In the span of time between the first moment I picked up a camera and today, I have taken hundreds of thousands of photographs. When I was little, I took photos of my cousins at family gatherings. As I grew older, I took snapshots of my friends in school, my boyfriend (now husband) playing in a rock band, and my beloved dog, Brady. Once my two boys came along, the number of photographs in my collection shot off the charts, and when I started my photography business, I added thousands of photos of my clients.
Do you know what was missing from my collection? Me.
A little over two years ago, a friend of mine was killed while out for a morning jog. As I sat at her funeral and watched a slideshow of her life, I was hit with the realization that the photos she left behind were suddenly priceless artifacts that her children, family, and friends would treasure forever.
Then, in October 2013, Jodi Friedman, MCP’s owner, wrote a very personal post about being photographed. To this day, that post still stands as my favorite from this blog, and it had a very powerful influence on both how I viewed myself and how I felt about being in photos.
I had been thinking about my friend’s death and the photos she left behind for her children, and I realized that I needed to stop letting my own insecurities keep me behind the camera and out of photos, for the sake of my loved ones—especially my children. However, my attempts at getting in photos using the timer on my camera were completely exhausting me.
During our trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia last summer, I decided I would take our own family photos on the beach using that method.
Instead of the fabulous photos I envisioned, this was the best I could do:
And although this photo represents the memory of that one time when I wore myself out completely and sweated through my dress while running back and forth between my camera and three incredibly frustrated guys, it wasn’t the beautiful photo I wanted to hang on my wall.
Fast forward to this year…
This year, when we planned our vacation to Jekyll Island, I planned a photo session with a local photographer while there. For the first time since launching my own photography business, I was a photography client. In addition to photos of my kiddos playing on the beach that I took myself, this year I got incredible photos of my entire family.
As a result of my fabulous experience being in front of the camera for a change, there are a few lessons I learned that I would love to share. Here are some tips to help you get in photos and fall in love with them.
1. Hire a Photographer
- My experience of trying to take my own family beach photos last summer was exhausting and frustrating. I’m glad that I have plenty of great photos of my husband and children to pass on to my boys one day, but I also want them to remember how frizzy the ocean air makes my hair and the way my nose scrunches up a little when I laugh. Most importantly, I want them to have photographic evidence of my love for them to remind them long after I’m gone. I want my grandchildren to see the love I have for their parents and their grandfather.
- Always being behind the camera keeps that from happening. Although there are tons of photographers who have mastered the art of the self-timer or the remote shutter release, I am not one of those photographers. If you are not either, save yourself the stress and exhaustion and hire a photographer to capture those things for you.
2. Do Your Research
- When I first started trying to find a photographer in the Jekyll Island area, I knew I wanted a lifestyle photographer; however, no amount of searching turned up the “right” one. I found a ton of wedding photographers, several formal portrait photographers, and a few others family photographers, but none of their photos were exactly what I was personally looking for. So, I didn’t hire anyone. In fact, I decided not to have photos taken on vacation at all and started researching local photographers instead. Then, on a whim one day, I did a search for lifestyle photographers in the Jekyll Island area again. This time, the very first result of my search was a photographer named Jennifer Tacbas. I took one look at her website and fell in love.
- This piggy-backs off “Hire a Photographer.” Don’t hire just any photographer. Do your research and hire the photographer whose work you connect with the most. If you make the decision to hire a professional to do photos for you, don’t hire anyone until you find the photographer who fits the style you want for your photos. I didn’t want formal portraits. I wanted a lifestyle photographer. Instead of hiring someone from the options available, I waited until I found the best of who was available for me, personally.
- During my very first e-mail to Jennifer, I let her know that my youngest son, Finley, is autistic. I wanted her to know that getting his attention and any sort of eye contact is next to impossible, especially in a fairly new environment like I knew any location while on vacation would be. Throughout our following conversations, I reinforced the idea that “perfect” photos with everyone smiling at the camera were important to me. I wanted authentic photos that showed our interactions as a family, which I already knew Jennifer would capture after viewing her work. I also wanted her stress level minimized. I wanted her to enjoy our session as well, and I didn’t want her to fear I would be disappointed if a “perfect” photo didn’t happen. The photos that resulted were still perfect, in every way—just a different definition of the word.
- Be sure to make your photographer aware of any issues that might be important to you. Do you have a child who is nervous around strangers? How about a personal insecurity, such as hating your nose or smile? Or do you have an issue such as mine? Let your photographer know up front. By doing so, you can ensure that your photographer has the knowledge needed to make your session the best it can possibly be.
4. Have Fun!
- Instead of ending our session exhausted and sweaty from running back and forth to my camera, I ended our session exhausted and sweaty from having an incredible amount of fun with my family. We played in the sand, twirled around in circles, and had tickle fights. We explored Driftwood Beach and the grounds of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, gave nose kisses, and chased crabs. In short, we had a blast.
- If you choose to hire a photographer, a big reason for doing so is to save yourself from feeling stressed out. What does that mean? Don’t stress. Have fun. Not only will doing so produce photos that show genuine interactions, but it can also help any members of your family who might not be as excited about having family photos taken as you.
5. Love Your Photos
- Those who love me know that I can be incredibly critical of my own appearance, which is one of the reasons I am usually happy to be behind the lens instead of in front of it. However, Jodi Friedman’s post about her experience having her own photos taken was a true eye-opener for me, so before viewing the photos from our session, I made the mental decision to love the way I looked in them. And I did. Because ultimately, my kids don’t care about my love handles. They will never notice if I have a double chin or goofy look on my face in a photo. I shouldn’t either. I didn’t have photos taken for friends on social media (or readers of this post) who might criticize my appearance. Ultimately, I had photos taken for my sons, Gavin and Finley. So ultimately, Gavin’s and Finley’s opinions are the only ones that matter to me.
- Whether you love or hate your appearance, make the decision to love the photos that preserve who you are. Read Jodi’s post, if you need the same inspiration that enabled me to do so.
My experience in front of the camera as a photography client provided me with precious memories, gorgeous photos that now hang on my wall, and a new perspective as a photographer. Our photographer treated us with kindness, patience, and professionalism and I can only hope I make my own clients feel the way she made us feel, both during the session and every time we look at her beautiful work.
Get out from behind the camera for a change. If doing so means hiring someone else, hire someone whose work you love. Communicate your expectations, have fun during your session, and love yourself and the photos you are in.
Your loved ones will be glad you did.
Photos by Jennifer Tacbas included with permission from the photographer.
Lindsay Williams lives in south central Kentucky with her husband, David, and their two sons, Gavin and Finley. When she isn’t teaching high school English or spending time with her family, she owns and operates Lindsay Williams Photography, which specializes in lifestyle photography. You can check out her work on her website. You can view more work by Jennifer Tacbas on Jennifer’s website.