We’re gonna get real honest here so tighten yo’ seat belts folks, grab some coffee and let’s talk about this. But first I have a few questions for you about family portraits:

1. How in the world did they get children to sit so still for hours when photography was just beginning? (Actually, it involved back/neck braces, so there’s that…)
2. Why am I still making kids do that crap?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with a nice posed portrait. But I do believe there is a problem with how most people get to that final image. It’s so boring and often frustrating for you as a parent. And in fact, many photographers that I know don’t even do family shoots because the general feeling during them is stress.

For example, I gave styled mini sessions a try this past spring. I know some people who are truly gifted in those kinds of super-fast shoots, but I quickly realized I am not among them. Mommas were stressed and exhausted by the end. Yes, we got some truly beautiful pictures of their kids in a nice chair. But I had to ask myself, was their experience really worth it?

Just look at these photos and honestly tell me you don’t feel the happiness going on here. Tell me this family doesn’t look like they’d be so fun to know and hang out with. Tell me you wouldn’t want to flip through these prints one day when your kids are grown and moved away.

Mom and dad aren’t looking at the camera. In most of these neither is their sweet little one. But when he does look at me, there is joy. And there is joy in the faces of his parents as they look at him and each other.

Some photographers have a sort of voodoo magic stuff that I clearly do not have, and they are able to get what they need out of a short, posed family portrait session. But if we’re honest, we’d rather not promise our kids ice cream afterwards to get them to behave, and in the end everyone’s head got replaced from different images to make the one final photo anyway.

Lemme tell ya, I don’t do that anymore. I love my lifestyle sessions so much that it’s all I offer now. Those pictures up there? That’s the joy I am after, and those are the images that I create. I don’t want fake smiles and nearly-to-tears kids. I don’t want mom to be so focused on making her tired little tot sit up straight that she looks tired herself. Essentially, I don’t want to force anyone to look like something they aren’t in a 15-20 minute time span that we could have used for literally anything more enjoyable.

So let’s just stop. Seriously. I give you permission to hold hands, enjoy the sunset, find grasshoppers and pick flowers. Dance under a shady tree. Sit on the ground and have a tickle fight. It’s cool to wander off and talk sweetly to your spouse. I give you permission to love each other and have fun, so I can capture that incredible joy. This is what lifestyle sessions are for.

Since writing this, I’ve published a little post one the ins-and-outs of a lifestyle session so you can be best prepared for your session <3 See it here!

P.S. Guess what- when you are all happy and we interact with your kids on a level they enjoy, we get the pretty group shot with everyone truly smiling and look at the camera. It’s a side effect of taking the pressure off of getting that one, posed group shot 😉 Funny how that works, huh?