It’s always the same characters but different actors. A nicely dressed family pulls up a dusk-lit road. The doors open with a plume in hairspray, goldfish dust, and tears. Mom wobbles all around the car on unsteady feet due to the gravel beneath her heels. Dad has a squirmy toddler tucked under his arm and a scorched-earth scowl on his face. At some point in the chaos, I hear the same sentiment voiced as a gloomy warning — “no one wants to be here.”
My fall mini-sessions are only twenty minutes long. It’s a grueling dance that combines my knowledge of kid YouTube videos with the technical skill of the camera. Sometimes I find myself alternating between the “Baby Shark” hand gestures and clicking the shutter button. Being a photographer in the deep South, it’s not uncommon to have families arrive in their coziest fall attire only to be enveloped by the wet, smoldering October heat. But despite the tears and the bargaining and the sweat, usually the same vocal confidant from the beginning of the session, the same person who warned me about the condition of the family is smiling and uttering, “that wasn’t that bad.”
Booking a family session during the fall becomes nothing short of routine. In my friend circles, I’ve heard people scoff at the expense in addition to the unnecessary fuss. The sessions, albeit short, interrupt your day, are (for me at least) conditional on the weather, and only lead to more expenses – Christmas cards, envelopes, new clothes for the kids. These things are all valid points of contention a family may face. But I have become an avid defender of all things in the professional photography world.
Professional photography usually accompanies some other commemorative milestone whether it be presents for a birthday, a wedding reception, or the gift-giving holidays themselves. But it would be a silly notion to imagine that we would treat those economic touchstones the same way we treat photographs. I have trinkets from my wedding reception saved, but they are stored in a box at the top of a closet where they rarely see the light of day. The material items I thought were important — favors, flowers, programs — I would love to revisit them one day, but they do not have the same place of honor in my home as my pictures do. We need to change the perception of fall photography being a nuisance when we all accept the seemingly gratuitous images can be revisited after all else has been put away.
One of my favorite things to observe from behind the camera is a mom. The person usually corralling people behind the glow of an iPhone is especially gleaming in front of my lens. I wish I could shout to all jeering partners to let mom have her moment in front of the camera for once. The lady who makes the scrapbooks, picks out the outfits, and is vigilant to capture the milestone deserves (in the words of Lizzo the Wise) a few pictures a year “with the bomb lighting.”
Checking My Privilege
Of course, the expense of hiring a professional is simply not a reality for all, especially not every year. This year I entrusted my poor, naïve sister-in-law with my camera and my creative eccentricities to save money. Fall photography pales in comparison to parents attempting to make ends meet with tuition, bills, and just life in general. With that being said, I will attest that because of the proliferation of digital photography and the usage of photo editing apps becoming more commonplace, it is easier than ever to find a photographer to meet budget-minded families.
Just do it!
As a matter of transparency, this post is not meant to solicit business. I don’t care who people book their fall sessions with – only that if they can do so, they do it! I have given out lots of references over the years. I want my cohorts to do well, and, most of all, I want families to have a permanent token of the year that will last forever.
So when you find yourself in that chaotic minivan on your last desperate bribe or empty punishment threat (because you know you won’t do it before the session), take a deep breath. And although you know that no one wants to be in whatever back road field we’ve decided to prance around in, you will want these pictures, not just the day they are sent to you, but every day after that.