These moments are forever fleeting. Each time I blink an eye my little one has grown taller, his face has gotten slimmer, his hair has gotten longer and then shorter. The moments are going by so quickly that I don’t dare look away because I know my little boy will be a little man, a teenager, and then a man before I know it. I try desperately to hold on to these moments and that sweet face by capturing photo after photo on my phone. Of course, the photos can’t compare to the beautiful and joyful face I see in front of me. I spend probably way too many hours perusing Pinterest for unique photo ideas to try with my little one. Problem is, and why we have so many hilarious Pinterest fail articles, is that the photos I’m attempting to replicate with my little point and shoot iPhone were expertly set, coordinated, and documented by a professional photographer, and a professional photographer I am not!
Some parents just don’t see the importance of having family photos. As a social worker, I have seen the value family photos can have for children. In a time where many families go through difficult times, struggles, divorces, and loss, children hold tightly to the pieces of the whole family. Those pictures where mom and dad are embracing the family as a whole can become a comfort and can offer understanding to a child who needs reassurance in that moment. I have that picture. My mom and dad smiling at the camera with their arms around each other and me. The picture was taken before divorce, remarriage, and times when we were apart. As a child, I would often look back on that picture, that moment, when our family was whole and in love. Somehow, it provided the reassurance of the love and support my parents had for me. Now, at 30 years old, that photo hangs in my own home beside another photo of my family today.
As a permanency (adoption) worker, I saw foster families using family photos as a way to provide pre-adoptive children the reassurance that they were an important member of the family. Seeing the photos hung on the walls sent a message of love and acceptance. A message of permanency. Don’t all children deserve such a message?
Despite the unyielding importance of family photos in the home, I see more and more families letting time slip by without family photos or settling for these comical Pinterest fails, arguing weakly “why pay for a professional photographer when iPhones can take just as good pictures.” Really? Is this really just as good?
As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. In Howard County, Maryland there are hundreds of photographers to choose from, so how do you determine which photographers are worth the money? Here are some important things to consider:
- Experience. Obviously, as these Pinterest fails show, there is an art to capturing breathtaking photos that can be used to enhance your home decor while reflecting the love and happiness within your family. Too often I see “professional” photos where part of the scene is cut off of the page, the subject is not engaged or looks uncomfortable, or the emotion is missing completely. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Marlayna Demond of Marlayna Photography, who grew up fully emerged in photography with her mother, a high school art and photography teacher. Marlayna studied photography for four years at The University of Maryland (UMBC) before starting her own full time photography business five years ago. The formal training she received plus experience she has shooting and developing photos has allowed her to perfect the art of utilizing available lighting and enhancing the photos with professional software. These skills have gotten her featured in magazines such as Baltimore Bride and Her Mind Magazine, and for publications related to UMBC. When you book a session with her, you are not just paying for the number of photos you receive, but rather a photographer who has the training and experience that allows her to produce the professional grade photos you are pinning to your boards and failing to reproduce.
- Equipment. SLR cameras can range in cost from $199 to $6,499. In addition, professional photographers will pay for additional memory, a variety of lenses, backup batteries, lighting features, computer editing software, etc. A higher-end camera is going to have the capability to shoot faster, clearer images, and a professional photographer who has thoroughly studied their tool is going to have the knowledge of how to shoot raw images that capture every ounce of emotion to eliminate shading and darkness where it is not wanted without washing out their subjects.
- Professionalism. If you are hiring someone to provide a service for you, you should be able to contact them during business hours and receive a quick response. Too often I see photographers who are simply taking photos on the side to earn a little extra cash and are not prompt or professional in their replies. This is an immediate red flag to me because rain or some other unforeseen issue could arise the morning of the shoot where I need to be able to connect with them straight away.
- Final product. Marlayna made a great point to me that colors, contrast and saturation are almost never consistent or accurate when photos are simply printed at home or at a chain store. For this reason, she opts to use a professional photo print lab that ships prints directly to her or her clients within just a few days. She finds that the prints remain true to the photo as it was taken and edited.
Families can almost always find great deals with truly professional photographers by taking advantage of mini sessions (usually 30 minutes instead of one hour) or booking a series of sessions at a time (maternity, newborn, 1 year old). Although there is no hard and fast rule about how often you should have family photos taken, I say do it soon, while the kids are young and your wrinkle free body still looks amazing!
Just for fun, here are a few of my Pinterest attempts!
* I received permission from Marlayna Demond and the families photographed to use the beautiful photos included in this post, which originally drew me to contact Marlayna Photography for my own family photos. Marlayna was gracious enough to answer my questions and allow me to include her responses in this blog post. This information was included for the purpose of providing information and I in no way profit from sharing Marlayna’s information. I simply think her work is amazing.