The Other End of the Lens | My family's day as subject

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.

**Note: this post was written in March, but not published until photos from the session were ready. All photos made by Waxahachie documentary photographer Elaine Baca**


As a professional in the field, you KNOW I was overthinking it. Not only did I want to have a great Day-in-the-Life session that was fun and (let’s be honest) photogenic, I also was a bit obsessive over the concept of authenticity. What was our TRUEST Sunday like? When was each family member MOST in her element? What brought us TOGETHER?

The thing is, when I think about our “average” weekend day, my mind goes blank. Completely. So I made lists. Lists of our favorite adventures. Our favorite restaurants. Our favorite activities in the house and in the yard. The free associations I make when I think of each of my children, my husband, and myself (true story: the word “turtle” was scribbled down on my son’s list, and I now have NO recollection of why).

When it came to the actual day, though, the lists all flew out the window, and we just had ourselves a day. We did a few things I had considered, and a few I hadn’t. We let go of the reigns and just let the day roll easy, like Sundays tend to do. And you know what? It was splendid.

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I know some of you are thinking about this – the more access you allow your photographer, the more intimate a picture you’ll have when all is said and done. This has both an upside and a downside, right? I’ve had clients who let me walk in through their unlocked back door while they’re still asleep and start the photo day when everybody’s still in bed. Others prefer to be clean and dressed and one cup of coffee in.

It comes down to a matter of personality.

My honey is a bit more private and guarded than me, so he opted to be up and about – but still in his pajamas – when Elaine showed up. I decided to see how things would go, and ended up still in bed with the little ones when our day began. Morning cuddles on the weekends that we don’t rise before them are just about the sweetest, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have those moments photographed.

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In my mind, our Day in the Life would be warm and sunny with lots of messy water play, digging in the clay, and toddler nudity. I always envisioned it this way.

In reality, Sunday broke damp and cloudy with a chilly wind, so we had to put our splashy premise aside and have a different kind of day. So we traded visions of Captain Underpants in for a bundled-up breakfast on the patio and rolled on with the day.

Of course, the nothing-happens-how-you-expected is never ALL good or ALL bad: the cooler weather brought with it the motivation to ride bikes and climb like monkeys at the park, which was a quintessentially “us” outing that we may not have dreamed up in hotter weather. Another bonus: my little guy has been QUITE the tantrum-thrower lately, and for some lucky reason, he woke up [relatively] happy on Sunday and remained pretty cooperative most of the day. Score one for team mom.

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I have a hypothesis that I’m going to test, and I’ll report back to you with the results after I’ve had a chance to run the test (when I receive the photos from our day). My hypothesis is this: my favorite photos from the day will be from un-busy moments when nothing juicy is happening.

In fact, I recently asked a handful of Day in the Life clients about their favorite images, and my hypothesis seems to hold true for them. The photos in this post are the ones my clients cited as favorites, and all were made during unplanned, in-between moments. There’s a certain kind of truth and beauty that emerges in those moments that you just can’t plan. I’m curious to see what this looks like for us.

austin documentary family photographer


You know how some days your entire goal is to get your children busy with an activity so you can quietly sneak away and do something productive? Oh – it’s MOST days? Yeah, me too. But then you know those OTHER days when you’re all just getting along really well and you’re feeling like mom-of-the-year for playing trucks or coloring or baking alongside your kids – and enjoying it, to boot?

Well, documentary sessions feel like that. Not all day, maybe (hell -- EVERYONE needs a break once in a while) -- but more than you'd think. There's something about being in front of the lens seems to help parents put distractions aside and have fun with their kids. My kids ask me to play trucks or play gnomes every day, and on the days I have the mental space to say “YES,” we always really enjoy it – yesterday was one of those days.

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Our Day in the Life was only just yesterday, and already I’m thankful to our photographer for the gift of a family day spent with intention and appreciation – this alone feels significant to me. But in the end, Day in the Life photo sessions are a gift that keeps on giving. The day itself is just the start. Viewing your images for the first time feels like your birthday. Selecting a few favorites for the wall and unwrapping giant prints of them is another huge gift. And finally, receiving a printed and bound album telling the story of one humble day is something truly extraordinary from the very moment you first hold it in your hands – and it’s something that increases in value as time rolls on and first-hand memory fades.

austin documentary family photographer