The other day, I was listening to a podcast and the interviewee was talking about the nightmare of having family photos taken when your kids are little. I felt so sad for her. Her experience and misconception that all family photo shoots had to go the way hers did, which I'm guessing involved trying to create "perfect" pictures and begging and bribing kids to cooperate, are common, for sure, but 100 percent not necessary.
To me, family photography isn't just about the photographs. They are important, of course, but it's just as much about the experience. If the experience is good, (or not even good, but meaning full in some way, as is the case with difficult life events that equally warrant documenting) then the photographs will be treasures. Even with their flaws.
The converse is equally true. Event the most well executed photograph of a contrived and unnaturally difficult situation has little meaning. Sure, everyone looks fantastic, but when you see the photograph, what do you feel? I'm guessing not the feelings you want to feel. You're not remembering your family on that day in a way that's true to who you are. Your actually feeling the discomfort that comes from trying to be someone you are not. Or perhaps you just don't really feel anything because you don't really recognize the family you are seeing.
This session with family gathered just after Christmas is a great example of how much better photographs are when they are of you, being you, with the ones you love. There was no posing until the very end, when we braved the cold to ensure a few nice portraits. There were no tears, there was no bargaining, just a really nice time captured. And I know that many years from now this family will pull out these photos and remember this day and this time they shared with joy.
This is just a small selection of some of my favorites.