I have had people ask why I chose to offer documentary and lifestyle storytelling over the more traditional portrait photography. There are so many reasons why, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet.
1) Because I love it - Seriously. I. love. it. Like, weak-in-the-knees-heart-beats-faster-when-I-see-a-beautiful-documentary-image love.
When I first started learning photography, I tried to pose my poor little baby. I put her in baskets, on blankets, in drawers (fully supported, there were no babies falling out of drawers). I tried propping her to sit up on chairs and with her boppy and did all the crazy antics I could think of to get her to look at me and smile. It resulted in a lot of frustration and just a few cute little photos.
But they weren't her.
They didn't show her developing personality. They didn't show our life at home or her quickly fading baby-ness into toddlerhood. I started realizing I loved the quick snapshots more than the attempted poses. Not because they were technically better (lets face it, nothing was technically better back then), but because it was her and it was real.
As time went on I shifted from trying to pose my children (now I have two!) into documenting the moments that were organically unfolding in front of my eyes and I loved the results. I started to think about keeping my camera in arm's reach so I could quickly and (not so) sneakily grab what they were doing before they moved on to the next thing. Now, when they ask if we can do a certain craft or activity I do think of setting it up in an area with lovely lighting, I am a photographer after all, but I don't direct or have them do something over if I missed it.
Same thing with clients. When I began to gain skills and build a portfolio with people outside of my own family I would pose them, ask everyone to look at me, smile, and then snap away. I got a few decent ones, but my favorites were again the ones when the family didn't know I was photographing them. The best were the ones that showed the connections and how they really interacted with one another. Those were the photographs that made my heart skip a beat and I knew that I wanted to pursue building a business that reflected that.
2) There is a desire for it - Before I dive into this point I want you to think about something real quick. When you were a kid and you pulled out old photo albums, which photos did you linger on? What brought back memories for you or those around you? Did anyone look at one of the pages and start into a story about that time when...?
By the way, its so important to print your digital images, but that's a whole other blog post. Ok, back to the point.
Unless something crazy happened at the studio, I'm going to guess most of you thought about a snapshot someone in the family took and not the studio photo of everyone in their Sunday's best. Let's get this out there too. I am not downplaying studio or more traditional portrait photography. Some of my favorite photographers shoot in an editorial style with lights and posing. A posed family portrait can be beautiful and I have learned a great deal about photography from those who shoot in this way. All that I'm saying is, its not the only way.
People love stories. They love to tell them and they love to hear them. What I offer, as a documentary photographer, is to tell your story visually as beautifully as it can be seen. I want to be a part of freezing your favorite pastimes and your connections as loved ones, not just taking a photo of a pretty smile. At first it can feel a little uncomfortable and awkward. But, once the initial weirdness of my photographing your everyday passes, it ends up being one of the most fun and relaxed photo sessions you've ever had.
I'm going to share a quote with you that really resonated with me. It bluntly, but accurately describes how I approach this telling of your story.
3) Every session is different - This is kind of a continuation of the last point, but I'm going with it.
Since no two families are alike, you will have a session like no one else's. You are completely unique from any other and a documentary session will capture what YOUR family is really like.
Your session will not take place in the same field, with the same poses, and the same props as any other client. Your location will be meaningful to you, your poses will be your natural movements and interactions, and your props will be whatever it is that is going on during your story.
This is probably my favorite part.
Being allowed in to capture the way your day unfolds and being able to present the most normal and mundane moments as a beautiful tribute to your family is such a privilege.
Are you ready to have your story told?