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Photographers photographing their own offspring. The raw portrait session.

Raw portrait session with Ari

I got my first camera when I was pregnant with my son. A birthday present… Thanks, Mom!

I was the next up and coming mom with a camera. While, portrait, dance, and fashion photography was always the main types of photography I was interested in, becoming a mom was the perfect opportunity to learn the craft.

My son is the cutest! PLUS, He’s literally THA CUTEST! Okay, maybe it’s my bias mom eye. Or maybe it’s my professional artist eye. But y’all, look how cute!

As he’s gotten older, I’ve had to get craftier and more clever when I shoot with him. All bribes aside, when I do get him to agree (not his choice by the way) to a photoshoot, it is normally done with prompts and questions in order to conjure the real emotion that I’m after. My baby boy and all his nuances and expressions. The ones I see every single day.

He used to love letting me take his pictures, now I really have to make it worth his while. One day he’ll understand.

There are all kinds of reasons to do a photoshoot. Children/Family photography being the most popular. With good reason. We all want to remember the journey. I want to be able to show him his journey. I want to show his kids, his journey.

When I’m old and gray, I want to be able to look back at all of it.

Raw portrait sessions are one of my newest passion projects. It’s a session with little to no styling, editing, posing. It’s done as an interview in order to capture reactions and real emotions. It takes the pressure off of producing perfection, yet it’s just as beautiful.

These sessions are perfect for anyone but for children, they are MAGICAL! And to the parent who looks back at them, ah the connection to the beauty! It is all about letting them be themselves. Let them be who they are!

Taking pictures of your own children introduces a unique dynamic filled with challenges and joys that resonate most with photographers who also happen to be parents.

The Personal Connection:

  • There are barriers to doing a photoshoot with my son. However, there is usually a lot of laughter involved. Partly because my son has this natural smile that exudes sheer glee. Also, partly because I make the strangest noises that would stop anyone dead in their tracks and squeal with giggles. He has 200 variations of his smile and even more variations of other facial expressions. I want them all documented.

  • Showing the progression of a raw portrait session provides a narrative. While they make great stand-alone art pieces, they make even more fabulous gallery series’. I prefer to show them together in a collection because you catch a glimpse into the entire moment. Since a photograph is worth a thousand words, it says so much more. And I’ve always been a little long winded. 🍃 🙄

Challenges Faced:

No pictures! Please! Kids don't always want their photos taken.

A photoshoot is not my son’s favorite thing. Unless he is spiderman. We’ve done that too. I know I have to get in and get out. I have to work efficiently all the while connecting with him and making him think about anything else. My conversational skills really get put to the test here because I have to be on my toes. It’s all about the art of distraction. Distracting him from the reasons he knows he doesn’t want to do this and distracting him from all the things he would rather be doing.

  • Permission to treat the client as a hostile witness? There is a fine line between photographer and parent. Actually, what am I saying? There is no line. I am both. First and foremost, I am a parent with a camera that knows how to use it. Trying to make a photographer’s child understand the value of a photograph is like trying to sell ice to a snowman. It is a balance between intriguing discussion, hilarity, and coercion. 😉

Creating a Comfortable Environment:

  • Posing my child to perfection is not out of the question. He’s done that for me. However, I want to capture who he is. So asking him questions about things he likes is when he really let’s his guard down and I can truly get him to open up.

  • There is a combination of observation and patience. Finding those perfect true moments where he is his most authentic self for 1/200th of a second, is me prompting with questions, thoughts, and ideas that I know will cause a reaction that will produce the emotion I am after.

Unconventional Perspectives:

  • Kids have such awesome perspectives. Have you ever asked a rhetorical question and your child comes back with the most profound statement? Their unscathed view is what makes them such a beautiful site. As a photographer, we can learn a few things about changing our perspectives from the way these innovative little minds work.

  • Story time: I was directi

ng an urban fashion shoot for a designer in Ybor. My husband came with my son. While I was shooting the models, Ari asked if he could shoot the other models who were on break while I was working. With their permission, I gave him my phone for him to take his own pictures. He directed them and had his own little photoshoot with them. On the way home I was scrolling through his photos when I came across one, peculiar one. It was of the model standing on the street with Ari laying down with his lower body in the shot. I asked Ari what his thought process was with that one. He said he wanted it to look like she knocked him out. 🤣🤣🤣

  • Why could we not carry that sort of perspective into adulthood?

