Let’s talk about fears for a moment.
There are some rare creatures out there who love to be photographed. When someone pulls out a camera on them, They get a little sparkle in their eye and a big wide grin. They know EXACTLY what to do with their face and they act natural and all is grand, voila, ta-da, amazing!
For the rest of us, having a camera in our face is a little like staring down the barrel of a… I’m going to say a canister of confetti, just to keep the drama down. You know it will explode, and it might bring joy (later) but not at the moment. (Actually the confetti thing is a huge pain to clean, so let’s scrap that analogy… maybe Jack-in-the-Box? Toaster? Help me out, here…)
Anyway, back to the reality, which is that most of us in fact DON’T know what to do with ourselves, we DON’T feel good about being photographed, and we just want to RUN. Even when we WANT to have photographs taken of us. Prime example was me a couple of years ago, standing in a pretty field with my friend the super talented portrait photographer Liz Cooper Photography, who was trying to take my picture. I made about a gazillion faces, most of them not “conventionally pretty” or even avant-garde pretty. Just hellish, really. But funny, too (Check the comments to see what I mean).
I’m not sure what to do with my face, and I’d rather someone just sneak photographs of me when I’m not aware of it, than have me look directly at them and smile. Honest truth.
But we KNOW it’s a super valuable thing to have photographs, don’t we?
Imagine one day, years from now, huddling up on the couch with your now-grown kids and cracking open the stiff pages of your family album, showing them how freaking squishy they were before they could walk. Re-telling stories they were too young to remember, details they didn’t know.
We KNOW this feels soooo good later on. We kick ourselves if we missed photographing a big important event, or even those little things that we totally thought we’d remember and yet we somehow forgot over time.
They are missed “future memories”, as famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls them. The thrill we experience at imagining one day reliving these moments is the only thing that makes us book that family session now.
And this – this KNOWING how important photograph will be to our future selves - is the reason we subject ourselves to family photography sessions, going into it eyes shut tight, as if we’re sitting at the dentist’s chair.
Well, that sucks.
There has to be a better way, right? This cannot be the only way! [Falls to her knees, fists raised to the sky, imploringly…]
So…. Let’s let the drama dust settle again for a second... Okay, good.
I think you know where I’m going with this whole story, but I just wanted you to feel like you arrived there all by yourselves :D
Here’s the honest truth: It’s not as though when I first arrive at someone’s house for the first time, they’re doing a little excited jig, eager to get their photos taken for three hours or a full day. (Actually, sometimes the kids *do* dance a little, go figure…)
Most of the time, people are not sure what to expect. No matter how well they understand the process intellectually (and many people truthfully don’t understand the process, because candid family photography is still a rather new concept), they are not sure what it will mean in real life.
Until things get rolling.
I think people’s first realization is when I start blabbering on about something completely unrelated to photography. (Did you know I have a stockpile of random facts or observations in my head, many of them involving parenting psychology trivia, go figure… and I work from home most of the time, so who ELSE am I going to tell them to?)
By this time in our family session, the kids are running around and showing off, bring out their most AWESOME toy, or generally being silly gooses. Whatever tension was there has completely evaporated.
Now the real life stuff is in full swing. There’s parents trying to talk down their children from the kitchen counter, socks flying, muddy little feet running in and out of the house, spilled juice… In other words: a regular day in the life. (Pssst. *This* is what I’m here for. Click. Click)
It’s a feel-good flow now. All those years of being afraid or dejected by photography sessions, putting up with things you really didn’t enjoy all for the sake of family memories… that all melts away when the realization hits:
Wow, this is not like any of those other experiences. This is not like a photo-session at all!
Welcome to candid family photography, my people <3
Here’s that awkward photo I talked about, credit to Liz Cooper for hanging in there.