We all have a mental image of that beautifully framed, stunning family portrait we’ll one day have hanging over the mantle in our home. Everyone facing the camera positioned “just so” with heads tilted “just right” and lovely, genuine, relaxed smiles (and no “cheesy” expression from the 5-year-old or baby with a finger in his nose).
Take a step back and realize that your imagined ideal is a bit “Pleasant-ville” when you think of it.
The truth is, that while the gallery wrap canvas mounted on your wall is beautiful, it may not be reflective of real life….and it’s not the life you’re going to remember 20 years from now when your kids are grown and gone. Real life is messy and imperfect and beautiful in a unique and unspoiled way. As a professional photographer, I feel some of my greatest achievements behind the lens have been the times Ive captured the raw, unfiltered, unedited sheer chaos of kids. The family in hysterics because the son has just slipped and fallen in bird poo. The giggly tickle wars or daddy playing “airplane” flying their toddler in the air. The sultry expression of the little imp who is glaring at the camera. The little angel unaware that Im clicking away while she examines the intricacies of a beautiful flower she’s just picked. These are the fleeting moments which comprise the minutes, hours, days, season, stages and years of our lives. Each one beautiful and irreclaimable. Time stands still for no one. This stage today, the styles and attitudes and whacky wardrobe choices of your toddler will never be again.
I have clients all the time who tell me they are wanting photos but just want to wait for the “right time” to schedule a session. Mom’s want their pre-pregnancy body back. Or they choose to wait until their 2 year old is at a more cooperative stage. They postpone until they have their summer tan on or until their 8 year old “grows into their new front teeth”. And then there are the photoshop post-processing requests “can you take 10 lbs off of me?…and airbrush the crows feet by my eyes?”
Meanwhile, life is blazing by with a thousand undocumented stages that we are missing because things aren’t “perfect”. But truly “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and beauty is to be found everywhere, every day. Perfect portraiture is not my forte – but photojournalism finds the beauty in the eyes of the contemplative child. The grasping hand of a newborn baby. The admiration in a glance between lovers. And the belly laughs and snot bubbles and baby-bed-heads.
After a particularly emotional photoshoot a few years ago, I have a new perspective on the immeasurable value of photos. I’ve occasionally had the sacred opportunity of photographing a number of precious wee babies whose lives lasted only a few hours or were born sleeping, but left an indelible imprint on the hearts of all who knew them. The images we captured this day are the only visuals that this grieving couple has of their precious baby boy. Photos give us something tangible to hold onto. To remember. To celebrate a life even when that loved one is gone.
Another friend of mine, a mom of four little ones, is in the final stages of cancer. Still, she takes photos. Every day, she photo documents the gifts around her. The sweet snuggles with her children in bed with her. The matching hats she and her son have that cover her bald head. The hands intertwined of her and her devoted husband who has loved her well through “sickness and in health”. These precious photos, the lasts smiles and cuddles and memories with her little ones will be treasures her kids will have for a lifetime!
My own passion for photography began about 9 years ago with my baby girl who had just undergone invasive surgery to repair her broken heart. As I leafed through the pictures my mom had taken of my husband and I holding our fragile baby girl, I was keenly aware that these may be the only photos Id ever have.
No one is harder on themselves than we are ladies! We suffer from photophobia at times. There are always gonna be wrinkles and muffin-tops, bad hair days and, well…..bad hair seasons. But there will come a day you’ll look back, and definitely days your kids will look back and wish they had more moments captured on film between the two of you. Step into those selfies. Don’t shy away from the shutter but to frame yourself into your children’s memories by being present. You don’t need expensive lenses and great gear. You may from time to time opt for a professional family photoshoot, but don’t wait for that perfect time to capture on camera the memories of today! iPhones leave you excuse-less for not snapping some silly selfies with your toddlers or photobombing your teens!