Y'all! This may be my favorite blog post of all time, and the thing is...I didn't even write it! I asked my amazing (and handsome) hubby, Jon, to share his perspective of family photo sessions. I know they are not always a guy's favorite thing to do. Ok, ok, they would pretty much pay to not do them sometimes haha, but they are SO worth the effort I promise! Jon has had the unique experience of being with me on photo sessions, and seeing me interact with my families and he is privy to the long process of editing that brings the photos to life. He's also a daddy to two children with autism and reformed photo session complainer (well, most of the time wink, wink!). Below is his letter dedicated to the men who aren't excited about family photos and how they can actually appreciate the experience...enjoy!!
Hi guys...Johnny here!
I am here to chat with you about family photo session...yup that yearly event that we men secretly (or not so secretly) dread. Anyone who has ever tried to organize a family photo shoot knows that anything and everything can happen, no matter the plan ahead of time. Typically, it's Mama who does everything to completely arrange everything….The right time, outfits, colors, time of day to when kids are rested, and bringing the whole dang pantry collection of snacks, drinks, and toys to do everything to keep kids happy. Speaking from experience, dads typically hate family photo shoots--not because of their family getting documented, but of all the preparation that goes into it and honestly the variables that happen that can't be controlled. The prep work, the weather, the wind that effects mama’s big ole Texas hair, the price, and even the competency and ability of the person behind the camera—all of the things that tend to take the focus off of documenting “happiness.” Us dads tend to do as much as they can to avoid it, yet willingly participate in protest.
I love my family to death, but I gotta admit that when both of my children were diagnosed with autism, the last thing I wanted to do was to be in front of a camera. We experienced many times to where ironically it was the opposite of “happy” and the pressure levels were kind of intense. We would go through all of the prep work and enduring the high stress sessions with what were the end results of pictures of forced smiles, stress lines in faces, and other things that even editing couldn’t remove—and that’s even if the photographer edited them in the first place. As a father I would quickly tune out. It was easy to rush through a session and just be glad that it was over. I seriously couldn't stand seeing the whole family under pressure, children not understanding what the adults wanted from them and then mama not getting the permanent documented “happiness” that was supposed to be the outcome. It never worked out as it was supposed to so it was very easy for me to disengage. It was the wrong answer for sure, but the easiest one, and there wasn’t much that whiskey wouldn’t eventually fix haha.
But, with all of that being said, I didn't know it at the time, but I was witnessing the motivation for my wife to do a complete life change. Before she started Alicia Wilson Photography, all she wanted was someone to document her family or her kids in a happy fashion instead of forced poses. Sounds simple right? She gradually got more and more sick of the lack of effort by photographers to understand that her kids were a little bit different—but that didn’t define them. Staring at the camera and holding poses just weren’t going to happen. So, she took it upon herself to learn what to do to simply get the photos that she wanted, the ones that were worth hanging on the walls of her home. Void of heavy faces, tears, or harsh memories of how hard a simple session was supposed to be.
Over the past few years, I have been able to see her work within her passion—which not many people can honestly say. She started investing tons of time, money, and effort into her professional development but more importantly, her clients. It is very hard to catch multiple people in the moment and have everything work out as planned, but I watched her amazing ability to relate with families and kids of all backgrounds simply by building a relationship with them. The camera was only a catalyst. It very quickly became noticeable that photography was almost secondary to her. To be blunt, I think anyone can eventually figure out the nuances of lighting, settings on equipment, detailed editing processes and intricate software manipulation, the administrative side of running a business, social media, all the things that people think defines success, if they decide to actually try. But it takes a special talent to relate with families and especially special needs children—to meet them where they are in life—and be able to flawlessly capture it in a finite window of time. As this continued, I as a backstage observer slowly began to appreciate the full process of something that I truly dreaded and at times wanted no part of.
Dads, Im talking straight to you. Whether it is verbalized or not, you are seen as the leader of the family. You are the head of the household and (like it or not) you are the emotional barometer of how things are going to go in these situations. The pressure gauge is actually dialed up or down based on how you emotionally respond. Family photo sessions are probably gonna make you feel like you are rapidly losing what sanity, hair, and brain cells you have left and you’ll look for anything to get out of them. Please Don’t. Trust me, when you find a photographer that invests in their clients from a family point of view instead of seeing you as a source of revenue, your documented end results (the ones worthy to go on your castle’s wall or Facebook background) are going to be unforced moments in time that you won’t be able to recreate. Ever. Great photographers who meet you where you and your family are, have a talent and passion that doesn’t get appreciated initially, but trust me, it’s more than worth it. Chances are in the past. you were the biggest family stressor and part of the problem to begin with and no one has ever told you. The good news is, you can be the biggest and quickest solution to making a photo session successful and pleasant.
You are being watched by the little ones and it gets easier than you think. Find a photographer that is an extension of what you want to see in the end, not just someone you pay to click a camera. It goes very much beyond that. Relax, enjoy your family...let go of "perfect." Trust me, when you do that, you'll be the hero of the session!
Happy Father's Day,