Even though I know that capturing events is important, it doesn’t bring me joy. Wait… taking the photos of the Pink Floyd Concert when I was in college sure was GROOVY! So was capturing some of the activities of that iconic 70’s era, some of which just might have occurred in D.C. But no … I don’t want to do that now. I guess that means I’m no longer enjoying being a photo-journalist.
I know that capturing celebrations is priceless, and everyone should have the most excellent photographer they can find to capture their special celebrations, but I’m not that guy. Weddings, most specifically, are glorious events, but I am no longer a wedding photographer. Sure, I photographed Nick & Brandi’s wedding in Cancun several years ago (my son & daughter-in-law) and I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity for anything… but that was classified as “Special Circumstances” Father of the groom & all that! The next wedding I have booked will be Kali’s, my beautiful granddaughter… & that’s being quite optimistic since she’s not yet a year old!! I’ll need someone to hold my cane & steady my camera for that gig, if I’m even still on the right side of the grass!! But coming back down to earth, I would welcome capturing a radiant bride getting her glam on and rocking her wedding dress in a gorgeous series of portraits.
Enough reminiscing… it’s time to get real!
Since I’m a photographic artist of people, let me start my decisions at the “core”… the family.
Families are the cornerstones of our lives.
A healthy family machine, when all the cogs are meshing properly, is the most beautiful thing in the world. The family unit is stronger than any of its members are separately. Family members draw strength from one another. Yet within the group known as the family, upon closer inspection, you can see and intuit that there are sub-groups, and usually very individual relationships between the members of the family. Seeing and capturing these seemingly small things are what have always set my family portraits apart from the crowd. Often the family itself cannot verbalize exactly why their portrait looks so “right”, but I can usually draw that indefinable “je ne sais quoi” out in a family group. It’s often because of my intuition and observations of the fine points of the interrelationships of the family members that my family portraits become such treasures. Let me try to explain.
I don’t want to post one of my environmental family portraits to point out a specific example because I respect your family too much and would never turn you into a psychology lesson. So put your seeing-eyes on and play along with me and try to see what I’m saying & how it might relate in some way, shape or form, to your family.
When everything is right, it just clicks.
I recently photographed a particularly charming family in their very lovely back yard. A lot of planning went into exactly where the portrait was taken, the clothing & colors worn, and the perfect time of day for the session so that the light was just perfect. I was very happy with the results & so were the clients… in fact, a wall portrait on canvas now graces their home. They tell me that all their friends and family say how “perfect” it is and that they think so too.
I am a member of a more than one private photographer groups around the country, and I shared this family’s favorite portrait pose with them online in a private Facebook forum. Everyone praised many details about the portrait, from the gorgeous light on the subjects, trees & clouds, to the wacky inquisitive look on their dog’s face. Yet because our group’s purpose is to learn & grow as photographers, we kindly critique one another’s work as well. Several members mentioned that there was just a little more space around the eldest son than around the others, and that he was positioned on the end, giving him just a tad of separation. He was still happy & engaged & “connected” to the family through a prop that was used, yet he wasn’t physically touching the other family members. What my photographer colleagues couldn’t know is that this son has a slight idiosyncrasy that is widely known by people who really know the family, and I found out about it at their pre-session consultation. It’s even something that is lovingly joked about within the family. Josh just isn’t a touchy-feely kind of guy, and if I had positioned him right in the middle of the group “tightly knit” with the others, the portrait would have looked somehow looked “wrong”. Family & friends might not have consciously known why something was “off”, but it would have been. As it is, everyone just thinks & agrees that the family looks right. Perfectly right.
When I have my pre-session consultation with your family, I will be getting to know & understand the small yet significant interrelations of your family members and even your pets so that I can make your family portrait Picture Perfect. You might not know exactly what is so perfect about it because you know the dynamics of your family so well, but it is something that you will feel and know for certain every time that you look at it.
So YES … I will continue to do my own insightful style of Family Portraits. On- location or outdoor portraits are now called Environmental, and that is my favorite way to photograph families anyway, so I’m cool with that. In fact, I have always gained a very significant satisfaction in capturing a Family Portrait that embodies the essence of that family because I know for sure that no matter how much the family love their portraits today, they will love and treasure them more and more as each year goes by.