The world of professional photography has become a very interesting one. Most of us can remember a time when hiring a professional photographer meant that he/she would take very classic, posed photos of you and your family, your children, your high school senior, or your wedding. That was what was normal, what was expected, and what was good. Somewhere around 2004, this shift started to occur, where people started wanting and demanding more documentary/candid/real photos...and photographers [some of them, at least] jumped in with both feet...ready to embrace this change. To tackle this new frontier. Documentary photography was nothing new. Photographic journalists have been covering events and life-in-general in this manner for decades. But when it came to families and weddings, it was definitely a new way of thinking. Well, we were right there with those two-feet jumpers, ready to take the world of professional photography by storm! To change with the times and take photos to the next level. And it has truly been a great ride. Now, when we document families, or high school seniors, or weddings, we get to focus on telling the REAL story of what is happening. The meat of it. The little itty-bitty moments that most people never see. The good, the bad, and sometimes, the really really ugly. "3-year-old tantrums" might be the definition you'll find when you open the dictionary and search for "really ugly photography". But....they are also the good. THE BEST. It is those real moments...not just the ones that are planned, and staged, and designed....that we all look back on, years and years down the road and say, "That. That was my life." And what an awesome life it was.
BUT....BIG HUGE BUT.... there is also a downside to this. [Playing devil's advocate is so much fun.]
Whenever something becomes the new "norm", everybody thinks that is also what they have to do. Right? Magazines, blogs, Pinterest....heck, even this blog right here. You see all these sessions, and weddings, and stories, and you think to yourself, "I want that too. I NEED that. I want to make sure that my photos tell the story of my life, and it will be natural and beautiful and awesome." And you know what? Most of the time it is. We work hard to educate our clients on how to not over-plan, to over-style, or to over-stress, so that we can just capture them...exactly as they are...right at that time. Tell their real stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But, the problem is that a lot of people look at sessions on those blogs, or on Pinterest, and they get caught in the trap of visualizing their session or their wedding as looking exactly the same. But what they fail to realize is that those photos they are looking at...those photos of OTHER people....are THEIR real lives. THEIR real stories. THEIR good, bad and ugly. Even if we go to the exact same location, at the exact same time of year, each and every set of photos [while they will all fall within the same general style confines of what we do] will be unique to each and every different client. And that's exactly how it should be. Everybody's personalities are unique to them. The way one couple or family relates to each other is completely different than the way the next couple or family will. And even if we shoot the same people, at the same location, on two different days, each of those sessions will have a style and feel that is completely different and special.
So what is the point of this? The lesson to learn? Just stop. Stop comparing. To other people and other photos. Just be yourself, and keep your focus on YOU and the people you love in your photos. After all, telling your story and capturing the interactions and moments between people is what really matters when all is said and done. All that other stuff...the fancy location, the carefully chosen outfits, the props and flowers and accessories...it's just fluff. Don't get us wrong...fluff can be fun, so don't worry about "fluffing it up" for the camera. Just don't let it overpower the REAL. And most definitely, stop trying to make your photos and your story like anyone else's. Your story is your own. And it's perfect.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best. "Comparison is the thief of joy." Don't let the joy from your story be stolen.