Even though I am a photographer, I suck at taking photos of myself. You think I’m being modest? Trust me, I am being 110% truthful here. Like many other photographers out there, I am much more comfortable taking photos of other people than I am being in front of the camera myself. Some of it is confidence related, but most of the time I just care way more about making sure that the moment is captured for my friends and family than I care about being in the moment myself.
While this is a common issue for photographers, I have been thinking lately about how it is a common issue for parents as well. Think about it…for those fortunate enough to have two parents growing up, how many photos can you recall where both parents are in the frame? If you grew up in a single parent household, perhaps there are a lot of photos of the kids but not as many of the kids and the mom or dad. Someone has to actually hold the camera and take the picture, right?
This is so true for my own little family right now. We have a TON of photos at home of just B being herself and of my husband and B together. I love each of those moments and am so happy that I’ve been able to capture them. When going through the exercise of updating all of the prints on our walls the other day, though, I was hit with an unexpected pang of…jealousy? Sadness? I literally had to scrounge our hard drive to find decent photos of B and I together. And I think there are two. Total.
I started scrolling through my phone to see if I had captured any moments there. I had to scroll back to almost two months prior before I found any selfie photos of the two of us. While they are mostly blurry (I am really terrible at phone photography), most of them are in a sequence of five or ten photos and we’re making the silliest faces the whole time. I love them.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it is probably very easy for most moms to come up with an excuse NOT to be in a photo with their kids. Someone needs to take the photo. It’ll be cuter just to have the kiddos in the frame. I’m feeling too gross/uncoordinated/unphotogenic today.
Here’s the thing (and I am saying this as both a photographer and a fellow parent): It is SO KEY for you to jump in and be part of the photo with your kids. While you might argue that they’ll have the memory of whatever activity you were doing at the time (versus the snapshot of one moment), memories do fade. Photographs can trigger stories and many emotions for years and years to come. And eventually, you will have to rely on your adult children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren to pass down the stories of those moments that you are currently cherishing together. Additionally, while you might not be feeling the greatest when the photo is taken, that is probably the last thing your little one will care about twenty years from now. What matters is that you made the effort and were present in the moment, rather than letting it pass thinking it would be better off without you in it. That is the stuff that your kids will remember.
A year or so ago I happened upon Jennifer Tonetti Spellman and her incredible work. I may have mentioned her here and I know I have mentioned her on my photography blog. She is a family lifestyle photographer and does an incredible job of capturing families and their kiddos as they are…no posing, just them being themselves. I very much admire her (as a person and as a photographer) and strive to have a similar style in my professional work. Earlier this year she pointed her followers to a new project that she was taking part in, called “Wherever I am with you.” The photo project consists of a group of really talented female photographers who decided to make it a goal of taking at least one photo a month with their kids. Their tagline is “A group of photographers showing our children, one month at a time, that we were there, too.” I love this, from a professional and personal standpoint. Professionally, photo projects are always good to keep the creative juices flowing. Even more so, though, these images will be so wonderful for their children later down the road. If you are ever looking for inspiration to start your own photo project with your kiddos, I highly suggest you check out THIS SITE. It’s awesome.
Now, I am going to get on a bit of a photographer soapbox but bear with me. We live in such a digital age. You can pretty much take a picture of decent quality with anything. Be honest with yourself, though: how many of your digital photos are actually printed and up on your walls? Or in a scrapbook? My husband and I are totally guilty of this. We have tons of photos on our phones and on our computer but not very many of them are printed. Like I mentioned earlier, we went through the exercise of actually refreshing the photos up on our walls and it was one of the best things we could have done. Not only do we have updated photos to look at, but B is old enough to recognize the faces in the photographs. Now we play the memory game each time we walk down the hallway (“Grandma? Grandpa? Uncle Ryan?”). I look forward to the day that we can have another photo refresh and take down some of the photos with just B and add in a few photos of #2, and hopefully a couple more of both me and my husband as well.
So, soapbox point from a photographer #1: print your photos.
Soapbox point #2 for today is also pretty simple: invest in a photo session or two. This is not an advertisement, I swear. Just hear me out…I have had a TON of people say to me over the past year, “You’re SO lucky to be a photographer, you must have so many photos of B when she was a newborn!” Most of the time I’ll just smile and nod. The truth is, we have a lot of photos of B but most of them started when she was about a month old. I was way too overwhelmed with being a new mom and all the life changes that came with it to even think about taking photos of her in the newborn stage. It makes me sad, because we’ll never be able to get that time back again. My husband and I have already decided we’re going to hire a photographer to come to our house when #2 arrives because we don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to have a few moments captured when we’re in the newborn stage.
Anyone can pick up a camera and snap a photo. And if they sort of know what they’re doing, you’re going to get a decent image out of it. BUT, there is something to be said for having quality photographs taken that will last you a lifetime (and beyond). Good photography is not cheap for a reason, you’re paying someone not just for their time during the session and during post-processing…you are also recognizing their years of experience and the amount of time and energy they have put into education to refine their art. I highly recommend having a family session or two with a photographer while your kids are young. That way, you are guaranteed to be in a few photos and you will end up with images that you will cherish forever. If you find a photographer whose style speaks to you (where your heart sings when you look at their portfolio, or you find yourself imagining your own family in the photographs), reach out and see what they have to offer. You will never regret having those moments with your kids captured. If you ever want to bounce ideas or photographers off of someone, feel free to shoot me and email and I’d be happy to give you some recommendations or pointers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope that this post resonates for some of you and inspires you to get in front of the camera every once in a while!! Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments below, we’d love to hear about them.
Have a wonderful Monday,