The Highlight Reel
So many expectations...
We are all too familiar with the "Highlight Reel". The images on social media that look magazine worthy. Those images that are SO PERFECT that it's hard to believe a photo session could have been anything less than rainbows and butterflies with kids listening and smiling for an hour. But behind every "highlight real" photo session is the story that got them there for everyone to see and admire. Let's fast forward to the most popular time for photos: summer and fall...
It's that time of year. The time of year that keeps photographers on their toes. It's time for THE photos for the holiday card or the canvas that will adorn the wall to be seen by all. Most of the time it's the mothers who find the photographer, book the session, plan the date, plan the outfits, get the kids dressed and then show up (on time) for the photo session (with everyone wearing the right shoes). Those steps mentioned above are enough to induce stress in the the best "planners". Well I'm here to tell you that behind the BEST laid plans for the perfect photo shoot is most likely craziness, pandemonium, crying (by both mom and the kids) and throw in some inclement weather and it's the mix for the perfect storm. But I'm also here to tell you that it's OK!!! I'm learning that the memories leading up to and during the family photo session are often the ones that we remember and laugh about in the future. We all need a good laugh nowadays in the midst of this pandemic....so if you want to feel better about your own family sessions....read along on our family adventures from our last few sessions! Just remember....behind every family photo is a REALLY good story!
Sometimes in the midst of craziness, there is a way to find the fun...
On the day before Halloween, my good friend and fellow photographer Danielle (CDM Photography) met us at a Christmas tree farm for a "mini session". She sought this tree farm out and was booking like crazy. We had never had tree farm photos so why not, right? Mini sessions are a wonderful way to capture a few photos in a short amount of time that are perfect for cards or prints. They are also fantastic when little kids just can't do a whole hour session.
I picked out the kids outfits, picked out an outfit for Eugene and one for myself. The kids weren't exactly excited about the sweaters and jeans, Eugene was less than thrilled about the "puffer vest" that I insisted he wear. I wasn't loving how I looked in my outfit. I felt like one of those pinterest memes that says "What I think I look like vs What I actually look like". However...we all got dressed and off we went. Or so I thought.
We fit this mini session into our busy schedules. We walked out the front door and Ethan tripped over his own two feet, hit the walkway hard and was bleeding profusely. I thought he lost some teeth. I picked him up, trying to console him as I wiped the blood that is now running down his face and covering his hands. Once we realized that he was mostly scared and there were no major injuries other than scrapes from the bridge of his nose to his chin, I said to Eugene, "I didn't put these eyelashes on and get us all dressed for nothing. Let's go". As we drove the 42 minutes to the tree farm, I was getting nervous as we were losing daylight and the sky seemed to be darkening with rain clouds. Sure enough, we pull into the farm and it starts to pour. I explained to Danielle why we were late and she said "Don't worry, we can edit the scratches on his face". I know how time consuming that is so I said, "No problem. Let's just call it part of the day and leave them as is".
We decided to wait it out for a few minutes because we could see the sun peeking out behind the clouds across the farm. I'm so glad we did because the sunset that shone through the trees ended up being amazing!! The story doesn't end here though. Nope. I thought all along we were getting good pictures. That is until Danielle whispered "Aiden is making funny faces. We need to take some more". I turned and said to him and hissed "Are you KIDDING ME? After what it took to get here today, please for the LOVE of everything good, SMILE FOR THE PHOTOS!" I was furious. We made it though the session and the photos above are the ones that made the cut. They were the ones that ended up on our cards this year. Maybe the lesson here is that not every picture needs to be perfect. And Danielle helped me to LOVE them. Even the goofy ones. I guess I will be printing a few of those too.
Picking Your Battles...
The above photos were from last summer. The last time we were on a beach vacation. And who knows how long it will be until the next one. But the point is, they are now hanging on our walls to look at every day and count out blessings that we had them taken. You might think that with me being a photographer, family photos should be a breeze, right? Guess again friends!! From my photography education, I wanted a certain style. I wanted us to look a certain "way". These were going to hang on the walls. They were a representation of 15 years of marriage- special anniversary photos to make up for the wedding photos that were so disappointing (stay tuned for some educational blog posts this winter about that!).
I did my research. Since we were from out of town, I scoured photographers' websites and I asked for references. When I spoke with Jessica on the phone (of Forever Treasured Photography in Tampa, Florida) I knew she was the one for us! She was kind and we had a nice chat on the phone about our upcoming session. I had a vision of the perfect photos...I bought a light pink, long, flowy dress online that I thought would be perfect. It wasn't. Not only did it not fit, it wasn't the slightest bit flattering. I didn't have time to shop or keep ordering dresses so I went with something from my closet. I bought outfits for the boys and I chose something for Eugene to coordinate. From what I remember about that night, the humidity was about 1000% which wreaks havoc on any type of hair and it was still at least 90 degrees at 7pm which caused the glue on my eyelashes to melt into my eyes. Eugene said "why do you do this to yourself?" I laughed and said "for the memories!".
We made our way down to the beach where Jessica was waiting for us. Needless to say, the boys were NOT happy about having to sit for photos when there was miles of sand and water to play in. Ethan would NOT take his water shoes off. He refused to wear them all week when he actually needed them to go into the ocean. But sure, by all means, please wear them for our family formals. It certainly wasn't worth it to me to take the shoes and have him unhappy and screaming in the photos. In the grand scheme of things, the water shoes are something we still laugh about. I still consider the photo session a huge success because we got IT. The ONE photo where everyone is looking at the camera and (almost smiling). And believe me, I enlarged it, put that sucker on a canvas and it's hanging on our wall!! The thing I loved most about Jessica was she was not afraid to sit in the sand and just capture the candid memories. Sure, we were all dressed up but when the kids literally jumped into the ocean 30 minutes into our session and were soaking wet and covered in sand, she just went with it. We played and ran and had fun. And we LOVED those photos. See a pattern here??
Always opt for the memories...
Lastly, this was from two years ago. We have been making it a tradition with my good friend and photographer, Ari Grealish (of Grealish Photography) to take photos in the same location. I love seeing the subtle changes from year to year of our little family growing. These memories are so important to me. Family photos are so important to me. And I think that's why my family humors me. Eugene doesn't share in the same excitement as I do when I find a dress and shoes that I love JUST for the photos. Or when I pick outfits for the boys and they begrudgingly wear them. I know they don't understand why they are so important and why it's so important to go the extra mile and get dressed up, but they do it anyway, complaints and all. I know other moms are with me on this one. We stand together and just hope that we can make it through a session without a disaster happening! It shouldn't be this hard, right?
There was nothing unusual about the session itself. It was the day after Thanksgiving and it was freezing cold! We ran through the poses that were most important to me as their little noses were turning red and their hands getting shaky. This was actually the best session as far as listening went! They followed instructions and Ari always has the knack for making us laugh. We got what we could and called it a night. We were almost home and Aiden got sick in the car. And I mean SICK. More cleanup than I could ever imagine could come from a 5 year old. But we got the photos!! Mission accomplished!
Friends...while we have had some crazy times on photos sessions, I wouldn't trade this time for anything (well except the car ride home on that last one!)
This is just a reminder for you that photo sessions rarely go as planned. But I encourage you, I URGE you to get those memories anyway!! Hang them on the wall and laugh about the backstories that got them there. This year, I have a sequin dress and high heels, dress shirts, suspenders and bow ties that are just WAITING to create a story of their own.