I had a wonderful time this weekend photographing a new family. They have taken pictures before with other photographers and was referred to me when their regular photographer was not available. It was for her son’s fourth birthday party, and to anyone who has ever hosted a kids backyard birthday party you know what is involved.
The next day I opened an email from her which carried a pleasant but nervous tone. She wrote of her previous experiences. I did not get to know her very well because she hired me for the event, not a family session. We are all caught up in the business of the party and small talk is kept to a minimum as we are opening juice boxes and setting out plasticware. I took a day to think about how I should respond to her concerns about how she looked, the possibilities of future sessions, and her previous experiences with other photographers. I wanted to respond to her in a genuine, kind, and heartfelt way. I think I did that. Here’s my response.
Hello (Beautiful Mom-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Post)!
I’m already working on your images and there are a few I can’t wait to show you!!
First, I want to apologize for throwing that information out (about future sessions) on the way out the door. You had a lot going on and we could talk about this a better time for you. So let me remedy that now…
I want to take a moment to address your concerns, and take care of a fellow mom. You are not allowed to panic. You put a lot of pressure on yourself getting this party ready and wanting to do a few family pictures on top of all that is going on! I never would have suggested to do this. I know you felt rushed, and I felt rushed. This is not an optimal combination for a great family photo! I’ll come back to this.
But first, birthday parties are ALWAYS hectic. Your goal of the day was for your kid to feel loved around all his friends and family and YOU DID THAT!! There has never been a kid who said, “Boy, mom really should have done something with her hair and what was going on with that dress,” when viewing a picture of their mother giving them smooches. You are the center of their world, even more so than them being the center of yours. Be kind to yourself. Your goal was met. Your kid had an amazing day!
I totally understand wanting to document your children’s growth and why you’d want to spend the time and money. As your kids get older, the slower the change is. Will you still be doing this (5 Mini Session a year) in 5 years, say 3rd grade? I hear your frustration with the amount of time and energy taken to prepare for these shoots.
Going back to the rushing… five minutes is ludicrous. I have never only spent 5 minutes with a client…ever! It takes me 5 minutes just for the kids to decide I’m not scary and to laugh. It’s not your job to pose yourselves either. That’s your photographer’s job. That’s what you are paying them for! Yes, they need cooperation on your part but they can see what is working and not working for you. You hired me for event photography and paid event photography rates. I love spending time with the family, especially the kids, to get the authentic connections to come through in my work. This is just not possible in 5 minutes. So, you may have found yourself paying for quantity and forsaking the quality. This is where I believe your frustration lies. Invest what you would normally invest for 5 mini sessions into one great session! With the right photographer you should have tears of joy, not tears of frustration. I have witnessed those happy tears and it makes my heart so full!!
With all that said… I only offer Mini Sessions, once or twice a year. They are a special treat! They are not what people hire me for. They hire me for the great photos, yes, but they hire me because I fall in love with them. The Holiday Mini Sessions are geared for those who are wanting to get their family photo for their Christmas card. Three images are offered (one of the whole family, one of each kid, OR the family, one of the parents and one of just the kids.) You can add some digital images to the package which plenty of people who have worked with me before end up doing. I also offer an accordion book at a discount which can include more pictures. I want to provide GREAT quality prints—heirloom quality! So I can be your printer too. No need to have Walgreens or Shutterfly mess up my work.
Documenting the kids growth can come in a lot of ways. My personal favorite comes in the form of a session in your home–a lifestyle session. There are many memories being made in that playroom of yours, and the kitchen, and the bedrooms, and that backyard, and the bath tub, and the kids riding bikes down the street.
Bottom line: you should seriously consider having a full session instead of constantly doing minis. You might be pleasantly surprised at what can come out of 60-90 minutes instead of a rushed five. I’d even consider hiring a studio photographer like Sweet Snap which are GREAT! I think you’d be doing yourself a huge favor and make memories together, not stress, hoping something will come out.
I hope this answers your concerns. I’d really like to get to know you better and your family! Don’t loose perspective by putting unwarranted pressure on yourself. You don’t deserve it. You are a great mom who obviously loves those two with all your heart.