How do you want to feel when you look back at your family photos?
Five to ten years from now, how do you want to feel when you look back at your family photos? I wish I could go back to 2015 and ask myself the same question. I don’t think I’d even thought about it back then because all I wanted were beautiful photos of us with the most gorgeous backdrop and lighting conditions. You know that glowing, magical light you get at the golden hour?
This is a transformation story. Read on to discover how I felt then versus how I feel now.
Let’s start with a little time travel. We’re now in 2015. I’ve been scrolling on Pinterest and Google for hours and hours looking at lifestyle family photos. I’m searching for inspiration. What kind of backdrop do I want? A field, flowers, a lake, mountains? Yes, yes! I’ve just seen the most amazing family photos in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. It’s a combination of field and mountains and the featured family looks natural. I don’t like posed photos so this seems perfect. I want the same thing for my family!
Our summer session is booked with that photographer. We’re going to camp in Crowsnest Pass and make it a fun family vacation!
My biggest concern
I’m somewhat concerned about the rain. Since we’re going to be tent camping with young kids, we’d rather go in sunny conditions. And remember, I want my golden hour photos! So I ask my photographer what she does in case of rain. Her reply:
“We can do more lifestyle photos… Have the kids do activities, board games, reading, cooking, etc. in the trailer or under a tarp. I can shoot in the rain as long as it’s not pouring. The kids can wear rubber boots and puddle jump! Have fun with it. If it rains, it rains. But if you really don’t want rain photos, then we can rebook.”
My thoughts: “No way! I really want to see the mountains in the backdrop. And what kind of photos are we gonna get if we do what she’s suggesting? I can take that kind of photos myself. Nope, we’d have to rebook”.
Hairstyling tips for your camping family photo session
We’re going to camp in the wilderness so I need to make sure there’s a place where I can shower and wash my hair before the photo session. After a little research, I find a public swimming pool nearby—that’s a plan!
But the plan goes to hell when I step out of the shower to find out there are no electrical outlets to plug my hairdryer into and no dryers in the change room. Great… I’m in survival mode; I need to find another solution!
So I run to the car and plug the hairdryer into the AC adaptor. Seriously?! It doesn’t even turn on…
My only other solution is to crank up the car’s ventilation system and try to dry my hair with the air vents. No success there either! Well, I guess I just have to live with the fact that I’m gonna have flat hair in our family photos. Oh, the joys of having fine hair!
How I feel during the photo session
We meet with our photographer and soon go into the beautiful field of my dreams. It’s windy so I stop worrying about my hair—it won’t be flat! But I see my daughter’s ponytail blowing in the wrong direction and try to keep it down. Appearances are important to me…
Our photographer leads the session. She tells us where to go, how to sit and asks us to look at the camera before prompting us to kiss each other.
Then we walk around, pretend to be airplanes, and give the kids piggyback rides… All while following our photographer’s guidance.
The whole time, I’m wondering if I’m going to get the kind of photos I want. It’s fun but I feel a little off.
The most fun part of the session happens at a place I hadn’t picked. Our photographer asks us if we want to jump in the water. We go in and have a blast! The kids are in their element and we laugh and enjoy the experience. Although we’re given a few prompts, this feels a lot more natural to me, and it shows in the photos.
With the flick of a wand, we’re now in 2021!
Looking back at that session, I love the photos of the children. How cute and innocent they were at that age! Being so little, they didn’t worry about the photographer. They just stayed true to themselves and had some fun. Also, the water photos are great for the previously mentioned reasons.
But I don’t feel much when I look a the family photos in the field with the mountain backdrop. I don’t care what they look like; they don’t stir any emotions or make me feel like “Wow, those were good times”. I just see us pretending to have fun when I know how I felt…
It might have been different if we’d randomly stopped there for a picnic and were authentically interacting and playing with each other. Or even better! I think it would have been funny to have photos of me trying to dry my hair in the car!
Six years later, when I think about that camping trip in Crowsnest Pass, I’d much rather have photos of us exploring the creek behind our campsite, going on a little adventure in our inflatable boats on the lake, or having a late dinner by the tent.
Isn’t it funny how things change? The photos I wanted the most in 2015 are the ones that mean the least to me today.
The moral of the story
Maybe you’re like the Marie-Pierre of 2015 and want family photos like the ones you see on Pinterest or in curated Instagram feeds. I don’t blame you! I still think they look dreamy and gorgeous.
But I encourage you to dig a little deeper and think about how you want to feel five to ten years from now when you look back at your family photos. How do you want your kids to feel? There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m just giving you a little food for thought!
If you think you’d choose meaningful over beautiful, documentary family photography is a great choice.
It’s quite new in the family photography world and a bit unheard of with the general public. You might have heard of “a day in the life”. I invite you to read more about documentary family photography and who it’s right for.
To me, it’s perfect in its own way. You still get gorgeous family photos, but you also add a meaningful factor to them because you’re the leader of your photo session. The images have the power to bring back memories and emotions and give you the chance to live your experiences over and over again.
Ready for documentary family photography?
I'm Marie-Pierre, an easygoing mother of two and a documentary family photographer. I believe we can all learn and grow from other people's experiences. Real life stories help us relate to each other, open our minds and feel better about ourselves.
this blog is a collection of featured client stories, tips, and articles on various family related topics. I hope you will find some inspiration!