Even “bad” photos make memories

We believe that every photo has the ability to be a good photo. In other words, there are no such things as bad photos. Well, maybe if a photo is out of focus and the color balance is totally off. Then, maybe that would just make it an artsy image, not a bad one; however, that artsiness not entirely what we’re going for as portrait photographers. It’s all how you look at the picture, though.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: perfect family photos are for the birds! In our eyes, we want to give you the experience of your family’s full range of emotions, not just stiff, posed shots. Parenthood, and childhood on the flip side, isn’t all smiles and sunshine. While we aren’t suggesting that your family has a meltdown in front of the camera, we are suggesting that even photos in which someone “isn’t ready” or making a funny face are photos that are worthwhile to take.

Throughout a session, it is possible that someone cries, but that simply allows us to photograph a very tender, heartfelt moment of you comforting your child. There are open, honest emotions in that picture that express your love and devotion. That sentiment is much more meaningful, especially when you or your child look back on those photos days, months, and even years later, than one of smiles held stiffly. While it may not be an ideal situation, it makes for a memorable and worthwhile moment in time.

The same could be said for your toddler stumbling, then popping right back up in the next photo to keep running and playing with his sister. Or of your husband falling asleep on the floor next to your baby. Or you smirking at your wife after cracking a smartass joke. There are all sorts of emotions that your family will go through and the whole range is meaningful and deserves to be documented, not just the “good” ones.

As Sam, one of the human halves of Porter Loves Photography says, “The pictures I love from my childhood are the ones where someone caught me laughing with my sister…This is also true of the photos of my parents from their childhoods that I value most.”

We bet you’ve sat around the kitchen table during a family holiday and looked through old family photos. You laughed at the face your sister always makes when she’s annoyed, wondered why you thought that hairstyle was so cool when you were 12, and reminisced about helping Grandma make Sunday dinner every week. Without those albums and conversation, the memories would be so much harder to recall. We would love nothing more than to give you and your family that experience.

But unless you allow yourself to let go of perfection and open up to the idea that there are no bad photos, those memories won’t be committed to film.

When we take photos of your family in an Our Everyday session, we want to tell the story of your family. Simply stated, a story has an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution. Your family’s story wouldn’t be very interesting, fulfilling, or authentic if we just clicked the camera when everyone was looking one direction and smiling. Capturing your family with their true personalities showing through carries your family story along.

What to Expect During an Our Everyday Photo Session

pittsburgh documentary family photographer

Occasionally, it can be tricky to go into a new situation if you’re unsure of what’s going to happen. We find that many families, especially with young children, like to explain what everyone can expect when we join your family fun during an Our Everyday photo shoot. This way, everyone is aware of what’s to come. As we’ve mentioned before, we want your family to have fun and make memories. It’s a lot easier to relax when you know how and what to prepare.

We can’t emphasize enough that we want you to be comfortable. Many times, we’ve found that young kids can be shy, and sometimes even wary, of the camera. We totally understand that big cameras and new people can be scary! If that becomes apparent early in the session, we take some time to let everyone warm up to our presence. Just explaining the equipment and spending a few minutes to get to know everyone makes a world of difference.

The second thing we can’t emphasize enough is that we want you to be natural. As such, we’ll tend to stay out of the way and let you and your family play, explore, and interact while we’re there recording it for you. Think of us as your family’s personal paparazzi, capturing everything without getting in your face!

We may suggest a few activities or locations as they present themselves, but we strive not to force situations that just don’t work out. Instead, your family has free reign to do what feels natural. We’ll also look for opportunities that provide the best chance for fun, natural photos.

Along with capturing your family having fun, we take a lot of pictures. Because of that, you can expect to see a variety of compositions that you wouldn’t be able to do yourself with a camera phone or a selfie stick. While those are great for spur of the moment situations, these photos are an investment and our equipment (and, of course, expertise) allows you to get the best possible shot. Not to mention, everyone will be in the photo since we’re the ones running the camera!

Now, here’s something that we expect from you: open communication. Input from you is awesome! We love when you want to “direct” the shoot. After all, we’re there to capture your family having fun. If there’s something you want us to be sure to commemorate on film, please let us know. We’re happy to listen and we’re always flexible to adapt to new circumstances.

While the actual photos will vary from family to family, our process for taking them is fairly constant. From all of our Our Everyday photo sessions, you can tell that the family in front of the camera is relaxed and comfortable. We find that when you and your family is prepared for the session and know what to expect, that relaxation and natural fun comes out a lot easier! And after all, that’s when the best memories are made.

Five Simple Steps to Have a Great Family Photo Shoot

The big day is finally here – you’re taking family photos with us! (May we say, congrats for crossing that off your to-do list!) You’ve been looking forward to this moment since you booked it. Except it just hit you: how do I prepare for our session?

