It’s a story I hear quite often, “I value family photos, but my husband HATES them. He thinks the whole process is awkward!” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that exact same phrase, I’d probably have $10 today alone! When Kayli and I began planning her session, she let me know that her husband Dustin wasn’t too crazy about the idea (in fact, that's a direct quote from her above), but that he would go along with it if she asked him to.
I did a little happy dance
When they arrived at their session, I was SO impressed with Dustin’s outfit. He got out of the vehicle and I did a little happy dance and a fist pump behind my truck door. He looked excellent, exactly as I had envisioned when I sent Kayli the mood board for his look, and I was so thrilled. I handed Kayli her dress, and as she got changed, Dustin and I began to chat about the tone of their session and what he could expect.
I let him know that I understood family photos he'd had in the past were uncomfortable, but that my aim for his session was to photograph him and his family exactly as they are. No awkward posing, no “smile and say cheese” mentality, just him and his wife, spending time loving on their little one Tate. I could see Dustin’s shoulders visibly relax when I explained that this session was going to be like an “un-session” and he audibly let out a breath. We walked to the clearing in the woods where I wanted to photograph them, and that’s when the magic began.
Almost immediately, the love their family shares began to come through in their session and I began photographing just that. The way Kayli and Dustin both couldn’t take their eyes off of Tate is something I think only parents really understand. I could tell that Tate had become their entire world, and he was clearly loved beyond what any words could truly express.
The best photographs come when you're just being you
My approach to photography has changed so much over the past year. I have come to the realization that the story I want to tell is YOURS and yours alone. If I’m posing you, I’m directing your family with what I think they should do, with who I think you all should be, and working through sessions like Kayli and Dustin’s has shown me that the BEST photographs come when you’re just being your authentic selves. So as Dustin and Kayli settled in to snuggling Tate, Tate was beyond happy to just hang out and do his thing. I could tell even he appreciated the laid back approach I take, because it meant his parents weren’t stressed out, trying to get an 8 month old to do things he doesn’t want to do.
It's something truly beautiful to witness
I also appreciated that Tate wanted to spend time with both of his parents. He was happy to snuggle his mama, but he was happy to snuggle his daddy too. I remember when my own husband, Kelli, first became a father. He was so uncomfortable with the term “daddy” because it almost felt immasculating to him (thanks toxic cultural BS for that one). He’s a guys guy, as I think Dustin is too, so seeing the softer side of your husband as he cuddles your child, snuggles him in close, and just lets his guard down, is something truly beautiful to witness.
I felt truly humbled to witness it
As someone who has two kiddos of my own in the thick of parenting toddlers and preschoolers, I have a unique perspective on these family photographs. I don’t think anything quite tells the story of how much you love your kids the way that photographs of you and them snuggling, laughing and just being together does. I could see the way that Tate had captured Kayli and Dustins hearts, and how much they just genuinely enjoyed being his parents, and I truly felt humbled to witness it and to photograph it.
That’s the incredible thing that happens when I get the privilege of photographing a family with such a relaxed approach: I get to see them for exactly who they are, and they get to see it too.
So Kayli and Dustin if you’re reading this, thank you so much for inviting me into your family’s world and allowing me to capture these images for your family. I truly enjoyed every minute of getting to know you all. And Dustin, I hope that you found our session together to be as relaxed and fun as you made it look!