I have a lot of inquiries as to whether or not I shoot family photos. You rarely see them on my social media or website, because to tell the truth, I don't often enjoy shooting them. It's not that I don't love kids or that I'm not good with them ( quite the opposite actually) but it's the stress that's always involved. "But aren't weddings stressful Alea" YES they are, but I'm still allowed to do the part of photography I love most, which is be a photojournalist and tell a story. Somewhere out there someone decided what "Family Photos" should look like, and I didn't get any say in the matter. So parents come to me with what they think they are supposed to do and the Pinterest photos they want, rightfully so, and I have to try to fit into the mold on what their vision is. That is not the part that bothers me, rather, it's the pressure tied to it for the children. The children are introduced to this stranger that is holding a foreign object in their face, they are wearing something they likely don't wear everyday, they are taken to a place they have likely never been before, its hot, or its cold, or there are dogs around that they just want to pet for the love of god, or its loud, or the energy is just off and it makes them cry. They don't want to smile or sit still, or listen to this stranger squeezing a loud toy to get their attention - all for a "good" photo. I have to try to reassure the parents that the kids always cry, they aren't the only ones and their " She never acts like this" or " I don't know what's gotten into him, he must need a nap" embarrassment isn't necessary but something makes them feel bad, like they failed at something. They are stressed that their normally well behaved and attentive child is acting out the one time they really need them to do them a solid ( especially since money is involved. )
The truth is, the kids read our energy and when we are stressed about "making something happen" boy o' boy that feels uncomfortable to them. There is too much pressure to have this picture perfect family, and from the likes of pinterest and instagram we've put in our heads this idea of how this little life should look. Personally, I don't like it. I've skimmed the surface of what I could do with families because the lack of photojournalism and authenticity makes it hard for me to do what I do best - which is tell a story. While some photographers are great with the setups and props and posing babies in the perfect little flower ( which is so darn cute I have to admit) I would make rather capture your kid playing in the mud or you guys having a real moment, that you always have when I'm not there. So when you look back at your family you remember "Oh, Indi used to love playing with cars...she would never leave the house without at least two of them." Instead of having a really cute photo but stressful memories of " Allie would not stop crying the whole time, but we finally got the shot."
I would like permission to change the expectation and let the kids be kids. For me to come to your home for a couple of hours and hang out and capture your family as you are...rather than what you think you should be. These are moments I feel like will be more important as the time they stay that little goes by so fast. The children grow up, and move on and what you have left of the story of your growing family changes at light speed. I don't believe those moments should be retrofitted into a box of what was trendy at the time, rather...how you would like to remember them.
We walk into people's homes and see the traditional family portrait gracing the walls in matching outfits, and while there is a place for that, is that who your family is? Is that what represents your life best in those moments? I'm not asking to get rid of the "family photo" rather, if you're reading this and coming to me for portraits that it is because you want me to tell your family's story. ...whatever the story is that day.