By Roger (28 June 2015)
Back in March, I extolled on the joys of family photography and how to simple it can be to make family shots (link). As I said then, family members are my favorite photo subjects. Family photography documents the passage of time and can create priceless heirlooms for the entire family. You should practice it at every opportunity.
Then, there is the other side of the job. There are always, at least, two sides.
What could be wrong with being labeled the official family photographer? You might be surprised. Here are some things you need to be prepared to endure if they stick that moniker on you.
People expect you to bring a camera for every event. You're the photographer, after all. So, during the parties and get-togethers, you get to schlep your camera gear around, taking their photos. They will explain that, since you are the photographer, they don't need to bother with their cameras anymore. And they won't carry your gear, either. In Germany, we used to do 10 and 20 kilometer volksmarches, with my daughter on my back, and two cameras, lenses, and rolls of film around my neck. But, my wife wouldn't carry my gear.
You don't get to play with them. You quickly realize that your new role is to photograph them having fun. You will discover a distinct lack of you in your photo database. If you were to join them, you couldn't make the photos they all want. Besides, who would watch your gear?
They don't cooperate during photo sessions they requested. Everybody wants to have group photos made for their desks and walls, but nobody wants to help make it happen. You have to think things out ahead of the session and be quick, or you'll lose your chance. This is especially true when the subjects are the “adults.”
Their mother might make them behave, so you can complete the photo, but you will know the suffering it took to get the photo. They only cooperated because she threatened to put sticks and leaves in their stockings.
They, even, taught the youngest family member to make goofy faces when I point the camera in his direction. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.
They will tell you what and how to shoot. You might think you've got this photography thing figured out. I mean you've been doing it for decades now. If you're a serious portrait photographer, you'll find that your ideas are wrong. That 1970's retro-look is back in for school photos. (I talked about making this daylight flash photo, here.)
Your back may be going from decades of heavy camera bags, but you need to get on your belly to capture that shot of the baby playing in the leaves. (Everybody knows babies and leaves are a killer photo combination.)
Finally, they have no patience when you take too long to post-process. “Aren't those photos ready, yet? We need to give them away to everyone we know.” You will toil away at Lightroom and Photoshop to make the photos the best they can be. If you're doing well, they won't see any obvious traces of the work you've done. Therefore, it must be easy. They don't understand why it takes you so long to erase the aunt holding the kid on the dog or erase the vulgar graffiti on the background wall. “Didn't you pay attention at Photoshop World? Are you just hiding in your office, when we should all be out here together? Come on out here. Oh, and bring your camera!”
Ready to sign up for this job as family photographer? There is no money in the budget, but you can use the photos in your portfolio. Except that all your photography buddies will tell you family photos have no place in a serious portfolio.
Seriously, the bold points are true, and you should re-consider applying for this job if they would bother you. The rest of the blog is over the top because I don't believe the bold points matter a bit when I'm making photos of my family and friends. Nothing gives me more pleasure than my family, and I will make photos of them until they bury me. No doubt, with my camera gear – I'm telling you, none of them will carry my bags for me. ;-)
Go out and make some family photos. For extra fun, make sure to keep all the goofy shots, just to get back at them.