The Question That Set Things in Motion

Would you mind taking a picture of my family?

Who would have thought that this is all it would take to shift my years of photography podcast binge listening, day dreaming, and late night plans that never amounted to anything to a movement of activity and desire to set into motion a way to make learning how to take portraits happen? Not me.  This was even a question that I had been asked before.

I accepted the invitation and started the familiar dialogue in my head. “I am going to take the best photos ever. Of course she would ask me, I am the very best for the job. Oh wait, I don’t know how to pose a family or know how to use my camera as well as I’d like.  Hmmm. I know, I will spend every waking hour studying the subject. Oh wait, I have a family with both teenagers and a toddler. I don’t have time to. I have so much to learn. I will never be as good as I want. Maybe I should have said no.” Then comes the fear, maybe another internal pep talk, who knows.

This time though, I had a friend to brainstorm with. I told her about my dilemma, my fears and desires, and for some reason my brain sorted it all out and I realized that it was time, and that I could do it.  I gave myself permission to not  be a fantastic photographer already but be the one that I was right now. A mediocre beginner. I gave myself permission to make mistakes and fail AND permission to learn and grow.  I didn’t realize until this conversation that I had put the burden of perfection upon myself. I spent so much time dreaming of learning this skill that I would get discouraged I hadn’t already learned it. I think it was also the fact that I was effecting others with this journey.

When I wanted to learn to make quilts, I would spend all my free time making blankets or other projects that would help me perfect my sewing skills. But it only effected me. If I messed up and had to trash a project, no one needed to know about it. I may have wasted a few yards of fabric but that was it. It was my fabric and it was worth the lesson. If I were to take a picture of someone else, I would tell myself that I needed to already be good at it. I couldn’t give them mediocre work, I needed to give them the work I had in my head. Anything less wouldn’t be fair to them and I don’t think I could bear to admit to myself I was capable of anything less.

This realization and permission is huge. I am still fighting that perfectionist, self doubting dialogue, but I will win.

To make things official, I started thinking about families I could ask to model for me, made some scary phone calls and filled up the calendar (you know, two sessions for each month) and prayed for the courage to follow through.

So, here is that family picture I committed to take. It was the second family session and went so much smoother in some ways. I learned so much that first time around and took the time to better prepare.


Look at their hands, no one is standing stiff, the family is all connected to eachother even though there is a little space around the individuals. This in and of its self made a huge difference.

What I learned.

Well, I realized after analyzing the photos from this and the last session that my gear is holding me back. In both this and the last session, all the pictures came out soft regardless of how careful I was to focus correctly. In the above picture you barely make out any detail around the eyes and the subjects just seem blurry.

I also learned that prayer works. Well, I already knew this but it was confirmed again.

For the first half an hour of shooting, I couldn’t get the camera to focus. I had everyone line up and ready to go but when I checked the picture it would be so blurry. Like so much worse than the photo above. After putting the session on hold and fiddling with anything and everything I could think of, I approached the parents and asked if we could say a prayer. A prayer was offered. I walked back to the camera and realized within a few second that my LCD screen was fogged over. All, I needed to do was wipe it off. The pictures were still soft but so much clearer that I had thought.

I also learned that I need to be careful not to rush. I need to take control of the session and not let my fears of taking too much time get me flustered.  I think if I would have taken the time to find a new location I would have saved quite a few pictures. I also got nervous when taking pictures of the couple and should have paused and looked at my phone to remember all the preparation I did.

There were still quite a few keepers that I hope the family will enjoy.


One last thing. This family is amazing. The love between them is so very inspiring. The respect between parents and children is beautiful and it spilled over onto the children. There was normal interactions but it was so obvious how much they loved each other. I think seeing these types of interactions has been my favorite part of both this and the last family session. Family love is so beautiful.

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