whether you are expecting a baby...
just brought one home the other day or are chasing a newly minted biped - or even if you are trying for, hoping for and dreaming of being connected with your baby right now - I want to welcome you here. The books don't have much to say on what to expect "photo-wise" when you're expecting so I want to honor Mother's Day as both a seasoned photographer and as a mom of a teen who I swear was a baby just a minute ago.
You will take so many pictures of your baby in that first year, you will be so in love! You might even plan to have newborn or baby photos taken and that's fantastic! I know you'll want some tips on how to do that but there's something I want you to know first.
Think of me as a visitor from the future coming back and tell you something really important. I really need you to know the difference it will make if you let yourself be photographed while you parent, as often as possible, even when you don't want to be.
You might be thinking its because your baby can't make memories for themselves and that's true! That's a big part of it. But there's also what it will do for you.
The thing is, when you're in it, parenting often feels like survival. You're in a time warp. You're exhausted. If a shower happens at all, it's usually at the end of the day. These are not the circumstances under which we are comfortable having a camera pointed towards us.
If you birthed your baby, you may have a lot of feelings about your body. That's a whole different blog post. I had the world's largest FUPA and I was not in love with it. (Google that if you must.)
But here's the thing. Of all family, including pets, moms are photographed the least. You are the most important person in their life but statistics say that you will be the most absent and invisible from pictures of childhood.
If we're trying to understand why, it begins with knowing that we've grown up with some very crappy criteria around how we should look in order to be photographed (young! thin! put together!)
What I'm asking is that we shift from caring about how we look in a photo to how we are showing up in a photo. Are you giving or receiving love? Are you comforting or caring for someone? Are you going on a local adventure? Laughing and dancing and being silly? Are you feeling free?
How do you want to be remembered? And what do you want to remember for yourself? Do you want to look back and think, where was I?
There will be days where both you and your child need a little extra assurance. You'll want to remember that you parent with resilience, joy and tenderness. And they might need to feel accepted, loved no matter what, and fully seen. It's impossible to envision this phase of parenting while you are doing the all-consuming work of parenting small children but it will come and it comes faster than you think.
Here are my tips:
1.). Ask your partner to photograph you as you parent, as much as possible, even as you prepare for the adoption, even when you are in the throws of labor, even without make up, even while changing diapers, even when you are not poised or primped but when you are doing something caring and beautiful. You do NOT have to post ANYTHING or EVERYTHING ever taken to social media, you can have a vault. And - remembering that I'm visiting you from the future here - you will probably look back on yourself and think you looked pretty damn hot and radiant back then.
2.) Do not hit your person when they do what you ask and pick up the camera, try and lean in. My dad would always take a picture of my mom on Christmas morning and she always looked MAD. In fact, many pictures of my mom when we were growing up show her looking mad and it was only later that I understood the anger had to do with being photographed without make up as opposed to just being mad at him or maybe even us. I never cared if her face had make up on it and neither will your kids.
3.) Reciprocate! Photograph your partner too! I think this comes natural for moms, who tend to be the family documentarians, but just in case.
4.). Enlist the help of strangers and other family members. Especially if you are a single mom and don't have a partner to rely on. No matter what the excursion is, try and get a photo that isn't as selfie so that the context is part of the picture and therefore the memory. Ask a stranger, if one doesn't offer (this is always something I do when I see moms momming by themselves in the world).
5.). Make documentation a regular practice. Live in the moment as much as much as you can, just make an effort to occasionally photograph the parts of your day that you wouldn't ordinarily take pictures of: when they wake up from a nap, bedtime routines, taking a stroller ride to the park, photos in their car seat. See how much "real life" you can capture because what you do together and the way you live is something you'll want to remember and routines change quickly.
6.) Resist skin smoothing filters as you archive. I understand why you do it and if its what you need to do to comfortably post online, no judgement here. Just keep a version with the face they know in your archive. Better yet, #7 because you'll look like you and radiant too.
7.) Hire a professional so that you can live in the moment and so that your whole family can be in the frame together. You knew the plug would come in somewhere, right? Look, it would be weird if I followed you around all day everyday, this is why I share so many tips with my families on how to approach lighting, composition and other aspects of documentation (click here to get on my newsletter). But having a professional photographer visit several times through baby's first year (newborn, 6 month and a year for example), a couple times a year during the busy toddler years and once a year going forward insures that the whole family will be seen together and gives an artful document of life lived to look back on. Plus, photographers have an eye for beauty and might see things you don't.
8.) Try hard to see yourself through your child's eyes. This can help you with numbers 1, 2, and 6. When you are struggling to stay in the frame, just think of how your child sees you. Because to them you are
The most beautiful person who ever walked the planet.
The most important person who ever walked the planet.
Their home outside their own body, vital in every way.
Forever connected, whether you birthed them or not.
Forever the one who makes it better.
Honor your importance, hold the line, be seen. Encourage those around you to capture it, hire professionals to help. You are so, so worthy and you will never regret it.
Happy Mother's Day! 💐