Your very own guide to making your documentary session awesome
Hi! Thank you so much for choosing me!
I am so excited to make fun and meaningful images for you of your family. As a documentary family photographer, my intention for your session is to create a story with beautiful imagery that is authentic to your family and to give your kids photos of you in their childhood. I do this by taking a step back and letting everyone go about their life while I act like a fly on the wall in a way. No cheesy poses in these sessions and definitely nothing asked of you that will make you feel uncomfortable to get the shot.
I want your session to be fun and stress-free, so I've put together some some tips for making your session just that. Remember, that we will have a phone call prior to the session to go over any last minute concerns, questions or ideas!
If you find you have questions after reading this, you can send me an email or we can hop on the phone!
How the sessions will work
A documentary session is designed to tell your family story with as little direction from me as possible. Prior to the session, we will have determined a basic plan of what will be captured and where we'll be starting. I'll show up about 5 minutes before the start-time, we'll say hi and meet if we haven't before, I'll put my cameras on and that's it. We get right into it by your family carrying on with whatever you were doing before I arrived.
These sessions usually flow super easily from one activity to the next. I am always mindful of the time and how long I'm with your family, so sometimes I might make a suggestion to do something new if I feel like we need to move onto the next thing.
1. LET THE MOMENTS UNFOLD NATURALLY
The goal of a documentary session is to create truly authentic images and the way for this to happen is by allowing the moments to unfold naturally. What does this mean? It means you don't have to tell your kids to do anything specific.
Does your son always come up to you and give you a squeeze around your neck and kiss on your cheek without you asking? Or does your daughter do a silly little dance when she's in a good mood? Or do your kids have a funny sibling handshake they do together? By letting the kids be, the chances of them doing these things on their own during the session are super high especially because of the amount of time I am with you. BUT if you tell them to do these things they rarely happen the way you want them to.
When you let kids do things on their own time, they do it. If you want a photo of them doing the little quirks they do day to day, just let them be and trust that I am going to capture that moment when it happens naturally.
2. ENJOY YOURSELF
A documentary session takes anywhere between 2-8 hours, and you may feel like you need to be “on” the whole time. You don’t. I promise. At some point most of my clients forget that I’m there, but if you feel like you need to retreat to a quiet room and take some time for yourself during the shoot, I’ll focus on something else. While it can sometimes feel like the session is perhaps boring or a total gong show, I am creating beautiful and memorable images. My biggest piece of advice to make your documentary session as amazing as possible is to enjoy yourself. Be in the moment with your family, with your kids and with your pet. Be there, go about your day, let the moments happen and TRUST in me and my ability that I am doing what you hired me to do.
Because this is a documentary session and I am documenting natural moments as they unfold, there is no need to remind your kids over and over to, 'look at the camera.' Just let them be. Reminding them of the camera will change the energy of the session. They will look at the camera on their own.
3. PLAN SIMPLE, UNPLUGGED ACTIVITIES... OR NOTHING AT ALL.
My goal is to capture whatever is normally going on at your house and in your family life. It may be as simple as eating lunch or something like a craft project, basketball or an errand (yes, I can follow you to the grocery store). It might be ballet practice or homework. It might be you on your computer while your partner picks up toys and your kids argue over the last apple juice. The idea is that it’s what you normally do. If you have something to do, you are more likely to act more naturally in front of the camera, and so are your kids. Some parents like to play the day by ear while others like to plan each day’s activities in advance. During your session, either approach is 100% okay. When in doubt, let your kids choose at least one activity.
Ideas for activities to consider:
- Sunday breakfast
- a walk to the playground
- wading/swimming pools
- water balloon fights
- arts and crafts
- seasonal activities (pumpkin patch, Christmas tree farm, Easter egg hunt)
- grocery shopping
- face painting
- your average Thursday afternoon
4. LOCATION, LOCATION
I shoot both in-home and on-location, but regardless of the “where”, the more important question is – will this place be meaningful to your family? Think of places that your family visits as part of your normal routine. The connection between people is important, but if the environment can add to the story, it will be even more meaningful!
Ideas for different locations:
- your home
- your local park/playground
- your favourite diner where the server knows your kids order
- your cottage
- grandparents home
- a pumpkin patch you go to every year
- do you go apple picking at the same orchard or cut your Christmas tree at the same farm each year
For the Family Archive, since I am with you for 3+ times over a year, you can choose to have each session somewhere different OR you can choose to have them all done in your home and surrounding area. It's completely up to you. I'm here to help come up with fun ideas if you need some!
5. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CLEAN!
But if you really must, think of it as friends are visiting – tidy up like you would for them. Please don’t
stress about cleaning every baseboard or shelf, and staging it like it one of your Pinterest boards.
Sometimes a little mess tells a good story too! To me, it means a room well lived in and a home well loved. Since the goal of documentary sessions is to document life as it is, please keep your home looking like how it does on a regular basis. There should be evidence of children in your home and your home should look lived in in your photos.
Often have books on your stairs?
Is there always a pile of shoes by your front door?
Do the kids have lego pieces scattered on the floor?
Does your dog leave their bones out?
Are there finger prints on your doors and mirrors?
Great. Keep em all there!
Looking back on images from my own childhood, I find myself often looking in the background and noticing the furniture, toys and stuff that was laying around and it brings the memory of what is happening in the image to life.
Please do open the curtains and blinds, natural window light is my best friend.
6. DON'T BE AFRAID OF BAD BEHAVIOUR
If your child is being who they are with me, as they would with you, then I cannot ask for more. Children are often the most authentic of the bunch, their actions and expressions are pure and unfiltered and that, to me, is gold. Please don’t feel the need to bribe or discipline, unless of course it is a situation that requires your attention at that moment. Please do not be alarmed if I document those tender or challenging moments as well, because family life is a full spectrum of joy and tears.
To help prepare kids age 3+, tell them your friend Alex is coming over and she's going to spend some time with you guys, just hanging out. Oh and she might bring her camera with her and take some photos of you guys, but don't worry, you don't have to do anything....And leave it at that.
Some things to keep in mind:
If your kid reacts negatively to sugar, avoid giving them any during the session.
If a mealtime isn't going to be part of the session, ensuring your kid has a fully belly before I arrive is a good idea.
7. DRESS NORMALLY
My biggest tip when it comes to outfits is to wear what you're comfortable in and what you already own. Since this is a documentary session, the goal is to look how you do in your day to day life. This means no matching outfits and no need to wear your Sunday best. The goal of these photos is to tell a story and accurately portray your family life and one way of helping this is by wearing clothes that everyone loves. Choose that outfit you wear all the time that your kids will remember you wearing. Do your hair and makeup how you always do.
For kids, I think it's best if they can choose their own outfits. They will be so much happier when they love what they're wearing!
Select yours and your partners (and kids if they can't choose themselves) outfits a few days before the session so everyone is on the same page of what they'll be wearing.
8. CONSIDER THE FINISHED PRODUCT.
Think about what you want to do with your photos. Are they for sharing online with family? Printing in a book or album? A set of framed prints? I bring this up because with documentary sessions, you will probably not get the traditional everyone-smiling-at-the-camera portrait your relatives expect on a Christmas card. You will have a set of images that works together as a fluid collection, but it may be difficult to pick out one to hang on the wall as representative of your whole family. As a special gift, if you’d like, we can do a quick 5-10 minute mini-mini session to close out your documentary session, probably just in front of your home. It allows to get some more classic photos of you all smiling and facing the camera before we finish. And you can even change into coordinating clothes. Just let me know at the start of the session I this is something you'd like.
After Your Session
1. GET EXCITED
After your session, I will get to work on culling your images down to the very best of the best, (typically 40-100 depending on the length of session). Then editing those images and getting them into your gallery.
Once they're ready, I'll be in touch to schedule your 24-hour slideshow window. When you get the slideshow link, I encourage you to make an event of it! Queue it up on your tv screen or computer, gather the whole family around (sound up!)...the first time you see your photos is always the best.
Once you've selected and paid for your collection, your gallery will open for thirty days, pre-loaded with your print credit and set for you to download the number of files that corresponds to your collection.
2. DOWNLOADING YOUR FILES
Once you've decided which images you'd like to use for your download credit (no need to choose if you go with collection C), I'd encourage you to do that immediately.
The process is simple: select the images and use the down arrow in the upper right corner of your gallery - click on that and the system will walk you through the download process. The images will download as a zip file, which you can double-click on to expand. I suggest you make a second copy of the expanded files, then save the two copies to two different locations - I generally recommend that one copy be saved to an easily accessible drive (either on your computer or on an external hard drive), and that the other get saved to the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).
3. COPYRIGHTS (AND WRONGS)
Once you’ve got your digital files in hand, you are free to print them when, where, and as often as you
wish - you can use them to make holiday cards, share on your social media pages or personal blog, etc.
The only things you can’t do are related to the resale of your photos or use for commercial/business
For instance, if you authored a book, you’d need additional permission to use one of the photos on the
dust jacket, and you wouldn’t be able to enter one of the photos into a contest and win prize money for it.
Otherwise, you’ve got free reign.
4. PRINTING YOUR IMAGES
While everything that I offer in my store is printed in professional labs and guaranteed to be beautiful, I also recognize that you may want to print your images yourself, and thanks to those digital files, you absolutely can! I recommend Pikto.com for local printing and for online prints. Be sure to de-select any colour correction options, and be sure to upload the original files you downloaded, not copies. The files you receive from me should allow you to print up to 20x30" at minimum.
Below are a few items you can use your print credit towards from whichever collection you purchase:
PROFESSIONAL LAB PRINTS
Your favourite images are professionally printed on archival quality photo paper with your choice of a semi-gloss or deep matte finish. These full bleed prints are available in a variety of sizes, and are perfect for framing and hanging on the wall or giving as a special gift.
5x7 / $25
8x10 / $40
11x14 / $60
These beautiful hardwood frames will protect your prints from damage and help them look their very best in a spot for everyone to enjoy. Frames come in your choice of white or black and always includes an acid free mat-board and framer's acrylic glass. The quality has excellent print longevity and has been rated for 200 plus years fade resistance.
8x12” (external measurement) / $220
14x18" (external measurement) / $350
18x24" (external measurement) / $490
These lovely hard cover books are printed on smooth silk paper (250gsm). Layout and design options are limited only by your imagination, and can be further customized with your choice of linen covers and custom foiled letters.
10 spreads (20 pages) are included in the price below.
Additional spreads (1 spread = 2 pages)
can be added for $25 each.
10x10" / $500
12x12” / $600
At the end of the day, the goal and point of this documentary session is to create a sequence of images that come together and tell your family story.
I will bring my cameras and my talent to you and if you meet me halfway by trusting me and just being with your family and letting everything unfold the way it does, your documentary session will be incredible.
If you have any questions about your upcoming session that you don't think I answered here, please let me know! I'm happy to answer anything :)