Documenting a year: Must-book sessions, tips for mastering your own photography and 10 moments you have to capture
As parents, we have a responsibility and an honor to document our children's childhood, to give them tangible memories they can return to on rainy days. But if you're like me, the pressure to capture everything — to tell the whole story — can feel overwhelming sometimes.
So cue this post. I want documenting their childhood to feel fun, worthwhile and manageable — because by being intentional about photography, you start to build an amazing legacy.
Give it a read, try a few of my suggestions, and let me know if it helps!
Sessions to book
I say this as a photographer, but mostly as a mother who's always behind the camera: Hiring a photographer to document your family at least once during the year is so important.
Photo sessions are your opportunity to step in front of the camera and just be present with your family. The right photographer will capture each personality and the joys of being a parent — all while providing a fun, easy-going experience.
3 tips for documenting your family
10 moments in your child's life to capture this year
Promise yourself you'll always have more pictures made from ink and paper than pixels. Promise your family they'll always have albums to hold in their hands and look at on rainy days — or when they long for days gone. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized and up-to-date:
My grandma left behind a lot of stuff. A lot. Ninety-two years' worth, to be exact. And in the three months she's been gone, I've watched my mom sift through it all. It's been an overwhelming task (that still isn't over). There have been a lot of tears and many times when the light at the end of the tunnel seemed extinguished.
But amid the chaos have been tiny unexpected treasures: photographs.
Tucked away at the bottom of boxes and drawers, these discoveries have been the motivation my mom needed to keep digging.
There are two of my grandma as a child during the Great Depression, a studio portrait taken when she was pregnant with my uncle, a photo of her boarding a plane bound for New York City and a haunting portrait of my grandma's brother, who died when he was a teenager. There are even beautifully crisp tintype portraits of my great-great grandparents.
Every photo tells 100 different stories, and each helps fill in the pieces of my grandma's long life.
So why am I telling you all this?
I believe in the idea of legacy. More specifically, the idea of photographs as legacy. For me, photos are the most important thing we can leave our children. They tell future generations, "The life and love we created mattered."
Legacy is something I consider heavily when shooting and editing your photos. I look for moments that — decades from now — your children will look at and say, "Look at Mom — wasn't she beautiful?" or "Look how small we were!" or "I can still remember what those hugs felt like."
In other words, I care deeply about what my photography says about you — not the other way around. At the end of the day, your photos are yours, not mine. They exist to tell your stories.
When I became a mom
When I became a mom in April, I knew my son would never remember his great-grandma — the fierce, smart, beautiful woman I had spent so much of my childhood with.
But he was so loved by her, if only for a short time. I'm forever grateful for the few pictures I have of them together — and now, for the pictures of her life I'll use to tell him her story.
What can you do now?
Legacy is something we create now, every day. It's formed by moments big and small — moments that will slip by if not documented.
So grab your camera and start creating. Just start. Become intentional about your family's photography. And when it's time for a family session, I hope you'll give me the honor.
With so many (so. many.) photographers out there, finding the right one for you and your family can be really overwhelming. Will she connect with my kids? Will she help me prepare for my session? Is her work worth the investment? There's just a lot to think about.
So to help you in your search, I've put together what I think are some of the top things to consider when looking for the right photographer, including personality and client experience. Because I'll be honest: I'm not the photographer for everyone, and that's okay!
This one seems obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many inquires I get from people who haven’t looked through my website or portfolio. And not because I think my website is super-duper amazing, but because I’m afraid my style might not be what they’re looking for. It’s so important to be familiar with a photographer’s portfolio (and to know what you like about it) before reaching out to them. I encourage you to spend some time browsing their website, blog and Instagram. This way, you’ll both be on the same page.
Something else to consider, too: Does their work complement your personal style? This is important since you’ll likely be displaying your photos around your home.
Trust me, you want to click with your photographer. When their personality doesn’t complement yours, you risk a really awkward session — and an awkward session will result in photos you don’t love.
So once you’ve narrowed your search to a couple of people, I encourage you to meet them for coffee and see which one is truly a good fit. If you can’t meet in person, take a good look at their brand. A well thought-out brand will reflect important aspects about a photographer’s character and what they value.
For me, this is the most important thing to consider. Great photographers put a lot of effort into creating a positive and memorable experience — an experience that starts the minute you inquire, not when your session starts. They’ll respond quickly to your messages, ease concerns and make you feel welcome. They'll work hard even after your session to earn your loyalty. Basically, a great photographer will make you feel like you're their only client.
I’ll be very blunt about this one: Years from now, you won’t remember how much you paid for your photos. Money spent is money forgotten. When you choose the right photographer — one who's experienced enough to capture your family’s personality — you’ll only think about how awesome it is that you have beautiful, story-telling images that will be treasured for decades.
And when you see a price that shocks you, hear this: Great photographers invest so much into their business, equipment, products, and education to be able to call themselves a true professional and legitimate business owner. They’ve worked hard to get where they are, and their prices (and the experience you’ll receive from them) should reflect that.
Let me say first: Beautiful photographs have nothing to do with your camera. Having an expensive camera doesn't equal great photos, and using your phone doesn't mean your pictures are destined for failure. No, beautiful photographs start with how you think and end with where you stand.
To help you get better candid photographs at home, here are six important things I practice when I shoot:
1. Seek emotion. This one is first for a reason. Real, raw emotion is the secret ingredient to great home photography. Home is where we're most vulnerable, so try to capture a range of emotion. Sadness and pain are just as important to your story as joy and excitement.
2. Squat, crawl and climb. Experiencing your day from different angles will result in more interesting photos. This is especially important when photographing children and pets. Get on their level — or way above it.
3. Realize every moment is an occasion. I say this often, but it's so important to the photos I create: The big moments are the small ones. Every day spent with family and friends is a reason to pull out your camera. The more photos you take, the more you'll realize just how many tiny, beautiful moments we let quietly slip by. Photography, instead, says, "No, this one stays."
4. Think of photography as moment-freezing, not moment-creating. Let life happen. Don't force smiles, hugs or poses. Our photos speak loudest when we observe quietly.
5. Pass the camera over every once in a while. Six years ago, I sat on the floor of our living room surrounded by boxes of old photos. I was looking for any and all photos of me and my dad, who'd died just days earlier. There were several, but not enough for me. It wasn't until after he was gone that I realized he was behind the camera most of the time. So don't forget to stop and say, "Here, you take some photos."
6. Print, print, print. Better photos are tangible photos. Promise yourself you'll always have more pictures made from ink and paper than pixels. Promise your children and family they'll always have boxes and albums filled with photos to look at on rainy days. You'll never regret the few minutes it takes to upload and order prints.
Welcome to the blog! I'm Laura, a Charlottesville-area photographer specializing in authentic, natural-light photography and heirloom print art. Hope you'll explore my little online home and reach out if you have any questions!