The Joy of Documenting Growth:

  • I am one of those photographers who does not pick up my camera unless it is for a creative project. I don’t take my camera on vacation. I don’t do photoshoots with my family that often. It’s something I need to be more consistent at but the majority of the photos I take of my son are on my phone. While I cherish those phone

my sweet boy with roses
This is my favorite photograph of Ari. Roses for my college graduation.

photos, those professional photographs I take of my son are so meaningful. Especially when they are printed and not sitting on a hard drive or in the cloud collecting cyber dust. There is nothing like staring at a framed photograph of my little boy. He is all over my walls.

  • Years ago, before he was at that “too cool for school” age, he looked at all the photographs of him on our walls and asked, “Mom, why aren't you in any photographs?” Suddenly, I realized that my own insecurities were not a good enough reason to deprive my family of beautiful memories of me with them.

  • “One day your children will look for photographs of you. What will they find?” This is a popular saying amongst a lot of portrait photographers and one that resonates so deeply with me. It was a punch to the gut the first time I was asked this because I was always the one behind the camera, like many moms I know.

  • One of the next shoots for the Self Portrait Marathon I have planned is with my baby boy. We have n

Wall portrait of my son

o professional photographs together. I know… shame on me. It’s coming! Stay tuned.

Balancing Work and Family:

  • We are incredibly blessed to be able to have the flexibility to homeschool. Between running my business and being charged with his education, it is incredibly rewarding. But you can imagine the amount of obstacles we face. It’s tough to keep a balance between work and family when a good amount of both happens under the same roof. It’s not a system I’ve perfected. However, you do have to be intentional about your time.

  • Time management is essential. When you’re first starting out you feel like you have to say yes to every job, collaboration, and opportunity that comes your way. The art of saying no is an essential part to keeping work and family balanced. Every opportunity is calculated and evaluated.

Celebrating Imperfections:

Upside down portrait on an ottoman

We are surrounded by advertisements and marred by trends of the 21st century beauty standards. Give me a photograph of my son upside down on an ottoman over a JCPenney ad campaign any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This photograph is far from perfect. What a wonky composition. Not great lighting. But man, does it capture my heart. Boy, does it speak to me.

  • I once had a client who wanted every single one of her children posed to perfection in each photograph. As wonderful of a mother as she is, she was so overbearing on direction that she practically ruined the photoshoot for everyone there. None of her family were enjoying the process and the tension was palpable. This was in my less experienced days and looking back, I now know it was because I wasn’t holding the space for her. She wasn’t confident in my skills as a director and to be honest, she was right!

  • I now know the importance of holding space for people, making clear decisions, directing my clients so they know, I’ve got them, and they don’t have to worry about anything.

  • This is also true of children. They just need to know that you are a colorful, comfy net who will support them when they’re ready to be themselves. They want to know you are a soft place for them to land.

Technical Tips for Success:

  • Get your shutter speed ready. If your kids are anything like my son, they move! The simpler the lighting setup, the better. When shooting candids, you have to be ready for them to bring the noise. In the studio, I use a large light source that allows for them to change positions and move around. My baby boy (not so baby anymore) cannot sit still, and I love that about him.

  • Not a photographer? Find lots of natural light. If you’re shooting your kids on your phone and using the sun as your light source, put the sun in front of them so you’re able to see those facial expressions better. Light them from behind if you want to capture solely their body language. You can get really creative with backlit images, however, your phone’s camera doesn’t have the best dynamic range so you tend to lose a lot of detail on these types of phone shots. By dynamic range, I mean the balance of detail in both the highlights and shadows in the image.

The Art of Storytelling:

  • Telling a story through photographs is best done when you plan ahead. The more you plan ahead the more prepared you are to capture the realness that people connect with when they look at an image. Planning ahead allows you to be flexible when the unexpected happens. And it will definitely happen. The key to telling a compelling story is to focus on capturing genuine moments, emotions, and details that evoke a narrative. Consider the composition, lighting, and perspective to convey the desired mood and message in your storytelling images.

Photographing your own kids is a rewarding and challenging journey that allows you to blend your professional skills with your personal experiences. By embracing the unique dynamics of this dual role, you not only create stunning visual memories but also strengthen the bond with your family.

Connection is everything in portraiture. Make the connection and the rest is history.

Transform your family's story into captivating visual memories! As a photographer specializing in authentic moments, I invite you to book a session with me. Let's capture the genuine laughter, quirky expressions, and unique perspectives of your little ones. Embrace the joy of documenting growth and celebrating imperfections. Let’s chat more about how to blend professional skills with personal experiences, creating stunning images that last a lifetime. Don't miss the opportunity to turn fleeting moments into cherished memories. Schedule your consultation today and let the storytelling begin! 📷✨

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