Documentary photo sessions are photo sessions that are unposed and candid, usually taking place in and around the home. These sessions may also take place in other environments that are meaningful to the family. They involve letting a photographer document a family activity or routine. The approach is kind of like an old friend (who happens to have a camera) visiting for the first time while you go about your day. Directing is kept to a minimum, if at all, which results in natural photos that tell the story about your real life. The goal is to document the beauty of the everyday – the moments that we want to remember but that we tend to forget to capture. Here are some reasons to consider this approach for your next family photo session:
Will you remember the way your little one loves to take a bath in the sink? What about all the details you poured into your child’s nursery or the games you play to entertain your little ones? Maybe you will remember these details or maybe as days go by and these moments evolve into something else, you will forget. Life gets busy and good intentions don’t always translate into taking the time to capture these moments ourselves. Documentary family sessions are planned around these moments that you never want to forget and will help ensure that you have a visual reminder of those details and stories. These sessions extend beyond babies and children – think about documenting days at the cottage with older children, the details of your grandparent’s home or generations of family members baking for the holidays. Documenting beyond childhood is just as important to preserve the beauty and simplicity of real life and family history.
2. You don’t have to wait for things to be perfect or worry about finding the right time
We may have an idea in mind of the perfect moment – when the house is clean, when we have lost those extra pounds or when we feel less tired. Let’s be honest, our idea of the perfect time may never happen. It is all about accepting the beauty of imperfection for the sake of creating photos that are meaningful. Your family won’t care what the house looked like or what you were wearing, they will see memories of your time together and the stories that are theirs alone.
One of the great things about a documentary family photo session is that you don’t have to find the time. It is designed to fit right into your routine by documenting the activities you do anyways. You don’t have to worry about gathering everyone in one location at a set time and hoping everyone is in a good mood that day. With documentary sessions, the idea is to just be yourselves.
3. Everyone can be included
For one reason or another, there is usually one person in the family that ends up taking most of the family pictures. From experience, I know that the photo taker usually craves to have photos of themselves included. Sometimes we hide behind the camera because we are self-concious or just don’t love having our photo taken. Think about having a year’s worth of photos – let’s say from your child’s first year of life and only having a few that include you. It is sad not only for you but also for your loved ones. When they look back on those photos, I can guarantee you that they will wish that there was photo proof that you were there too. As a parent, I also know that it is hard to document your family activities without getting distracted – your children still want your attention and want you to be part of the action. You sometimes have no choice but to put the camera down. Consider an approach where everyone is included in the story. Let a professional photographer take care of the photos while you enjoy the moments with your family. No more struggling to take the photo and interfering with the moment. Give your future generations photos that include you as part of the story.
4. A comfortable setting creates authentic photos
Taking photos in a setting that is comfortable, relaxed, with no expectations leads to great photographs because everyone is free to be themselves. Isn’t that what you really want to see and how you want to remember your loved ones? Posed photos definitely have a place and importance but they may not tell you much about the people you see in those photographs in terms of their personality and what they like to do.
5. Each session is unique
Using real life as the backdrop, surrounded by your favourite things and your family, provides the elements that are necessary to tell your unique story. Forget about recreating Pinterest images and instead embrace the perfectly imperfectness of your real life. While there is some planning prior to a session, each one will unfold naturally. Before each session, I ask clients to answer a few questions about their family and what they want to remember. This information is what helps me to recognize what is important as events unfold and to create a set of photos that are original and specific to what each family values.
6. Greater amount of pictures
A typical family documentary session lasting 90 minutes results in 80-100 images that tell the story of your family. The range of emotion and details these sessions capture take you back to those moments because they tap into all of the senses – the warmth of the light streaming in from windows, the belly laughter you can see and almost hear, the smell of the coffee that is brewing. They aren’t just a series of images with everyone smiling at the camera.
7. Artistic storytelling approach
Documentary sessions go beyond taking snapshots of your day to day life. You may tell yourself that you have a camera, you could do it yourself. Of course, as a parent you can take amazing images of your little ones since you know them so well. On the other hand, a professional photographer brings their skills in composition, light, contrast and other design elements to elevate snapshots into works of art that will move you to feel something – photos that you will want to hang on your walls to showcase your beautiful family.
I hope these reasons will convince you to consider this approach for your next family photo session.