When I walked into this beautiful Austin home this spring, nobody was uncertain about how our documentary family session would feel. One of my favorite things about repeat Day in the Life clients is the ease with which we fall into the day, comfortable and trusting, excited but relaxed. The last time I photographed this family, Finn was a wee toddler full of big feelings. The family was renting before buying into this Travis Heights dream home some months later). There were questions. Lots.
But it turns out, these questions aren't just on the minds of scheduled clients -- they're also on the minds of those still wondering if a documentary family photo session is for them at all.
So, here’s how it went down. The kids were newborns, then infants, then toddlers. They were a ton of work, and honestly not very good companions. So I did what we all do – I sought out the company of friends with kids to pass the time with. The kids would play (or cry, or sleep), and we’d talk, laugh, day-drink. It was delightful. They had friends, I had friends, we didn’t have to spend every waking second with one another . . . win win. And then the kids basically grew up.
Immediately upon returning from five weeks in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with my kids, I stuffed a dozen jumbo garbage bags with our possessions and hauled them off to Goodwill. And it felt damn good.
Random, you think? NOPE.
Here’s why: The #1 thing I took away from our time in a cabin in the woods was this:
As often as I meet a mama who’s absolutely overwhelmed, frustrated, and at her wit’s end with her child and the particular phase he’s in, I meet another who’s just so smitten with how sweet and perfect things are right no (ok maybe not QUITE as often, but it does happen, I swear).
It’s been a long time coming, but we FINALLY booked our own photographer to shoot a Day in the Life session with my family – and it all went down yesterday. Before I forget, I want to share with you some thoughts and impressions that are still with me, mere hours after the day ended.
As a professional in the field, you KNOW I was overthinking it.
When the opportunity to toss my two preschoolers, my pit bull dog, and my own self into a car and drive 14 hours to a cabin in the mountains in Central Colorado for 5 weeks this summer arose, I grabbed on.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? (Don’t answer that)
But then a brilliant idea struck. If I’m basically taking the summer off, I’ve gotta fill my fall calendar NOW.
And so I present to you, the SUMMERTIME UNPLUGGED FALL SESSION SALE.
I’m here to tell you about a major revelation I had during this week of solo parenting all over Central Texas.
As a professional documentary photographer, I lugged my 600-pound pro Nikon along with me everywhere we went, determined to make great photos that reflect the realities of our “week full of adventures.”
BUT I FORGOT SOMETHING CRITICAL. When you are your own family’s photographer, there’s something important missing. YOU.
Now, stick with me – this point is actually a bit less obvious than it sounds . . .
Let’s just go ahead and discuss the elephant in the room: MONEY. Money is a factor, right? We get tempted, then feel guilty about spending on something that isn’t a necessity. Some things vary so much in price that it’s hard to even figure out whether the particular one you want is “worth it.” And when it comes time for family photos, we may wind up hiring that mom down the street who’s recently picked up photography and offers what seems like a really good deal.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever booked a photo session with a photographer who seems to make families look radiant, golden, and straight out of a fairy tale. Then the day of your session rolls around, and you’re going crazy trying to get the kids dressed, bribing them to behave, begging your spouse to have a good attitude and go along with it, and sequestering yourself in your bedroom for some quick deep breathing exercises so you can be the chill, easygoing parent you always thought you were.
There are times – for sure – that the mess is the point.
Yes, often it involves mud. Or paint. But sometimes, the ordinary mess of real life is independently funny, interesting, or otherwise important. And even though it’s annoying, I often remind myself that someday I’ll miss the mess of life with kids.
Take this photo of my husband and his glorious booty shorts, “organizing” the garage while the children sit in a pile of dirt and leaves reading dusty, cracked books: