Being a professional photographer is largely comprised of three skill sets:
- Using a camera and all of its "accoutrements": Okay, "using" is an understatement...a professional should know every knob, dial, measurement, and mathematical calculation that is associated with every photo they take...but let's keep it simple for now.
- Running a profitable business: You wouldn't believe the amount of creative people that go out of business because they don't know how to run their numbers and are devastated to learn they were making approximately $14/hour - the average hourly wage of a professional photographer in USA
- Creativity: It's not a skill that is easily described or easily learned, and it's not something that is tangible...it just is. It's what I feel when I unlock that special "thing" that makes a kid light up in front of the camera. It's looking at every street, bench, building, and grassy path and allowing my curiosity to evolve as to how it would photograph with a family in it/on it/running down it. I mention it because it is a skill every good family photographer must have to create and capture moments between their subjects that bring out their natural expressions.
Yes, there are about a hundred other skills that are helpful in being a photographer, but one may argue not necessary (i.e. developing photos...some would argue this is a necessity while others would argue you can outsource the entire process).
But I digress.
My job, at the end of the day, is to bottle up love between my subjects into a photograph that will tell their story...in a moment...and for a lifetime.
I photographed one of my favorite families from San Jose last week in Golden Gate Park. This is our fifth shoot together so by now we know each other quite well and it's really fun and easy-going. As I was editing their photos, I found myself GRINNING EAR TO EAR. Now, don't get me wrong...I truly adore my clients. I have special connections with each of them that makes us gel. I want to use this family in particular because a) I know mom is okay with it and b) they are awesome.
Sometimes when families hire me for the first time, they come with some specific requests. They vary from simple asks ("a shot with all four of us together") to the more complicated ("the kids looking at the camera while jumping off a rock and holding hands and the dog sitting nicely on the side also looking at the camera"...uhhhhh). Now let me back up...I GET IT. The parent (typically the mom) has done SO MUCH WORK to get the family to this point. She has found a photographer...scheduled a date that melds for work, school, etc...coordinated everyone's outfits AND negotiated with the kids to put ON the aforementioned outfits...and of course she also already invested a decent chunk of money "sight unseen" for the session. So yes, I know there is pressure.
Similar to when I go to my accountant, I don't look over his/her shoulder and micromanage them doing my taxes. I don't ask my dentist if he/she is sure she got that last tooth sparkling clean. I let the people I hire in my life DO THEIR THANG. Does that mean they are perfect and never make mistakes? Of course not. But, for the most part, my job was complete when I chose individuals that will serve our family because I trust them.
For photography, not only do we need to get the logistics checked off (pic of family together looking at camera? check.), but we need to be able to do that while creating an environment that is relaxed and fun so the kids don't realize one iota of the pressure the parents are feeling.
And when parents do that - let go and let me do my thing? Now there is space for magic to be created.
So here is my plea, parents.
Talk to your photographer in advance about your concerns/requests/etc (that is what our pre-session phone consultation is for - use it!). There is nothing wrong with having an ideal shot list that you share - after all, I am a service provider here to serve YOU. But then - let go. Trust that your photographer has your wishes in his/her head and heart, and will do everything humanly possible to get you everything you need and then some. And my second plea? Remember these kids are...well...kids. If they are told to sit in a specific spot and "say cheese", they will do exactly that. But you'll have an image captured that isn't "your" kid at all...it is just a cardboard version of the adorable, active, personality-filled being that you know and love.
Thank you, BBP Families...for trusting me to capture the best versions of your selves. The crazy, the fun, the love, and the sincerity of the moments that your family shares.