I get emailed and asked questions a lot- everything from what to wear to how long do shoots take to how to soothe a fussy baby. In this blog, I'm going to lay out some of the most common questions I get and my answers. Let's dive in!
"What if my baby is fussy during our session?"
Easy. This is the least of my worries and it should be the least of yours too. I've worked with lots of babies in my time as a photographer and I am a mom of 3- you can't scare me! I have a few tricks up my sleeve to calm a fussy baby, but my first is to never feel like you shouldn't feed baby while I am there. Feeding your baby, whether you nurse/pump/bottle feed, can be an incredible intimate moment and that emotion is seen through the lens. Sometimes babies know there is a stranger there and just want to be comforted and held close by mama or daddy. Those are some of the most precious and fleeting moments of parenthood. Other suggestions I have are swaddling and walking with baby, a change of scenery (maybe a little stroll outside?), or even a bath. All of these can be incorporated into your session and will add depth to the story of your family. It's nothing to worry about, I promise.
"I think my house is too dark/small/cluttered."
No worries here either. My house is "lived in" too and at certain times of the day can be really dark. But, that's what you are hiring me for, right? You can trust that I know what I'm doing and I can handle tough lighting situations. I typically choose to use natural light because I feel sometimes that artificial light (like from my flash) can drastically alter the mood of an image and really change the whole scene. Also- I feel it's intrusive. Who wants to spend the day with a strobe going off in front of them? Yeah, not me. But in the event I feel I need it for a few shots, then don't worry, I've got it covered. And your house isn't too cluttered- don't worry, I'm not photographing the clutter. I'm photographing the things that mean most to you, your family. Your spouse. Your kids. Your fur-babies. The focus will 100% not be on clutter- and if it's in there at all, it's intentional- like a children's play area or helping to tell part of your story. I don't judge. And if you're so self conscious that you can't even imagine doing a session in home, we can go somewhere on an adventure. The sky is the limit here. When we talk during our pre-consult, I'll be asking about what sort of things your family does for fun, what your daily routine looks like, etc. That will give me a good idea of suggestions for your family.
"What happens if my kids are not being cooperative?"
Kids are kids. Like I said, I am a mother of 3. I'm not a stranger to kids and their drastic mood swings. They feel such big emotions! And that's all part of childhood. I strive to capture emotion, connection, and the beautiful real. Sometimes that means photographing a parent comforting a child siblings comforting one another. If you have teenagers, maybe we should focus more on a family activity that requires some participation- I'm not talking about family dodge ball or anything (but hey, it's a thought!), but something where they won't be glued to their phones all day. It's up to you.
What is the difference between documentary and lifestyle photography? Do you offer both?
The short answer is yes, I offer both, although my lifestyle is way more loosely posed than others. Let me explain: Documentary photography has a photo-journalistic approach. I'm an observer. I'm working the light and scene to tell a story within a few images. I'm not directing, I'm not telling you what to do. I'm simply documenting what I see and showing you beautiful, fleeting moments of your everyday life. Lifestyle photography is somewhat similar, the difference being I may loosely direct you and you may coordinate your outfits a little better. I may say, "Hey, this room has really nice light, let's stay in here, near that big window is so pretty!" or "Hey Dad, why don't you go cuddle up there with mom on the couch? Maybe get a little closer..." Usually in just suggesting that kids will come and cuddle up to, because we all know if you look comfortable and relaxed, the kids are going to come. Like clockwork. It just all very loosely posed.
And yes, I recognize the value of a family portrait where everyone is together, so I do reserve some time at the end of the session for everyone to get together for a shot or two.
I want to display our images in our home. How does that work with documentary photography?
So, I'm a huge fan of making your home your happy place. I would totally hang a picture of my kid covered in spaghetti sauce on my walls- in my kitchen even!- if it brought a smile to my face. I want my walls to be filled with things that spark an emotion and evoke a memory. I absolutely love that. And honestly, they make fantastic conversation pieces! I love telling the stories behind the image. Another great thing about my style of photography is that I strive to get an environmental portrait of each person in the family. That is simply a portrait that is not intentionally posed of a person in their natural state or where they spend most of their time.
Your session includes a digital download of the images that are in your private online gallery. However, I also offer printing services from my professional lab as an add on service. It's totally customizable to what you want. Since I'm there to tell the story of your family, photo books and albums are a very popular add on option. In addition, I offer prints (even mounted and matted prints), canvas wall art, and even Christmas ornaments!
My husband hates being in pictures...so do I for that matter...but we recognize the need for family photos, how will we deal with this?
One thing I have learned from approaching sessions with this documentary style is that it's no stress. I'm not asking you to smile, flashing a strobe in your face, or tilting your head in awkward positions. It's just not me. It makes me uncomfortable too. I'm just there observing you living your daily life. Most clients have told me that this was the best photography experience they've ever had and that means that the end result-their precious pictures- were genuine and authentic. Just do your thing and leave the rest to be.
How long are sessions?
That answer varies. A Signature session (maternity, family, baby) is about 90 minutes. I allot somewhere around 2 hours for newborns. For full Day in the Life shoots, I'm there for around 8 hours. Half Day in the Life, 4 hours. Military homecomings and birth, however long it takes.
How do I book my session?
This is super easy. Just simply click here or on the contact tab above and fill out the contact form. I will get back to you within 24 hours usually to start the booking process. We will decide on a day and I'll send my contract over- you can view and sign it right from your phone! I'll send over an invoice for your retainer fee (50% of session total, unless payment plans have been requested and set up accordingly) and we will schedule a pre-consultation chat where I can get to know you a little better. It all takes less than 10 minutes.
I have complied a few other blog posts with more in depth and detailed answers to some questions you may have, just click on the links!
What to Wear Guide
What to expect with your Signature Newborn Session
What to expect with your Signature Family Session
Do you have any questions for me? Anything you want to know about a family documentary session? Let me know, I'd love to answer them for you and put your mind at ease.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.