I never took my family for a professional portrait session when my kids were little. Still we've had only one session at our home, and that was because we won it at a Breast Cancer fundraiser. Weird, I know coming from someone who is a photographer today! I saw all my friends making appointments at department stores to get their annual family/kid shots and the guilt would set in. But when I heard their experiences, I was scared off!
The harrowing tales were usually told over margaritas on my patio, accompanied by raucous laughter and a ‘you’ve been warned’ look of insanity gleaming in the mom’s eyes. Here’s how the story usually went:
“Ok, so I’ve got everyone packed up, looking beautiful and can you believe it, I got us there on time---5 minutes to spare?! I got the last slot available to get the pics in time for Christmas cards. Yay for me! Course that slot was at 1:00, but that’s alright, I’m sure my kids won’t REALLY need their nap today to look happy (insert eye roll)! Today will be totally different from any other day we are forced to miss naptime (if I tell myself that enough times maybe I’ll believe it!) (insert another eye roll)!
So we get there and the lobby is jam packed and reeking of someone’s freshly dirtied diaper. I keep thinking, yuck, change that kid! After two minutes, I realize, oh it’s Milly’s dirty diaper which doesn’t make any sense because she just pooped before we left the house! I’m afraid if I leave to change her they will give someone else our slot and we’ll have to wait longer. So, as discreetly and sanitarily as possible I change Milly the whole time trying to ignore how thick the tension is in the room.
Our 5 minutes have come and gone and 10 more have passed, so I go to ask, very calmly, how long it’s going to be.
“We’re sorry mam, but we are running a little behind, please have a seat and wait in our lobby.”
Hum, I think, that didn’t really answer my question. Cut to 50 minutes later, officially 2 hours past nap time. There are a few ‘additions’ to our portrait session that weren’t with us when we arrived and my mind keeps wondering back to the lessons I learned in pscyh class about cramming too many animals in small cages…
- one giant scrape on my 2 year old’s face from a tussle over a Thomas train with his 4 year old brother.
- one tomato shaded, blotchy skinned baby girl produced from the last 20 minutes of screaming.
- Two pairs of blue lips—thank you blow pops that were supposed to keep the boys quiet and did, but only for 10 minutes.
- One greasy smear on my husband’s shirt from the French fries that were bought to pacify the angry mob my family was becoming.
- And lastly, most dear to me, my nicely covered ‘fine lines’ had become giant stress fractures my make up was falling into. I’m sure I looked angry and frustrated, because, well, I was angry and frustrated.
My bribes for the boys had turned to threats and all I could envision was someone from Social Services hauling me away AT OUR FAMILY PORTRAIT SESSION! Will my portrait pull double duty as my mug shot??!! Oh yeah, and before it was all said and done I paid several hundred dollars for all these shots of our 'happy' family...well they are decent I just don't know if I can bring myself to do that all again!
These kinds of stories always provided ample incentive for me to stear clear of department store photography sessions. I'm a betting woman and I wasn't laying any odds on anyone getting great shots of my 3 boys, all under 2 at the time, in that kind of scenario. Instead, I began to C A P T U R E our daily lives in ways that were meaningful to me with a little Canon Powershot point and shoot. That little camera was a work horse! I found daily life images tugged at my heart strings while studio images always made me say, ‘that’s a nice picture,’ but they rarely engaged me. I became passionate about recording our lives and the lives of our friends and family in authentic ways. My equipment and my skills continued to grow as I recorded life in a way that reveals rather then just shows. I know today they call that lifestyle photography. Little did I realize I was in 2nd career training!
Offers for work started coming in, doors were opening and I decided it was time to consider making this a 2nd career since all my boys were now in school. I set to task of building a business, taking training courses and shooting a portfolio. Moving from hobbyist to pro has been quite an enormous journey, much larger than I'd ever imagined at the start, but an incredible one!
C A P T U R E D photography by Jennifer DiDio was born. My philosophy with recording life has remained constant: photographs should boldly proclaim, ‘this is who we are,’ ‘this is what we love to do,’ and ‘this is what we treasure.’ That's hardly proclaimed by 'sit still, fold your hands and smile' photos. There’s an old Amy Grant lyric, ‘it’s not a song till it touches your heart, it's not a song till it tears you apart.’ Well, I feel the same way about photographs. Lifestyle photography is a larger investment than 20 minute studio shoots, in all ways, but the memories produced make it an investment you’ll be happy you made generations to come!