This post has been brewing in my head for some time, and with today being Veteran’s Day and all, I put my ridiculous mountain of work to the side and made this a priority. **Don’t worry to the 27 people waiting patiently on pictures (yikes! I definitely overbooked family sessions this year!), your pictures will get the same care and attention as all my clients and you will see them soon! And next year, I’m capping off extra early so you might want to book now, haha!**
There are three topics for today all tying directly into each other, and first I’d like to say THANK YOU to all our veterans. Not just today, of course, but every dang moment of my life. You ROCK! And not just the vets themselves, but their families as well. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions that go into trying to live out your “normal” lives, while having a loved one who is spending time away serving our country. Today’s blog features one of my favorite vets and his family. I first had the pleasure of working with Kurt & Porter as their wedding photographer at Historic Jordan Springs, and have since photographed them numerous times watching their magical family grow.
Next, I need to address an important issue in my world as a family portrait photographer (really, this could translate to many other genre of people photography as well… can my fellow photographers say “WEDDINGS!” hahaha!). If there’s one thing that can destroy a family portrait session more than anything else it’s a silly Mr. CrankyPants. It’s almost always the dad that starts with this grumpiness (and they say women are emotional… hmph! Not from behind my lens!). Mr. CrankyPants comes to the session not really wanting to do “stupid” pictures anyway. He complains about the clothes mom asks him to wear, he has no intention of making any fun memories for the kids, and he gives no expression whatsoever when looking at the camera except the one that says “Hurry up and take the picture, lady. I have a game to watch and these kids are driving me crazy.” This attitude is toxic… Let me repeat – TOXIC! It reverberates into every stinkin’ moment that I capture. From the nervous little smile of his daughter that isn’t quite genuine to the mom’s frustrated look between captures just trying to salvage any ounce of family time she can. It’s so sad! I know that they aren’t bad dads. For some reason they only think of this experience as something his wife wants to post on Instagram or put on the front of the Christmas card, and he just doesn’t think about the good times he is missing out on with his kids. I can tell they are good dads, because when I pull out all my tricks I can elicit a genuine expression while getting him to do a certain task such as throwing one of the kids in the air. It’s such a fun expression for not only him, but the look on the child’s face is pure. genuine. happy. LOVE. But, it’s only a glimpse! Because as soon as he realizes he is being photographed and this is all for that silly Instagram pic, he goes right back to being Mr. CrankyPants!
WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE?!?!
You are likely spending a good chunk of change on this experience, so take full advantage of this amazing opportunity to not just have a good picture, but more importantly to create a fun family memory for your babies, your wife and yes for you, too.
It kills me that I barely spend time with my kids from September to December working 80+ hours a week, having my daughter keep asking to come with me to a session or a viewing or just sit next to me while I edit because she wants to spend time with me (queue the dang tears now… ugh!), and then I go out to spend time with another family who is wasting 2 precious hours being stressed out when they could really have a blast and tuck away a solid gold memory for the years ahead when the house is empty. Did you hear that? One day your house will be empty. Maybe just the two of you. Maybe just you… Make this one of those memories that get you through those days.
I can’t begin to guess how many fantastic images of kids I’ve had to get rid of in the culling process simply because the mom or dad is making an angry face that no amount of Photoshop can cure. As I type that, I actually recall a very specific image of a portrait session from last year where two siblings were playing together (who I was told never played nicely together). They were having fun and the younger sibling gave his big brother the most loving look that screamed wall portrait (it tugged at my heart strings and they aren’t even my kids!). But, slightly in the background, Mr. CrankyPants was scratching his neck and rolling his eyes while mom was giving Mr. CrankyPants a serious death stare. I literally spent hours in Photoshop trying everything I could think of to just isolate the brothers or switching heads on the parents, but nothing was good enough to show due to the complex background behind them (and I’m pretty darn awesome at Photoshop when I invest the time in it). Hours of my time away from MY precious babies just to try to fix this toxic image of someone else’s family. But to no avail, and in the reject pile it went… what a shame.
