The Yearly Family Photo Session

The Fault of the Digital Age

We live in the ever fast and changing digital world these days, constantly moving and on the go. Rushing from commitment to commitment. Lacking a moment to stop and truly be present in the life we’re living in. Year after year many families carve out the time for a family photo session of their growing kids in hopes of preserving their children at this age. But, what does everyone do with these photos? When you walk into your friends homes what is on their walls? Do you see their family? Or are the walls almost bare?

Family Photo Experiences

Growing up I remember my own Mother snapping photos left and right. Every time we celebrated a birthday, a wedding, a holiday, kids sports events the camera was out and snapping photos. Once the roll of film was full we’d drop it off at the grocery store and pick it up a week. We’d flip through them all right away and she’d add them to the family albums. I always enjoyed flipping through the albums and looking at all the pictures. Seeing myself, my brothers and my parents as the family has grown since my parents got married.

Each school year our newly updated school photos would be framed and up on the wall they went until the following year’s replaced them. We had a couple family photos throughout the year by professional photographers, mostly the company that came to the church every few years to update the member directory and even those photos were chosen, framed and hung upon the walls. I don’t honestly recall the “memories” with these photo sessions, but I remember the photos. I don’t actually believe that the photo sessions were memorable, we weren’t making any memories we were simply preserving the look of our family at the time.

The Memorable Experience

We had a family session with my friends Mom when I was about 12. Her Mom was a local, well known fine art photographer, she wasn’t like other photographers, she provided an experience. The day of our family portrait session we arrived to her studio, there was laughing, even a smile or two from my begrudging oldest brother. We weren’t there necessarily to make memories, but we did. We walked around the property and saw the animals, the sheep, chickens, ducks and goats. It was an enjoyable time for everyone.

My parents went back a few weeks later for a reveal of their photos, my Mother was thrilled with the seemingly natural look of our family members, no one looked miserable, genuine happy faces were all she could see. She watched as candid shots were added in as a small and silly but memory sparking reminder of the emotions of the day. Then she chose her favorites and ordered the prints and frames she wanted to display in our home.

These portraits are still some of my Mother’s favorite photos. They’re from many moons ago now as my brother’s and I are all grown and have families of our own, but she still has these small pieces that remind her of that day, where everyone got along, if even for just an hour. This experience lead us to this same photographer for my senior portraits in high school. A well created and customized portrait experience that told the story of who I was at that time.

The Difference

The difference between a full experience versus the digital gallery is this:

When I remember each of my sessions with my friends Mom, I can remember the details. The smell of the barn, the warm air breezing by, people honking their horns at us sitting in the barn doors. I remember the animals that were present and how the day went, and I can even recall some of the conversation.

This is also true with the family portraits I’ve had with my husband and our son the last three years. I can remember, even without looking at the photos, the giggles from his session as a 4 month old baby, the feeling of joy and pride at watching my husband walk him around our property and show him the trees and flowers with our cocker spaniel out in front of them. I can remember the chocolate and vanilla cone with the sprinkles at the ice cream parlor in OCMD for our second family session and how excited our son was when he saw the dinosaurs at the neighboring mini golf course and how intrigued he was when we showed him the crab in our crab pot off the dock.

THESE are memories that we created while the photographer documented that moment in our lives. Moments I will remember and share with my son as he gets older. The printed photos and albums that I can look at to be transported back to what I loved most about that time in our lives.

And that is the difference between creating a photography experience that creates meaningful family memories and captures them in motion and a family photo session that creates a photograph.