"Shan, I'm just so nervous I'll look back and have no pictures of my baby."
My friend Jenn sat in my living room, cradling her sweet little 3 month old, and when she said this, it broke my heart, because I knew the exact feeling. I felt it when Lily was born, and I'm anticipating it with our next baby. That feeling of worry that my kids will grow up and want to look back at family albums from their baby years and childhood, and wonder why the heck there isn't much to see.
I looked at this sleeping baby and thought about how many times I've vowed I would take some time to play catch up and design some nice photo books for each year in our family's life. I think about the thousands of photos on my phone, just sitting there. I try to remember the last time I picked up my "fancy camera" to take photos of Lily. I look at hundreds of photos of families I have taken and wonder when I'll put my money where my mouth is and book a session for my own family.
I fear that my child will be the cobbler's kid, without shoes, except she'll be the photographer's child without photos of herself with her family.
Shannon, that's crazy, you have so many pictures of your kid!
I know! But I still experience these feelings, more as a mama than a photographer. My parents printed photos from everything in albums, physical photographs that I love sifting through, time and time again.
My fear is that my family photos will live on a hard drive and my kids will never know the joy of sitting on the floor surrounded by stacks and shoeboxes of moments from their childhood. It's not that the photos won't exist, it's that they won't be seen or enjoyed.
So what's a mama to do?
There is no nice way to put this, guys. I've tried softening the blow for myself and you, my friends, clients, readers, and my mom (Hi, Ma!).
Print the damn photos. Make the album. Hire the photographer and have them do it for you. We can complain and wistfully think of our #momgoals for archiving our family's visual memories, or we can actually take action. How much are these memories worth to you? How priceless would it be to have physical albums, prints on the walls, and yes, even a shoebox of loose prints that never made it into frames.
Does family photography come with a price tag? Yes.
Is it worth ensuring you have a yearly book or set of photos showing how your family has grown, and more importantly, with YOU in the picture instead of snapping all the photos yourself? YES.
I have never been more aware of time in my life. As a kid, the days, months and years stretch ahead of you, so far out of reach. Now, I look at pictures of squishy baby Lily from her first year and wonder how on earth I'll send this kid to kindergarten in a few months. How is it possible that I seem to blink and she's grown another inch, or has learned another skill and therefore has grown that much more independent of me?
I relish the moments she snuggles up and lets me hold her, because those moments are becoming fewer and farther between. Four years ago, I could not imagine a time when my kid wouldn't fit in my arms anymore. And that time is approaching. And oh my goodness, it squeezes my heart. Every time I pick her up, her legs seem to dangle lower. Her face doesn't snuggle into my neck anymore. And in an instant she has wriggled herself away and has run off to play with her toys, and I'm left wondering, again, where did the time go?
But for a quick moment, if she lets me hold her, you're darn right I am kicking Sean and telling him to grab his phone and take a picture. Because those are moments that matter to me, holding my girl, feeling the gentle rise and fall of her breath as she relaxes into me the way only my baby girl can curl up in my arms around my belly.
Yes, I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) as a mom. Every time I walk out the door I wonder if I should be bringing my camera, or if I'll be satisfied with iPhone pictures in the years ahead. I wonder at which point it's too much, or if such a thing as "too many photos" exists for me? So I thought it might be helpful to lay out some ideas and options so we, as parents, don't drive ourselves crazy over the years.
Yearly Family Photography
Always worth it, in my opinion. Should you go broke on photos? Of course not, but whether it's a more traditional setting or more of a day-in-the-life, think about the kind of photos that are important to you to have professionally done, budget for them, and do it. And get the prints. Splurge on an album or coffee table book while you're at it. To be able to let someone else do the heavy lifting of taking photos while you enjoy your family and are able to get in the frame? Well, it's a gift.
A less expensive option than a full session, but you'll be limited for time, and will likely lack a lot of variety in your photos. You'll also be at the mercy of whether you can get your kid looking happy for the alloted 10-20 minute time slot. BUT, still a good choice for a yearly professional photo! At the very least, this can be a good option for a family holiday card or making prints for your parents, grandparents, in-laws.
Learn to Use Your Fancy dSLR Camera
IPhones can only do so much. You do not have to be a professional to afford a nice camera that can take gorgeous photos. If you're willing to invest in yourself, take a photography class that covers the basics. There is so much information online these days, from photography blogs to YouTube tutorials. The point is, though, to make use of this amazing tool you have. Don't let it sit and collect dust. Go out and practice, practice, practice.
I am toying with offering one-on-one mentoring to teach some basic photography and how to use a dSLR camera as a service. Let me know if you might be interested!
Grab a Trusted Friend or Family Member
Is it necessary to hire someone for every milestone that comes along? No, but you should still have photos from the days and events you want to remember, like birthdays, baptisms, dance recitals and first t-ball games. Get comfortable handing off your camera to a trusted friend or family member with the request that they take some photos for you. This allows you to enjoy, say, your child''s first birthday party and get you in the picture as well. The last thing any of us needs is our kid asking where the heck mom was all those years. Christmas morning? Hand your husband the camera. Let go of perfection and settle for presence.
The latest iPhone 7 Plus is one of the best point and shoot cameras on the market right now. But even without that 7 Plus version, you have the ability to take and edit beautiful photos within moments on your phone. Basic photography knowledge definitely helps (lighting & composition being your main lessons), and there are a lot of free photo editing apps that can give your photos a boost (another post for another day).
Please, just do me one favor and when you take 20 of the same photo, go back and pick out your favorite one or two. Delete the rest. Yes, delete. I do this weekly, and it saves so much space and my sanity when I'm going back to find a photo. Sit down to watch This Is Us, sift through your photos during commercials. Boom. Done.
Step 1 of having photos of your kids and family is TAKE THE PHOTOS. If you don't take them, you can't complain that you don't have them. So think about what is a priority to you, book a session, learn to use that fancy camera, and when in doubt, grab a selfie with your nearest and dearest and love it for what it is.
The next post in this set will discuss free photo editing apps for your phone pictures, so stay tuned!