Since a lot of families ask us what they should do to ensure they have the best experience during picture day, we came up with a list of our top five suggestions to make your photo session a success.

You know how the box of cereal has “Serving Suggestion” printed on it? Think of this as our serving suggestion. You’re welcome to pour the cereal in the bowl or add your own flair with some berries and juice. What we mean to say is: think of this as a jumping off point.

First and foremost: do what makes you and your family comfortable. That’s what Our Everyday photo sessions are all about. We want to capture your family in their truest, most authentic light.

Think about favorite things to do as a family. Is your family very active and love to play outside? Or do you prefer to cook up pizza every Saturday and allow the person with the best week to pick the toppings? Whatever your family is into, that’s what we want to be sure we document. Even though these are slightly more cold-weather centric, many of the places on this list are great for year round family fun.

Wear something comfortable. This is especially important if you’ll be running around at the park or exploring the Water Steps on the North Shore. Make sure that your clothes are easy for you to move in and make you feel relaxed, confident, and comfortable. Be sure your kids are also wearing an outfit they feel good in. If they’re wearing something scratchy and not enjoying it, you will be able to see it in their faces.

Keep your clothes and makeup simple. Nix anything with a small pattern. Tiny and/or very busy prints won’t show up on camera well. The same goes for super sparkly makeup. It will catch the light (and the camera) in a distracting way.

Don’t feel like you have to match. We’re all for coordinating what you’ll be wearing, but you don’t have to match perfectly. (Looking at you, 90s-era super-posed family photos with everyone in a blue polo shirt and khaki pants.) In fact, we don’t aim for perfection during these shoots. We would rather your family express who they are and make memories as a family instead of trying to negotiate the perfect outfit and perfect staged pose.

Be well-fed and well-rested. While this suggestion is mostly for smaller children, Mom and Dad should also heed this advice. Remember those candy bar commercials that use the slogan, “You’re not you when you’re hungry?” We want to capture your family, not a pack of bears! If possible, schedule your session after naptime or in the morning after a good night of sleep so everyone is in a good mood. It may be helpful to pack some granola bars, just in case.

No matter what your style is or how you like to interact as a family, remembering these suggestions as you prepare for your family photo shoot will ensure that you have a great experience and that we capture a fun memory for you and your family.

Have fun, not perfect, family photos

Family photos from Pittsburgh photographers

When it comes time to take family photos, do you get stuck in an analysis paralysis loop? Do questions like, “Will the kids be in a good mood,” “Will the weather behave,” “Is there time to coordinate outfits,” “Should I bring backup outfits,” and so on consume you to the extent that you stop yourself from even scheduling a photo shoot because aiming for perfection becomes too overwhelming? If this is you, that’s okay. We see so many families stress out unnecessarily and worry about getting everything perfect when it comes time to take family photos.

And we are here to tell you that we don’t want your pictures to be perfect. Yep, that’s right: we do not want you to be perfect in your family photos. Because, and correct us if we’re wrong, families aren’t perfect, so why do you feel like your photos have to be?

Instead, we want you to have fun and capture the reality of your family. Everyone doesn’t have to be smiling in every single photo you take. We can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “He looks like his dad when he’s upset, but me when he’s happy.” If you just have stiff, posed shots, you don’t get to explore the full expression of your children.

Don’t get us wrong, you’ll still get amazing shots from us. I mean, just look at this Our Everyday shoot we did at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Even the silly photos are adorable and highlight everyone’s personality. And that’s exactly what the family wanted; happy memories to reflect on and cherish for years to come. That’s exactly what we want you to have for your family, too.

It’s one of our core beliefs that stem from personal experience. Sam, one of the human halves of Porter Loves Photography, says, “The pictures I love from my childhood are the ones where someone caught me laughing with my sister, not where I’m sitting stiffly smiling directly to camera. Moreover, I’m wearing whatever 7 year old me felt like wearing and not something my mom forced on me.

“This is also true of the photos of my parents from their childhoods that I value most. The standard grip and grin or otherwise ‘perfect’ photo doesn’t carry a story with it.”

Who doesn’t want to leave a legacy that speaks to generations of your family to come?

We also believe it’s so important to take photos together that include the whole family. Even families with good cameras and talented photographers miss out on those memories because someone has to work the camera. Making it fun and easy for you and giving you photos that you couldn’t take yourself is what we’re all about. While an Our Everyday shoot with us may include a few posed family photos, for the most part, we explore the world with your family.

Bottom line: stop worrying about getting the perfect shot and instead focus on making memories that will be passed along and cherished by everyone.