Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Documentary family photography has been steadily gaining popularity and rightfully so! This genre of photography is uniquely different from traditional family photos because of its authentic and fully unstaged approach to visual storytelling. But what does documentary family photography even mean? In short, it’s a snapshot of your life the way it is right now - the good, the mundane, the chaotic moments, all coated in unconditional love (aww). My objective in sharing this FAQ is to help answer some of your questions about this genre and simultaneously challenge the myth that it’s “not for everyone,” because I truly believe that anyone can find benefit in having their life’s sweet moments preserved.
How is a documentary session different from a lifestyle or traditional shoot?
One key difference is that a documentary session is fully unscripted. You run the show - I’m merely there to observe and document.
When you’re in the thick of things, it can be hard to stop and appreciate all those random, mundane moments that happen throughout the day. But, some years down the road, it’s those mundane moments that hold the most value. Something I hear frequently from parents is how fast time flies with kids, and how quickly they find themselves wishing they could teleport back to a particular time when their little ones were just a bit younger.
Documentary photography allows me to capture your life as it is right now, so that you can always relive some of those precious, fleeting moments that will make your heart sing.
I have so many photos of my children already - what’s the benefit of a session like this?
Truth be told, you may already have thousands of photos of your kids doing incredibly adorable things. You’re there for all of their milestones and general day-to-day cuteness. However, one big difference is that when I’m there, you’ll be able to give your camera a rest and simply be in the moment of excitement with your child as I take care of the photography.
These photos are just as important of a memory for you as they are for your kids. One day you’ll want to share with them a snippet of what your life was like when they were little, and they’ll want to see you as part of that story.
What kind of activities should we plan?
I’ll answer this question with a question: What are some activities you do as a family that you wish you could just bottle up and carry with you forever? Those are the ones you want me around for. Kids’ interests change so drastically. Something they love to do now they may not care for six months from now (or a week from now). Loosely plan your day with that idea in mind. This will also help in figuring out what time of day you’d like me around for.
Do you love morning cuddles with your kids and making breakfast together? Do you play a lot in the backyard in the afternoons? Think about your favorite things to do and go from there.
How do we dress for a documentary session?
One great part about the laid-back nature of documentary sessions is that it eliminates the stress of having to find matching outfits (or book hair/makeup appointments)! My guideline is simple - consider what your typical day looks like or what activities you’ll be doing with your kids that day and dress accordingly. A casual/comfortable approach seems to always work best for sessions, especially in a home setting.
How much direction do you provide on the day of the session?
It’s important that I say this bluntly: I don’t provide any directions on how to pose, where to stand, or when to smile - and trust me, it’s a good thing! My purpose is to capture your family's natural and authentic moments together as they’re happening, and my interjecting will only take away from that.
This session is absolutely perfect if you’re anything like me and feel awkward in front of the camera. Most of my clients feel quickly at ease because they focus less on me and how they should look in front of the lens, and more about just simply enjoying their time with family.
I will say, each person finds comfort differently when it comes to a documentary session - some clients prefer to have a lot of conversation with me while I’m shooting until they get comfortable. Some prefer that I fade into the background. Lucky for you I’m a chameleon (not a literal one), and can do both (or either), based on your preferences.
If you're interested in learning more about documentary photography, or would like to schedule your very own documentary family session, I'd love to hear from you! Just shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the contact form here, and let's chat!