So, back to Kurt. And Porter. These two are the epitome of how a family should approach a family session. Yes, Kurt was about to be deployed yet again a few weeks after this portrait session so of course he would value it more than the rest of us. But… every single time I’ve photographed them, I have the same positive experience. And that is what makes me absolutely LOVE what I do… sometimes, lol. Every moment I spent editing these images was so awesome, and I kept getting giggles while working on them (how do you think I feel when I’m editing a session where every other frame Mr. CrankyPants is spreading his message of how unimportant his family is? Pretty crappy, let me tell you. I dread editing those sessions, and my attitude after I come out of the office is not a pleasant one. Again, affecting my own babes.).
Kurt & Porter’s adorable little girls are just like all the other kids I photograph in many ways. Mischievous, full of energy, curious, rebellious with a small attention span. Instead of being annoyed by them, or yelling at them, or bribing them instantly, Kurt & Porter go with the flow and show them nothing but LOVE. That’s the difference between an okay session and a purely MAGICAL session! I always leave them in such an uplifting mood, even when I came into this particular session a total wreck. You see, this was actually their wedding anniversary and they were waiting on me to finish a newborn session that ended up taking entirely too long. They patiently waited at the location for me to finish, with 2 little girls running around getting tired and bored of their surroundings. And then… less than a mile away in the middle of nowhere an accident closed the only road to where they were. Yes, the day just started like crap and got worse at every turn. Until, of course, I finally made it to the location. Any other family would have rescheduled at this point. But not them. They made the best of it, and kept playing with the girls until I arrived and then we went on with our session. I instantly felt the love oozing through my lens, and in no time at all my day went from a disaster to one of the best times you could ever have as a photographer. I seriously LOVE this family!
Kurt, Porter, Lani girl & Williebel: you are an incredibly awesome family, and I count you among one of my greatest blessings in this photography journey I am on. <3
This… this is what a team player is all about. The girls were restless and did NOT want to sit down for pictures. Instead of getting frustrated, Kurt laughs. What else can you do but laugh? Notice Lani then gives us a little smirk. Imagine if Kurt had done what most dads do and got irritated… Lani would have picked up on that, and there would not be a smile on her face to capture.
See? And then he gives her a kiss on the cheek, how precious! Such a 360 from the way it could have been handled.
And then… magic happens! Seriously, do you see that beautiful butterfly that flew into this shot? That’s not Photoshop, people! If you just relax and have a good time, I promise magical things will happen! (speaking of this phenomenon… at the bottom of this post I’ve included one of my all-time favorite instances of this magic happening when attitudes are positive.)
Another perfect example of what can happen with the right attitude: Little Williebel became upset and started fussing. Porter came over, picked her up and just loved on her. How can you not love this?
Why would you want to miss the opportunity to kiss away your babies tears, and actually capture it forever in a beautiful image that they will cherish so much as the years go by?
And then we can go right back to happiness!
Thank you so much for hanging through this long post. I hope it was worth it!!!
** Side note from the “MAGIC” phenomenon I mentioned earlier in the post** Due to a recent death of a close friend, I have to share my favorite magical moment. One of my first weddings I shot was one of the most laid back, stress-free, awesome weddings I’ve ever photographed. Things could have been tense, but both Timmy & Jenn took everything in stride and went out of their way to make the entire day an enjoyable experience for everyone… guess what happened? A FREAKING HOT AIR BALLOON landed in the field during their reception! Before it had to deflate, they took Timmy & Jenn up for a ride! I can guarantee you that if they had not been so care-free and wonderful, then God or karma or whoever would not have arranged for that balloon to have landed right there. So many magical moments I have witnessed, but I had to share this one in Timmy’s memory. RIP, brother <3 (I’ll update this post with a picture when I can get to my archive drives… remember this was one of my first weddings so it was AGES ago!)