Documentary Photo Sessions: Embracing the Reluctant Mom

MAKE your life FEEL like A FUN GAME,

rather than something to survive & endure.


Documentary Family Photography: Embracing the Reluctant Mom

  1. Absolutely 100% agree. Couldn’t love this post any more if I tried! I do a mix as well. I would rather give a little to make a client more comfortable AND still make beautiful documentary pictures, than lose out of the session entirely.

  2. Misty says:

    This is excellent insight! I too have non-messy clients and this really spoke to me.

  3. Gwen Papp says:

    Yes! I have some photographer friends who say that they feel judged by other documentary photographers because they are neat, and tidy, and their lives just aren’t “messy” enough for some to take them seriously. My house looks like a bomb went off…but that’s not everyone’s reality. And we should be striving to embrace whatever the reality is for each family.

  4. Melissa Rich says:

    I think this is a wonderfully realistic point of view. I don’t tout myself as a documentary photographer, but at home documentary type sessions are my favorite to shoot. But I think the key is that the moments are authentic to the family and the relationships. I’d rather find a way to record those memories for my clients, in whatever way they are comfortable, than adhere to some strict ideal of a particular genre of photography. If the emotions are real when recorded, they will be cherished and remembered as such, regardless of what kind of environment in which they occur.

  5. This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing it. The comment that stuck out to me the most was the fact that we don’t all have to be “messy” and “chaotic” to be able to be documented. That meant a lot to me because I always hesitated using those words to convey my art because I know, from my own experience, that my “real” is NOT messy. It’s not perfect. But it’s not chaotic and messy.

  6. Ann says:

    I loved this article! It really spoke to me, too. With documentary-type sessions, it’s still kind of “new” to families. So much focus is put on the photo of the family that is sitting on a blanket, in a beautiful park, with hair in place and everyone looking at the camera. It’s a different way of thinking to come into a session and let things unfold naturally, let your guard down, and have a photographer capture the emotions, the bonds, the belly laughs, and the personality. I do a mixture of both posed and documentary in my sessions. While the moms do love the “photo over the mantle” picture, their hearts melt over those moments they don’t even realize I’m capturing. And, as a mom/woman – I’m often critical of how I look in photos (the few I’m actually in!)…but, as time goes on and I look back on these photos, I hardly see the flaws anymore. I just see a pretty amazing time I might have forgotten about if I didn’t have that picture.

  7. Elena says:

    This is really great. I love that you have found a way to be your authentic self and to allow your clients to be the same. You’re so right, there is almost a snobbery to the “look how unruly my life is” style of documentary photography. It’s almost a status symbol like “I’m so busy,” which is something I have been struggling to stop saying because I totally get how manipulative and I’m better than you it is. If your subject’s authentic self is tidy and well put-together, then that’s how they are. And it’s great that you can see that and celebrate it. Fantastic. Very proud of you and your work.

  8. Nicole S. says:

    Thanks for this! I’m early in my business journey and this helps me understand why it doesn’t feel right when I try to go by someone else’s “rules” for documentary family photography. There’s enough room to adapt for both ourselves and our clients and make images we both love.

    • MarieMasse says:

      You’re welcome – Michelle did such an amazing job writing that. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I see so many photographers with their head held high saying, “My clients will value this and that.” But sometimes, we have to teach, inspire, and empower people before they actually believe.

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