FAQs: What IS family photojournalism anyway?




I would never send you spam! Powered by ConvertKit

It seems that family photojournalism (aka family documentary photography) is both a quickly emerging genre and a total and complete mystery. Is this what I want? How does it work? WTF is it, anyway? Here's my go at answering those -- and other -- common burning questions.

What IS family photojournalism anyway?

Simply put, family photojournalism is visual storytelling of a segment of real life through photographs. It’s also called family documentary photography or – aptly – storytelling photography. More practically speaking, it goes like this: I meet up with your family in your natural setting (whether it be home, a favorite restaurant, the lake, the bookstore…) and document what happens. Unlike traditional posed portraiture, family photojournalism captures the tiny true stories that make up your universe. It reveals a ton about not only what everyone looks like right now, but who you are, what you do, how you connect, and the way life feels. This is especially powerful with children, who have so much personality and such cute habits, quirks, and mischievous habits. And a sweet bonus: there are no matching outfits, quilts in sunset fields, or fake interactions whatsoever – just what feels natural and authentic to you.


I don’t know you. Will it be weird having you in my house while my children inevitably do their best to embarrass me?

Trust: as the mother of two young wildlings, I have been there. Wherever it is that you are. I’m not in the business of judging others, as I fully understand how dizzy, chaotic, and ridiculous life can be. Plus: don't your children do their best to embarrass you if you dress them up in matching sweaters and try to make them hug and smile for a camera, too?

But also: we’ll talk multiple times before our session, and possibly even meet up for a beer or a coffee ahead of time. By the time I show up, it’ll feel like an old friend coming to visit. Not convinced? Here’s proof from a recent client. “I really didn’t feel like you were a stranger… you are so warm and easy to chat with… We’ve had family photos done for years now and this was by far the easiest.”


I love your style. But I also want an old-fashioned family photo. Can’t I just have it ALL?

OF COURSE you can have it all! My sessions are completely unscripted, with one caveat: I am always happy to set aside a few minutes for loosely posed family portraits. It's not my expertise, but I can still make it happen . . . Because who doesn’t love a sweet family portrait too?


Will you climb on my bed like a psycho and take photos while I’m still sleeping?

Definitely! Or definitely not. It’s 100% up to you and what you’re comfortable with. There’s an intimacy/privacy balance to be struck, and that balance is different for each family. Some families are willing to go all out and invite me into the most private moments of their family’s day. They are rewarded with beautiful, intimate photos of those quiet times. Other families prefer a more arm’s length approach, and they are rewarded with feeling like their boundaries are respectfully intact. That’s cool too. In our discussions before we meet we will feel each other out, so that by the time our session rolls around, we are both clear on the comfort zone.


My toddler seems to ALWAYS strip naked. But I don’t want his business all over the internet. Is this a no-go?

See this post. I have no problem with childhood nudity and believe strongly that children should feel great about their bodies and not be shamed. That said, I also understand why you may not want the family jewels up on my blog. I try never to shoot full frontal nudity, but certainly never post it online. My model release (which is optional, by the way) has an opt-out for nudity, so you can keep those cute little tooshies all to yourself if you prefer!


We don’t really DO anything. Will our session be boring?

I honestly doubt it. First of all, I have a talent for helping families pinpoint exactly the right combination of day-to-day and special activities/outings to make a session flow well but not feel stressful or too busy. Plus, the most ordinary moments of eating a snack or unloading the dishwasher can make for beautiful photographs. Even though those moments are not glamorous, they are what makes up the fabric of life right now, and they are what you will want to remember years from now.


We are a MESS. Ok, that’s not really a question. But. We are a MESS.

I am not in the business of judging other people, and I’m not coming over to create a searing expose of the way you live. You’ve got kids, right? We’re ALL a mess. It’s one of life’s certainties: gravity exists, the sun will rise again, and life with kids is messy. But do you know what else? Some day the legos underfoot and the smudges on the window will be gone, and they won’t let you help them change their shirt for the 16th time today, and you might miss the chaos. I’m here so you can always remember how sweet the exhaustion really was.


How do we figure out what to DO?

We’ll talk about what you like to do, what’s changing, and what you’re wistful about. If you’re feeling stuck, I’ll throw out some ideas. Usually, this all happens easily and quickly, and we settle on a plan where the family feels at ease in a setting that feels like home (or possibly IS home).


All our previous family photos are posed. What will I do with these candid images? Will my mom freak out if I put them on my Christmas card?

You’ll get huge prints and put them on the wall, and pat yourself on the back for letting your true story be the art that decorates your home. If you’re planning a Day in the Life (or a half-day), you’ll probably ask me to design a family story book of photos, which will serve as a stunning keepsake that I guarantee you will thumb through and get the warm-and-fuzzies, both now and a generation down the road. If you’re a digitals kind of family, we can do those too, but nothing makes my heart sing more than beautiful art prints of real life’s true stories, decorating the walls of a home. Give it a shot and I bet you'll feel the same way too.