What is a Day in the Life anyway?

So you want "authentic" photos of your and your family, and you're curious about this Day in the Life option - but what exactly would you be signing up for?

This type of session has been offered by documentary family photographers for quite a while now, and others have described it well with a variety of analogies - a visiting friend who brings their camera along, an embedded photojournalist, and what not. The idea is a combination of two seemingly exclusive roles.

One the one hand, the photographer is invisible, a non-participant, ignored by everyone as they go about their day. There are no instructions to smile, or look at the camera, in fact avoiding that sort of the thing is the point. You and everyone else prepares and eats food, plays games, does work, smiles and laughs at each other, or manages a tantrum, goes outside, stays inside, or any of the other countless things we do and enjoy on any given day. Sometime later, surprise! you're presented with a collection of photographs from the day, showing you in all of those same moments.

On the other hand, since there actually IS a person there, and they are often pointing a camera at you, a skilled documentary family photographer IS a part of the goings on, specifically in such a way to lower barriers and discomfort around the camera, to make things as natural as possible. A single day is just one of thousands in a lifetime, or even in just a childhood. It's also plenty of time to get to know someone and grow comfortable having them share the space with you. In many ways, a Day in the Life photographer will - for a day - be an honorary member of the family. There will be quite a bit of chatty conversation about any and all sorts of things, and, honestly, the majority of the time no one will have the camera up to their eye.

The best images from a Day In the Life session come from patience and waiting as much as intention and drive. We really will be spending a whole day together, and we will know each other surprisingly well by the end. This is part of what facilitates great images - much more so than simply being in your home for 8 hours. It's the interactions and connections that lead to the genuine expressions of what is inside, and a skilled photographer will be the friendly guest at the same time as they are the professional photographer snapping pictures.

Still, a new person in your home for 8 or more hours can feel intimidating - especially when you know they are going to leave with photographs of your home, you, and your family. A common unavoidable concern is that everyone is going to find out about the atrocious clutter of your dining room table, the four day old spill on the kitchen counter, or the never-folded laundry in the corner. It's true - if something is out and visible in your home it will probably end up in a photo. So if there are things you want kept out of the frame, put it away. Conversely, if there are precious things you want remembered, leave 'em.

It's good to keep in mind the whole ethos of documentary family photography - that what is real is precious. People feel a stronger sense of fondness and connection when seeing photos of the truth of their tribe. Posed and directed portraits are wonderful, and seeing each other at our best and most photogenic is priceless. That style of photography simply serves a different purpose than documentary style - embrace that difference, and consider not making any changes to your home, yourself, or your life. I have found with clients that documentary photos, even those that seemed terribly embarrassing at the time, take on immeasurable value when the real-ness of them sinks in, when loved ones can look on them with the vast fondness of true remembrance. THIS is the purpose of documentary style photography, and no other session I can offer fulfills this purpose better than the Day in the Life.