FAQ: What IS documentary family photography?

It seems as if family documentary photography is a growing field. More and more photographers are beginning to explore the genre. Each creative does things a little differently, though. This has led to a wide range of what photojournalism means for a family session. There is a difference between dressing up in clothes that you wouldn’t typically wear around the house to participate in some task or event as a family that you wouldn’t normally be doing and having a photographer document you exactly how you are.

I receive a wide range of questions from potential clients before they book. Is this what I want? What is family documentary photography? How does it work? I’d like to answer some of the frequently asked questions here.

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1. What is documentary family photography?

Documentary family photography is visual storytelling of a segment of real life through photographs. I call this approach “storytelling photography.”

I will send out a questionnaire or two before we meet so I can get to know your family from its very depth.  We will choose a place that means the most to you to hold the session, and I will show up to document what happens.  The questionnaire is a powerful tool, because it will reveal just what you want to remember about this season of your life and WHY you want to remember it. We will capture the true stories that make up your life; what everyone looks like right now, who you are, what you do, how you connect, and the way life feels.

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2. Do I have to fill out the questionnaire?

Yes! Your questionnaire is one of my favorite parts of our time together. First and foremost, my job is to document your family the way they are right now. I want to know about each member’s personality, what has led your family to where you are today, what your goals are, etc. I want to feel like an old friend when I walk into your home, and I want you to trust that I am going to capture your family the way an old friend would. The only way that is going to happen is if you take the time to answer your questionnaire. I want to know you. The real you. Your life matters and so do all of those little things that make your family who they are.

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3. We’re boring and our house is a mess. Is there even a point?

First, I want you to realize the average family spends their days doing many of the same things your family does. Social media doesn’t portray it that way, but it is true. I can tell you that, although you may think your day to day is boring, your children will want to remember the way it felt to sit on the counter and lick the cake batter off of the spoon. They will want to remember how they’d end up sleeping in your bed sometimes.Even though those moments aren’t made of magical light and matching sweaters, they are what makes up the story of your life right now. Those are the things you’ll want to remember.

Second, I am a mama myself. My life is far from glamorous. There is yogurt on just about every surface of our house. We do fun things, but the average day is nothing out of the ordinary. I never, ever judge the mess, because I’m deep in the trenches of parenthood too. If you have kids your house is a mess. That simple. One day those messes will be gone. The yogurt smeared on your glass door and table won’t be there anymore and you won’t have to tell your daughter to pick up her deck of Mickey Mouse cards 15,000 times a day, but I guarantee you’ll wish you did.  

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4. What am I going to do with all of those photos?

Print them! Print them big, print them small, put them in a photo book, make postcards, write stories on the back of them to give to your kids when they’re older. Hang them all over your walls to remind you that you’ve got this parenting thing figured out, you are doing a wonderful job, and the members of your family love each other deeply.