Warning! This blog post requires audience participation!

I want you to imagine your ideal family portrait hanging on your wall…

Seriously, close your eyes and imagine it. Who is in it? What are they wearing? Who are you standing next to? What colors do you see? What is in the background? Is there anything in the foreground? Are you in the city? A park? Overlooking water?  Are there trees, grass, buildings? Where is everyone looking? Can you see their expressions? Is it a serene and serious photo, or is there laughter? Smiling?

 I’m guessing you probably said yes to smiling. But look again…are they REALLY smiling? Did you say, “Yes”? Then can I ask, why are they smiling? Is it because Grandma promised them ice cream if they behave during the photo shoot? Is it because Dad has lollipops in his pocket that he’s handing out like dollar bills every time a kid cracks a grin? (Believe me, I don’t judge!) Are they smiling because you, the Mom who desperately wants a picture of your entire family together (with you actually in it for once); the same Mom who scheduled this portrait session in hopes you could miraculously make it happen, who stressed for a week about outfit style and perfect colors and if that dress is flattering, who promised your husband he wouldn’t look cheesy or matchy-matchy, who snuck out of work way too early to pick up the kids, who realized one of your cranky kids has a runny nose and the other didn’t take his afternoon nap, who wrangled them into matching outfits in the backseat of the car trying not to ruin your dress, who is carrying baby wipes around to wipe off the boogers and dirt they have collected in the last 5 minutes, who is watching your spouse show up late and you swear they might be wearing a tee-shirt and flip flops; might have actually lost your cool and threated their very lives if everyone didn’t stare at the camera and smile? (And again, I do not judge.)

 Or maybe they are smiling because, despite all that drama, they are actually having fun. They are truly smiling out of pure joy…The kind of smile that starts in your eyes and ends when all the people looking at you are also smiling because it was contagious. That’s the kind of smiles I think we all image in our ideal family portraits.

Before every family photoshoot, I ask the Mom or Dad what their goals are for the session and not once has someone said to me, “I want a picture of all of us looking at the camera smiling”. Never. Are you surprised? I actually was when I first started doing this. Instead they say things like…

 “I have never been able to get my family together for a portrait, and I just so badly want a picture of us all together.”

Or they say…

“If you can just get a picture of us all together with the baby not crying, that would be a miracle.”

Or they say…

“My husband and I haven’t had a real photograph since our wedding, and I would love one of us together.” 

Does this all sound relatable? Do you see the common denominator in every conversation I have with a Mom or Dad about their portraits? They all say, “Together”. People just want to be together with their loved ones and to have a way to remember that time together.

More than a family all in the same place, looking in the same direction and smiling, portraiture should reflect togetherness…Connectedness…Loved ones having fun together…Having experiences together…Feeling happiness together. My goal isn’t to just capture families looking at me and my camera. (I’m really not all that cute to look at!) My goal is to capture families looking at EACH OTHER. I mean I want them REALLY looking at each other…connecting with each other…loving each other. In the end it doesn’t matter what you wear, or what happened before you got there, or if you have a picture-perfect family on that particular day. What matters is the togetherness, because that is what creates beautiful, emotionally charged portraiture. That is what creates moments and memories. That is what creates your family history.