How long should your day-in-the-life family photo session be?
It’s called a day-in-the-life family photo session for a reason. But I’d say it’s not really a photo session. It’s more like a regular day in your life where you invite a friend to take photos of what you’re doing and what’s happening.
Only, does it have to last an entire day?
Seems like a long time, doesn’t it?
Not if you think of it this way.
It’s -20 C outside. You’re waiting for your friend to pick you up. You’re freezing and can’t stop looking at your watch. When will she be here? She’s only two minutes late when her car pulls up but it seems like you’ve waited at least 10 minutes!
And then you’re chatting and enjoying a warm cup of coffee together. You glance at your watch and realize you only have two minutes left before it’s time to go and pick up your kids at daycare. Where did the time go? You still have so much to talk about and wish you had another few hours together…
Isn’t it funny how your perception of time changes based on the situation you find yourself in or what you’re doing?
Apply that principle to a photo session
I can understand you’d want your family photo session to be as quick as possible if there was tension in the air. I know how stressful it can be to have kids running around when you want them to sit still and look at the camera. Or when you’re not sure what to do with your hands, how to sit, where to look…
But how do you feel when you wake up on a Saturday morning with no obligations? You go into your daughter’s bedroom, cuddle and play for a while, and then go downstairs to prepare a hearty breakfast… Is that stressful? Don’t you wish you had more time to really enjoy those precious moments together?
With a day-in-the-life family photo session, you have plenty of time to do the things you love and just be yourselves. It’s a great way to enjoy some family time while creating a time capsule of your life.
How to pick the duration of your day-in-the-life family photo session
When the time comes to figure out how long your session should be, I’m here to help. We chat and I guide you to figure out what’s important for you at this stage of your life and what you want your story to be about. I have a questionnaire that helps you think about things you might not consider otherwise.
As a rule of thumb, the longer your session, the more variety of images you get and the more complete, intimate and true to life your story is.
I’ve photographed enough families to see a pattern in how people feel and how much time they need for a session. From self-conscious parents to kids trying to impress me with their unusual stunts, I know it takes a while to get used to having someone following you with a camera.
After one hour, people start to act more natural and feel more comfortable.
After two hours, it’s pretty smooth sailing.
So if you really want to create a time capsule of what your life is like, with everyone acting more natural, you need a minimum of two hours.
But are two hours enough to call it a day in the life?
Well… I don’t think so!
Two hours are enough to document a short story like an activity you like to do as a family, or your morning or evening routine. But what about the rest of the stuff you do in a day?
Half day in the life
For a decent story with enough variety, you should plan for a minimum of four to six hours, or what I call a half day in the life.
That gives you enough time to include either the morning or evening routine and a few activities you enjoy doing together as a family.
For a more in-depth and complete story, you can go for a full-day session, or eight to twelve hours.
From dusk till dawn
With more or less 12 hours, I can be with you the moment your kids wake up and stay until you tuck them in bed. You don’t have to plan much because you have plenty of time on your hands.
You go through your routine, do what you normally do together, cuddle, laugh, play, have quiet moments, go to soccer practice and stop at the grocery store on your way back home… You may even wipe a few tears and deal with a tantrum here and there… And that’s okay. It’s as real as it can get and that’s the beauty of it!
What 12 hours in front of a camera feels like
I asked Chelsea what she thought of her 12-hour session:
It was good. We had a lot of fun. It was a busy day and it went by quickly. Yeah, it didn’t seem like a super long day—it was nice! There was nothing about it that was negative. Everything was really good, enjoyable and relaxed. I didn’t feel under pressure or stressed or the need to perform or make my kids behave a certain way. And my kids really enjoyed you too so it was an added bonus!
And this is what her 10-year-old son said:
It was pretty sick! I liked it! It didn’t feel like a long day but it was kind of a long day too.
Remember, a longer session gives you the chance to do your activities for a longer time, which in turn gives me more time to create interesting and unique photographs.
This was the second article of a series about day-in-the-life family photography. Subscribe to my mailing list to be notified when the next article is published!
Should we chat about your story?
You know you’re about to move on to the next stage of your life and want to document what means the most to you today. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Schedule a call to figure things out and see if you can make it happen!
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!