be just a friend hanging with you during the day. Plus we will get to know each other before. We will chat more than once, and if possible I will pop in a few days before for a cup of coffee, so when I come back with a camera I will not be a stranger to your kids. Oh, it’s just Thomas. He’s OK.
8. I hate getting my pictures taken
I’m with you. That’s why I’m so glad that I’m hiding behind the camera most of the time 😉
You are not alone. Most of the people don’t enjoy getting their pictures taken. But if you think about it, that feeling exists only when you have to do those posed “look at the camera” photos. You’ve tried and failed to pull off a convincing fake smile during pictures before, but it just isn’t happening, so now you always make that awkward half-smile that makes you look like you’d rather be somewhere else. And what the hell are you supposed to do with your arms!? You dread getting that Facebook notification saying you’ve been tagged in a photo. Somehow you just never quite look yourself in pictures.
Nothing like that will happen during the documentary session. There is not one “smiiiiiilleee” moment and not a single “ stand there and look at me” situation. Plus love of your family and the dynamic between the members will take center stage on the photographs and everything else will be secondary.
9 and 10.
I can’t afford a photo session and I yeah .. i like the style and the idea and i’m sure it’s perfect for other but I still don’t think its for me.
That’s the big one.
None of us have enough money. And even if we are not talking about bills, food, and the rest of the essentials, there are always a million other things that we need to buy. So what we do is; we spend money on things that have value for us. New tech gadgets that help us during the day, the holiday trip that we dreamed of, that Starbucks coffee every morning on the way to work that keeps us sane, the cigarettes that keep us centered, a weekly dinner with friends that we can’t image life without, getting your nails and hair done, new back patio furniture, endless amount of toys for our kids because you can’t just say No all the time 😉 and so on. Remember this band that plays in the local pub on the weekend? They come over in an old car worth 400 euros but bring with them musical instruments worth thousands. The car is old because they don’t care about cars. They care about music. We all value some things more than others. It’s about choosing what is important to us enough to spend money on it. And your memories are one of the most important things. In fact, when people were asked what items would they save from the house fire, a box of old family photographs is in the top 3 answers.
Photographs show the time that our children won’t remember. We might (up to a point) remember our first years as a family, but they probably won’t (see reason 5). I know we used to live with my grandparents until I was 5. Then we moved out, and shortly after they found something smaller for themselves. I can barely remember the house. Or my room. If not for the photographs that we keep in an old green box I wouldn’t know what my early childhood looked like, or my mom at that time, or my first bike..or anything at all! And I wouldn’t know that my daughter looked exactly like me when I was her age.
Its your turn.
Some time ago I created a survey. I sent it to my previous clients, my friends, I posted it on my social media platforms and even handed out printed flyers, with a link to to the survey, to people in the real world. The survey is still live, and I always appreciate if someone can spend a few minutes to answer a few questions. www.dayinlife.ie/how-can-i-help/ One of the survey questions is “What may hold you back from having a photo…
Over the last few years, I have started to realize that things change. I don’t see myself as a different person than the one I was about seven years ago, but my daughter is already 1,3 m tall, and she didn’t exist seven years ago. So.. time is definitely passing by. Couple years ago, with that whole “the times they are a changin” thought in my head I was at my folks place, and I somehow gravitated towards an old…