The Truth about Being a Family Photographer ...

My name is Jen, and I'm a photographer... and I have some confessions to make about what it is I do for a living. Are you ready for some juicy details, some gossip about the biz that might make you want to quit your day job and join the ranks (or not)?

1. I Get Peed on and Pooped on... a Lot

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Newborns pee, on average, about every three to five minutes. Usually it's just a little tinkle, but about ten times a day, it's a diaper-filling deluge. That means, during a newborn shoot, I'm almost guaranteed to be peed on at least once... and let's not even talk about poop. Pro tip: make sure your clothes and props are machine washable.

2. They Bring the Drama

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I'm not sure why, but an impending photo shoot tends to bring on the family fights, and the bigger (and more extended) the family, the bigger (and more extended) the drama they bring. About a quarter of my family shoots involve some conflict resolution, with me playing photographer, therapist, and potential divorce court witness.

3. Moms Hate It

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Moms love family photos! Moms love newborn and baby photos! Moms love special even photos! Unless, of course, there's a chance they might be IN the photos, in which case, moms hate all photos, always.

4. More about Moms

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In all seriousness though, nothing breaks my heart more than a mom who says she's too fat/old/ugly to be in her own family photos. Trust me, no one is looking at your family photos picking apart your appearance. Honestly, they're in awe of how gorgeous and happy you all look, and they're wondering (and are more than slightly envious of) how you talked your husband into giving up an hour of his Sunday for family photos.

5. Kids Rule the Roost

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Truly, children set the tone and timing of a family photo shoot. If the kids are into it, the shoot will be fast and fun and you'll want to come back for more photos every week. My job is to make sure they're giggling and having fun, and it's a lot easier if mom isn't threatening them with bodily harm if they don't "behave and smile" and if their tummies are full and they haven't skipped nap-time.

6. Distractions Are Insane These Days

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Yes, I'm going to be one of THOSE people, the people who whinge about distractions. Nope, I'm not talking about the aggressive take-over of cell phones and tablets and other tech. I'm talking about the grammas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other onlookers who think they're "helping" by standing behind me making noises. STAHP. You're not helping. You're distracting the child and it makes me insane.

7. Most of My Time is Spent...

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... without a camera in my hand. Truly, for every hour I shoot, I spend two hours prepping, in post (retouching and such) and in placing client orders. I wish it were swapped, but sadly, the business and post-shoot end of photography takes more time than snuggling sweet babies and getting kids to laugh. *le sigh*

8. Sneak up behind Me One More Time...

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It happens a lot more than you think... you spend years honing your skills, you spend thousands on classes and equipment and props, you get to a shoot, you pose the newborn or child... and just as you're about to take the shot, mama sneaks up behind you and takes it with her cell phone. If you're lucky, baby hasn't moved and you can get the shot too, but if not, you have to reset and try again. Mom says she just wanted a shot for her camera roll, but you know the truth: she's hoping she got the shot so she won't have to pay you for it. The clause in my contract that says this isn't allowed doesn't matter - people do it all the time anyway. My shot will be better of course, and mom will still buy it, but it messes with my zen.

9. It's Prop Insanity

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I have to strictly limit my time on Etsy and Pinterest, or I'll spend a small fortune on props and things. Truly. And don't get me started on equipment, because it's taking all of my willpower not to add that 50mm 1.2 to my shopping cart right now...

10. Imitation is the Sincerest Form of... What?

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There's a fine line between using another photographer's work as inspiration, and straight-up copying someone else's shot. I try not to let it bother me when another tog steals my shots, but as it is in any other business, it's flattering, right?

11. There Are Scams

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And like every other business, there are also scammers who target photographers. Apparently the same Nigerian prince who needs help from you to cash in his millions also needs to schedule a family photo shoot and pay the retainer with a (phony) check.

12. The Benefits Are Amazing

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Sure, there's drama in being a photographer, but in the end, the benefits make it so worthwhile. You're preserving people's memories, capturing special moments in time. And the baby cuddles. There are endless sweet baby cuddles.

13. Those Are Composites, by the Way

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Those super-cute newborn photos, where the baby is in some weird semi-yoga pose or is dangling sweetly asleep in a giant dreamcatcher? Those aren't "real" photos, they're composites made in PhotoShop. Just so you know.

14. And Speaking of PhotoShop...

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I use it, on every single shot you'll ever see from me. I use it to whiten teeth, to lighten eyes, to erase blemishes, to get rid of crazy stray hairs, to remove white dog hair from black coats, and to slightly diminish wrinkles and under-eye circles. It's magic, truly.

15. Teens Are the Best

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While some people in some professions mistrust or dislike teens, I adore them. They're brilliant and funny and sweet, and they almost always know which is their best side. Seriously. Teens are even more magic than PhotoShop.

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