What your child can teach you about great family photos



They grow up fast, and when they do, they'll come searching for THESE photos of their childhood.


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There are only a few things in life that I can pretty much guarantee:

  1. The fancier the outfit is, the messier the toddler will get
  2. Coffee never tastes as good when reheated on the stove
  3. You can’t drive on MoPac without developing a horrific headache
  4. This laundry ain't gonna fold itself
  5. Time DOES go so fast, but you still want to smack anybody who tells you to “savor every minute.”

Am I right? As they used to say sometimes, reality bites. We can embrace it or we can fight it, but the fight rarely gets us anywhere.

“Perfect” photo sessions

You CAN have it all! Photo made during a relaxed moment at a documentary family session.

You CAN have it all! Photo made during a relaxed moment at a documentary family session.

Speaking of the fight. 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. Hooray! You’re finally going to have those images that you’ve been dying for!

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. If you’re like me, you probably had to change your clothes from the stress of it all, and depending on the session you were envisioning, you maybe had to change your family’s clothes too – to coordinate.

Be honest. How much fun was that? When you see the photos, do you remember a fun day? A radiant, golden, relaxed family? Or do you remember the stress that went into it, how awkward it felt, and how surprised you were when you saw the final images and everybody looked pretty decent? Yeah. Me too.

I’m also betting that you breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, and told yourself: it’s going to be a good long while before we try THAT again.

They may look great, but we all could've been more relaxed!

They may look great, but we all could've been more relaxed!

Pop Quiz!

Lucky for you, your child holds the secret to a fun, stress-free family photo experience. If he’s old enough to talk and have his own preferences, go ahead and give him this pop quiz:

1.      Next time we take family photos, would you rather:

a. wear your favorite outfit

b. wear something I pick out that matches my shirt and is photogenic

2.     During our photo session, would you prefer that I spend my time:

a. playing with you, or just doing normal mom things

b. trying to convince everybody to smile and pretend they want to cuddle

3.     When the photographer comes to meet us, do you want to:

a. be yourself and do what you like best

b. sit up straight, look at the camera, smile (but not too weird), keep your hands in your lap

4.     When you grow up, will you be happier to have:

a. Photos of who we were and how we lived

b. Photos of what we looked like when we did our hair and dressed up fancy

What were your mornings REALLY like when your child was just shy of two?

What were your mornings REALLY like when your child was just shy of two?


I’m guessing -- whether you actually did the quiz or just ran through it in your mind – that you wound up with a whole lotta “As”.

If you’re feeling it, go ahead and repeat the quiz with your spouse. For real.

OMG! “A” again? Amazing.

There’s something that families are beginning to discover, and children have held the key all along. Are you ready? Here’s the secret:

If you want to have fun, be yourself, wear your favorite thing, and do what you like.

It’s kind of a no-brainer for regular life, right?

But have you ever thought of extending that concept to a family photo session?

An after-school session

Last fall, I had an after school session with Caroline and her three children. We spent the afternoon and evening together, doing their everyday after school things. Mostly the day-to-day, with a few common-but-not-daily favorite activities.

There was no sitting in sunset fields or wearing matching clothes. There was just regular, everyday mom stuff. Picking the children up at the bus stop. Face paint smudged from a rowdy day at preschool. One-on-one time practicing spelling on the homework window seat. Dinner on the grill. A pile of kids and books at bedtime. The stuff that real life is made of.

For good measure, we threw in a few occasional favorites – a trip to TCBY and a summertime favorite, the trampoline shower.

austin fun family photographer

The children had a fun afternoon, and the parents didn’t stress. Because they honored all those As from the quiz above.

What they were left with was a striking record of school days in 2017. Not something once-in-a-lifetime, but just the opposite: something so ordinary that it defines their family in this chapter of life.

When Caroline, Mike, and their children look back at the album we made of this ordinary fall day, they’ll remember no anxiety, awkwardness, or pretending. Nope. The photos instead will do just what they were designed to do – honor the people they were, the way they spent their time, and what familyness means to them. Trigger the memories of just what it felt like to be them, at this exact time. And when you think about it, what more is there?

austin documentary family photographer