All through school, I was the girl who photographed everyone and everything. I was part of the yearbook crew. I had this crappy little 35mm point and shoot film camera … it was garbage, but those photographs fill my albums … my heart … my soul.
When my first daughter was born, my parents bought me a little point and shoot digital camera and I used it so much that it broke. Not long after my second daughter was born … I met this guy who created these incredible documentary photographs of his family and knew I needed to learn how to do that too.
I saved up and bought a Canon 40D and a 60mm lens, set it to manual mode, and went to town.
I began my photographic journey with one goal in mind: document my days, my life, my loves. I wanted to capture my family’s truths, from the epic journeys we took to the beautifully mundane every day happenings, and all that fell in between. I wanted to capture my little’s personalities, the pure joy on their faces, their tears when they cried … the boo boos … honestly, I wanted to freeze them in time at every turn.
They grow up too fast.
My mantra has always been that I “document the beautiful-messy-every-day-glory-we-call-life,” and sure I do that for myself … for my own family … but when I was reviewing my college portfolio during my senior year, I realized it didn’t get the memo.
I took a step back and actually stopped shooting for a while, then thought good and hard about what I needed to do and where I hoped this journey would lead me.
I dug out the old family photo albums and something magical happened: I witnessed life.
belly buttons, falling asleep in spaghetti, trips to Yellow Stone National Park, bubble bath mohwaks, mowing the backyard, hippie hair, tears & scrapes, cookie baking with grandma, laughter, shenanigans with cousins and friends, mischievous grins, love … and more.
You know what I didn’t see?
BOTH of my parents enjoying life at our sides.
There were photos OF them … some WITH them … but mostly it was just us kids.
This rings true for my own little family – my husband is missing from our family photos, thanks in part to his career … and I’m missing, well, because I’m taking the photos.
It’s sad. SO sad.
Over the last few years, I’ve started to change that though. Every moment we have on this earth is precious. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. I want to leave this world, knowing that my children, their children (and so on down the line), will be able to FEEL who we were through the photographs I leave behind.
I want to look back through albums with my littles on the days leading up to their weddings and say, “Remember when…” and hold my grandchildren on my lap and show them what life was like “way back when” just like my grandma did with me.
Documenting my own days though, that wasn’t enough for me.
I needed to do this for other families as well, so they wouldn’t be missing from their family albums too. And so, this amazingly beautiful soul-filling vision was born: trueYOU | a real life documentary session.
It’s me … it’s you …working together to tell your family’s story … what makes you great … what makes you tick … your truths … your struggles … your love … what makes you, well … YOU!
This incredible family you’re about to see is the pilot of the new journey I’m embarking on. They’re the first family who helped me test the waters, because lets face it, photographing your family living life is one thing … photographing someone else’s, in their home, doing their thing – totally different.
This amazing family welcomed me into their home with hugs and squeals of excitement, and then they just went about their day.
- We made breakfast and I learned that it’s pretty common in Iowa homes to add food coloring to pancake batter.
- We also had a conversation about the “poops” that followed. 😉
- We scarfed down some blue pancakes, cheesy eggs, and bacon, and then their son put on his famous “Boot Show.” He was born with a club foot, and his show was at the top of the list of things they wanted to remember from this point in their lives – it was EPIC.
- We wrestled, played games, enjoyed a little fantasy football whilst the kids had some downtime/naptime, had snacks, and explored.
I went in knowing what they cherished and wanted to remember about their family life most at this point in their lives, thanks to a questionnaire I whipped up a few days earlier, but when I walked into their home at 7:30 that morning, I just sought out their truths.
Here’s what that looks like:
Now, I remember one of the first things Megan told me:
“I have no idea how this works! It’s a little scary jumping out of bed, throwing on my glasses, tossing my hair up and rolling into a photo shoot, but I’m really excited!”
Here’s what was going through my mind:
‘Oh my gosh! What am I doing? Can I do this? What if I screw it all up? These aren’t my kids, what if they don’t like me being in their space? Do I talk to them while I’m shooting or do I just have them pretend I’m not there?!’
I was SO nervous … but 100 times more excited about the potential of it all, so I told her something like, “No worries! You look great for having just rolled out of bed … it’s just another day, and I’m Aunty Jaime … just visiting for the day!”
5 minutes in, it was just like a normal day at my house and a normal day in their house. The dialogue we shared for the 6 hours I was there was all about life … mine and theirs … where our families were from, traditions growing up, fun places to visit in Iowa, football, work, kids, life, good movies we’d seen recently, recipes …
you know, just everyday things you’d talk about with your friends and family!
If you’re new to shooting this type of work … don’t be scared.
Jump in … explore … play … learn!
One of the things that scared me the most with this session style was being able to find the light … or having enough light … but I quickly realized that life doesn’t wait for the “right” light. Life is messy and grainy and I love that!
So, relax and seek out the truths of whomever you’re photographing, the one’s they’ve made you aware of, and those you find on your own.
Let go of your preconceived notions of creating a series of “picture perfect” photographs – they don’t have to be technically perfect, clean, crisp … whatever.
They just need to reflect TRUTH.
If you’re a family sitting on the edge, wanting to try this type of session … again, don’t be scared! I have so many wonderful memories with my girls, and hardly any photos to show that I was there too.
How wonderful would it be to have someone else pick up the camera for a change? To be IN your everyday family photos?
Hands down, it’s one of the most incredible gifts you could ever give yourself and your family! Your life. Your loves. Your memories.
Writing and photography contributed by Jaime Hough.
Jaime Hough is based out of Iowa. Follow her here: