Last night I had a photo session with a family that I adore whom I have been photographing for a few years now. The location we chose is one that I knew has become a “hot spot” for on location photographers, and in all honesty I was hesitant to use such a trendy spot, but it had all of the elements that we were looking for in a location so we went for it. Low and behold, I lost count of how many photo shoots were happening while we were out there – at least 6! In the moments when I wasn’t actively engaged with my sweet clients, I watched the other photographers doing their thang. What I saw was a lot of fill flash, big reflectors, step stools, photographers doing a lot of directing of their clients into the perfect poses with crates to sit on and other various props, with clients wearing perfectly coordinating styled outfits.
For the record, I don’t do much comparison between myself and other photographers for so many reasons, and I am not saying that any of those other photographers were doing anything WRONG. They are doing what works for them, and I hope they have clients who love them for it. Let me make this clear – there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving more idealized or stylized type of portraiture. There is something for everyone, and I celebrate that! I am not judging other photographers or anyone for having different taste/style than I. I see plenty of styled portraiture that I think is absolutely beautiful… but its not for me, and its not what I do for my clients, and a good fit is oh so very important to me.
It really struck me how very different my sessions are than everything else I saw happening out there last night. When I show up, its typically just me and my camera. I don’t use flash or reflectors because I find them to be a huge distraction and barrier to being able to capture my clients being completely themselves and feeling comfortable. I do not bring props – if my clients want something special to be featured in their photos I encourage them to bring it along themselves. I like for my clients to wear what they love and feel great in. I do very little directing of who should sit where, and I will never ask a 2 year old to sit still and smile for the camera! I like to show up and be myself and encourage my clients to do the same. I look for some cool spots at our location to hang out, engage in an authentic loving way with them, and watch carefully for the magic & beautiful moments (there is never any shortage of those!).
I am not the only photographer who works in this way… in fact I can name 4 of them in my city alone (who happen to be good friends) who have a similar philosophy! However, what I bring to my work is MYSELF – my personality. my style. my experience. And that my friends, is totally unique and totally authentic and the only way I know how to be! So my ultimate goal is that the people who are moved by my photographs find me and see the value of what a gift it is to invest in these photographs that capture the soul of their family’s present story. I love this work, and it is so very important to me that the people who hire me absolutely LOVE it too!
I’m going to paraphrase a conversation I had with my lovely client last night after witnessing the other photo sessions that we were surrounded by (and Becca, I know I’m misquoting a bit. I hope you don’t mind!): “I watched one of those other photographers actually arranging her client family by size. I think those photographs do a good job of showing ‘what we look like right now’, but what means so much more to us is to have photographs of WHO WE ARE right now. Portraits with SOUL.” (I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I almost cried when she said that to me… she really gets it! She really gets ME! Thanks, Becca!!!!)
So if you are looking for a perfect family portrait with everyone arranged in a perfect “waterfall” arrangement, looking and smiling at the camera, wearing your carefully chosen best new outfits there is no shortage of photographers out there who will make your ideal family photo. If a more soulful, wabi sabi, perfectly imperfect, messy, and authentic approach sounds more like your style; if the photos you see here in the pages of my blogsite make you laugh or cry or stir a feeling deep in your gut; if you read my words and get a feel for who I am and that feeling speaks to you – by all means, please email me! I would LOVE to do my part in giving the gift of a little soulful time capsule of visual memories to your beautiful family. I promise that I’ll fall in love with who you are!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment!