Fearless and Framed’s Double Dog Dare to Photographers

It’s time to think outside the box. It’s time to go beyond posed photo sessions, lifestyle photo sessions, and even every day photos. Take the double dog dare to photographers to make the list that will change your thinking in how you approach your next photo session. And if that doesn’t work, I have a couple of 100+ year old photos that will prove our point (you will see them at the end of this post).

photos of memories

The dare

Take a moment to think of your greatest memories. Think of the time spent (recent or in the past) with your favorite people: your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your favorite Aunt, your bestie, your spouse, your Grandma, your Papa, your oldest cousin that you never got to see as often as you’d like, your son, your daughter, your mentor or coach, the neighbor you grew up living next to, or even your pet. No seriously, grab a pen and paper and list 5-10 of those people. Then, jot down 3 favorite memories next to each person on your special people list. It will be a challenge to think on the spot, but JUST DO IT. This doesn’t have to be done in 5 minutes; dig deep and marinate in your memory bank.

My own dare

Have you started writing yet? Of course not, you’re still reading, so let me give you a little nudge. Quite often your memories are of little bits of time. You may think of bigger memories like an incredible trip you experienced or time period with this person also.

I have a list far too long of special people in my world to share, so here is just a brief 5 that I hope fuels your memory search (the highlighted text will mean something in a moment):

My husband – our 3 week adventure across the country, when he proposed to me on the Ambassador bridge at the international line, when we did our Tim Horton’s drive-through breakfast dates every week before kids.

My mom – back-to-school shopping and eating Hot Stix at the food court, driving up north to the family cabin blaring Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, our girls’ weekend trips when dad would go hunting.

My Grandma – I used to spend 3-4 days with her a few times over the summer and loved every minute: she taught me to crotchet, we made iced tea, and once we had the most amazing tea party the summer before she passed away.

My son – he always greets people he loves with a big, open-mouth kiss, the nights of putting him back to bed after a bottle and rubbing his back til he was asleep, he would turn our kitchen into a lake after a sink bath.

My daughter – when she wakes before her brother, she comes into my room and whispers, “The sun’s up, momma. Get up.” One of our favorite things to do together is cook soup or muffins in the kitchen and we snuggle regularly on the couch watching movies.

My sister – we used to go on adventures in the woods up north (once being attached by a swarm of mean ol’ bees!), we loved to play the lava game in our bedrooms, we climbed the apples trees in our back yard growing up and probably spent more time up a tree than on the ground.

The list Becomes the vision

So now that you have your list of people and memories, how do you feel? Pretty darn good? You have this sense of accomplishment and love for all you’ve achieved with this person and your time shared. These details have made your relationship with them what it is today. You may feel a bit like, “I wish I could go back in time” or “I hope this stage never ends.” You may feel gratitude or joy.

Now let’s take those feelings and push the nostalgic envelope. Do you have an old box of photos? (Who doesn’t?) This list would have been super easy to create had you opened the box before you made your list. When you look at those old photos, it doesn’t matter if they are “technically correct” (whatever that means, anyway). When you look at them, all your brain sees are the memories. These photos are an heirloom piece.

Only the items on my list in gold text above are memories I have photos of. I think it’s an interesting timeline of those memories from my childhood (no photos) and those that I take now primarily since I’m now a mom and photographer. The photos of my trip with my hubby are mostly of the scenery, my husband, and some selfies of us together. They don’t hold many of me in-the-moment and there are zero of us together aside from cheesy, tourist, looking-at-the-camera type photos. They certainly would be more powerful had a photographer tagged along for bits and pieces of our trip as a silent travel buddy.

Go back to your list. How many items on that list don’t you have photos for? This is why offering a documentary-style photo session is so impactful to your clients.

Getting clients on board

Clients aren’t going to understand a documentary photo style of shooting from the get-go. It’s growing, but it isn’t as popular as the viral photos that are the lifestyle or posed styles. Even if they are drawn to a photo that came from a documentary style session, they aren’t going to understand how that photo was achieved. Most people that have had a session before will simply expect another session to be run similar.

They expect to be told what to do during the session.

This is why your pre-session planning is so important. You must set the expectations and explain to them that you will truly be like a fly on the wall. To be able to be the fly on the wall, you have to plan something to truly document. Something more than going to a park or urban, downtown setting. Something that stems from real life memories. So have them start by making their own memory list like you have now done. (Seriously, you better do it!)

Just like it may have been challenging to create your list, it will be hard for them to think of session ideas on the spot when you say something like, “what’s something special you do together?” Their mind will go blank. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients tell me, “We just don’t do anything fun and cute.” or “I wish my kids were younger.” I’m here to tell you, those are excuses!! Their brain is getting pulled to all the photos in their head they’ve seen on the internet of families holding hands and walking away from the camera or playing in fall leaves. Encourage them to take this dare to make a memory list. Then, have them highlight the memories that are still occurring. Remind them that you are the professional and you need them to dig deep. It’s got to be a built-in part of your policy.

Once your client has submitted their list to you, have a conversation with them about which memories speak strongest to their heart and soul. Another amazing part about this list tool is that you will be able to weed out the clients that think they want your type of session, but don’t. Some people truly want the lifestyle or posed type images, and that’s ok too. If it’s not what you are trying to achieve for your photography business, then you know you aren’t a perfect client/photographer match. If you are a perfect match, then you build a session off of those memories. They will literally do something – some sort of activity – and you will photograph them in action. The Family History Photo Sessions ebook is about how I run these sessions.

It would have been the most cherished photos if we would have had a photographer for one of the road trips up north with my mom or someone to follow my sister and I around for our childhood adventures. These memories will forever sit in my memory bank. What memories do you wish you had photos of?

The Proof is the in the Pudding (what does that mean anyway?)

When people start envisioning their life and reflecting on all of the love and joy these memories bring, they will want to have photo proof of it all. They will want to have the photos not just for today, but for 20 years from now when their life is in a new place. They will want to have these photos to pull out of their “old photo box” with them in them and say to their Grandchildren,

“This is where we met. This is how we used to spend our summers. Your mom was so hard to get to sleep through the night and this is the chair I sat in night after night rocking her to sleep. This is what your Great-Grandfather and I used to do on Sunday mornings – I wish you could have met him. He was simply the best. Your dad and I used to go on these spontaneous trips across the country….”

I dare you to run a Documentary Style Session today. And then come back and show us here at Fearless and Framed! If this post was helpful, please share or pin it.

Before you go… in case you choose truth over dare

If all of that isn’t enough, how about some photos to pack the visual punch in what we’re saying over here. Take a look at this series of photos. The first 7 are were shot on the fly – modern documentary style {unstaged} with my editing flair. Black and white photos speak to my heart, so that’s how I edit, but I included one in color for you color lovers.

Peaceful Baby:

dare to photographers


A Birthday Surprise:Dare-to-Photographers_5450


The Battle of Nap Fighting Lost (Mom and Dad win):



Helping Hands:



A letter from a friend came today:


Spaghetti night:


“You’re My Best Friend, Momma”:



Those photos may not speak quite to you as they do to me since they are from my world. Whenever I look at those images, I can feel those moments again with all 5 senses + the strongest feeling being the joy in my heart. The calm and relief when your child is at rest, the sweet, clean smell of my babies after the bath, the excitement of something new, the snuggles, the messes, ALL OF IT.

Now look at the next photo below. The photo on the left has a date of 1893 on the back. The photo on the right has a date of 1915 on the back.

100 year old photos still in our family’s possession that I look at and feel no connection or personality

I have no idea who these people are other than they are somewhere in my Grandma’s family line. I believe to the core if they were photos with the style above, I’d recognize a personality throughout the photos that tells their story even though they are long gone. I would have characters when I see their faces or names to envision. Not just empty faces.


The photos here range from the 50’s – 60’s all with my Grandma in them. It is undeniable that you can feel a sense of who she was when you look at them. Her laughter, her family, her beauty, and her hard work as your typical stay-at-home wife and mother of 5 boys. My Grandma was a part of my world until 2008, so I have many memories of her. When I see these photos, I see the real her in them. These are the kind of photos I want in my home. If I were looking at a photo of her like the ones above, it would be like looking at the Mona Lisa – trying to figure out who this person is looking back at me.


Somewhere in history, photographers starting taking photos like the ones below. I was one of them. These were all photos I thought I was a badass for in my first year of my photography business. They certainly hold the cute factor, but that’s about where it ends to me. The point is that somewhere, we have started to neglect taking photos that document our lives, our personality, and our connections. How are our generations beyond us going to know our story by looking at a baby in a hot air balloon set up or pink toenails matching moms? These photos are cute, but they don’t tell the story of those in them. I’m not saying don’t take these types photos, I’m simply saying don’t neglect the photos that tell your story.


Once I evolved as a photographer (let’s be honest, once I was burnt out from seeking the next amazing set up), the photos of my real life started to form. I became this happy photographer again fully inspired by the world around me. I don’t print and hang photos on my walls of the cute hot air balloon set up type images. I proudly display the ones that strike a memory with a glance as I walk by at midnight. Or print the photos that will strike a conversation with my children when we pull them out. I want to be the photographer that pulls out a story or personality just like the ones above with my Grandma.

Organic Bloom Frameprinting photos


So, Truth or Dare time…

Dare – make the list.

Truth – Are you neglecting to create (or hire a photographer to create) the photos that tell a story? One more thing: this style is absolutely not limited to children and families. You can document the story of anyone – engagements, seniors and teens, A-N-Y-O-N-E.

Comment below or send me an email. I’m listening and dying to know your thoughts on this post! 

Before you go, don’t miss out on this guide to help you unearth important stories from your own life:

How to Preserve Your Family Stories and Memories in Photographs | Documentary Family Photography

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Love this post! I’m so excited to follow along on your new project. I’m at the beginning of my photography business and it took me all of one month to find out that I don’t have it in my heart to do posed sessions. My passion lies in making art from honest moments in life. I look forward to reading more on your new website!!

  • I love this post. I totally agree with posed photographs having no life or soul. This is totally and eye opener. I do want to relive memories of my children and my wife and to feel that emotion again when I look at them years down the road. I totally feel like my clients want this to and I will strive to provide that for them.

    • Thanks so much, Ari! I think you bring up a good point – clients do want this too. They just don’t see or understand it from our perspective and it’s up to us to enlighten them. Thanks for the feedback!!

  • Hi Marie! I am excited about this post! I am drawn to the ‘story’ of a session, not just the session itself …. It is a reflection of not just what I have the ability to create, but to capture …… Keep sharing your perspective!!

    • Hi Mitzi!

      Thank you so much for the feedback. You are so right in that we have this incredible gift that allows us to be like journalists while creating art. Shoot from your heart and you can’t go wrong xoxo

  • It felt like you were speaking to my soul with this post!! My favorite way to spend a relaxing evening is with a glass of wine and a box of old photo’s. I love finding all the details in the photo’s from cereal boxes on the fridge to the clutter on the table. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Hi Courtney! So true!!! Gosh I love pulling out my box of old photos too. With time moving along, each time you look at those old photos you have a new perspective too. Glad you liked the post 🙂

  • Thank You!!!

    This is exactly the direction I want to take my photography, and have been slowly making the changes to push it in that direction.

    I don’t know how I came across this page, but it was obviously mean to be!

    I’m feeling inspired!

  • Dear Marie, I can’t be grateful enough for this post, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for, somewhere I knew which direction I wanted to go, but thanks to you and your post it is crystal clear now. It will be a very exciting experience, how I will be able to succed this way or experiment :), and how my clients will love the idea and the photos. Wil I be able to find the art, the beauty in these moments? I mean how to make these photos professional, more than “anybody could do with a good camera”. Or this is where the talent and the technical knowledge comes? (I hope you understand what I’m trying to say, my english is poor)
    Thanks again, Agi from Hungary

    • Hi Agi,

      Wow from Hungary!! So exciting 🙂 You have brought up a great question!! I actually have a blog post coming out soon about the very same thing – will I be able to find the art and beauty in these moments. I will try to remember to come back and post the link here, but here is the short answer. YES. I can only speak for myself, but I believe that having a photographer for these types of documentary sessions is way more valuable than anyone freely clicking with a camera or even a cell phone camera. The technical skill is one thing, but to anticipate a moment also plays a huge roll. It takes a lot of practice to master anticipation. It takes a state of awareness that I think only a photographer can bring to the table — someone (not a photographer) having a camera in hand can click candid moments, but they aren’t IN them. They aren’t fully living the moment if they are shooting also. I believe the beauty comes from the realness of the photos – the details, the authenticity, and then also the technical skill with light and composition.

  • I just dove into all the good stuff I got from the shop, and this post just gives me what I need to get it going, thank you! I’ve spent the last six months trying with all of my might to start taking the photos I want to be taking, and have struggled to get my vision across to clients. I know what I need to do now, and I’m so excited to put it all into use this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • That’s some good stuff, Kari! So happy you have found your vision – that is half the battle right there. Even when we hit road bumps, sometimes just a little shift in our approach is all that is needed. You’ve got it in the bag for 2015! Happy New Year 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this – I love what you have to say and it is all so true – when I got down to the older posed photos I realized I have had the same feeling (no connection to the people in the photos compared to those that show emotion/are documentary) but hadn’t ever put it into a thought or words.
    I have spent the last 8 years taking these kinds of photos of my own family but for some reason when I started photography as a professional I immediately swung over to posed sessions, even though I knew they didn’t make my heart sing and I wouldn’t necessarily value those for my own family.
    I’m ever so slowly moving toward the documentary style sessions but it is certainly frightening to try to get clients on board. I love the dare to make the list – a great place to start with them!

    Thanks again!

    • You are welcome! As you can probably tell, we are pretty passionate about documenting over here. It is so new and foreign to clients, that it’s no lie that it can be a challenge to implement this type of a session. The best part is that just think of the sessions that are popular that never were. In my parent’s generation, they didn’t do engagements. Trash the dress was once unheard of. When I was a high school senior, we did photos at a local studio – indoors. Wherever your heart takes you, people will follow when you have passion. Thanks for the comment love!! xoxo

  • So excited to have found your site! I am making the leap to doing “day in the life sessions” and am so glad to have insight from others. I saw your question list too and was excited to add it to my list of tools because I was planning on doing a questionnaiire to help with my documenting but also using answers in the presentation of my pictures and in the creation of my album! I do in person sales and I just know that combining the written word with photos of their memories with be the ultimate! I am so excited to go down this path!

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for taking a few moments to share your kind words!! I totally agree that the combination of words and photos will truly help them think a lot deeper! 🙂

  • For a long time I’ve been trying to articulate what I like to do (my style, if you prefer it) in photography. I know what I want, i just haven’t found words to express it; and never has anyone articulate it so beautifully like you. A documentary style photos. Up ’til now I just tell people that I love making photos that tell stories, that will record memories and tug your heart when you see them, whenever anyone asks. At times it feels like a really lonely road to take, after seeing the Avalanche of cute/extravagant fully propped lifestyle ‘world’ out there. Don’t get me wrong, they are wonderful, but it’s just not me. I love ‘real’ moments and connections that the documentary style can capture. They are the photos you keep forever…

    Thank you for this post. It’s very inspiring to me. YOU speak to me. Keep doing what you do. I wish you well. x

    • Your words sound exactly like how I once felt! A lonely road indeed after seeing the Avalanche of photos that just aren’t us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! And stick around, because we’re planning on making Fearless and Framed a place where documentary style photography truly shines.

    • Woo hoo!! Share with us some of your documentary style photos when you start shooting them with clients! We want to encourage everyone that it IS possible <3

  • I LOVE this! I have been hesitating for a minute now wanting to buy the session idea book, and what this post says really resonated with me. I have gotten burnt out on posing families and want to photograph more documentary style sessions, and what you said today made a light bulb go off. I love the idea of making the list, and then building upon that for their session. Thank you for the challenge and the dare…I will be working on it!!! 🙂 AND I’m going to buy now!!!

    • So happy this post helped you. You will be able to put all the pieces together and rock your sessions after the inspiration you are about to gain from Session Sparks for sure!! xoxo Thanks for taking the time to send me this sweet note 🙂

  • This has given so much clarity! All along I thought the way I photographed was ” “lifestyle” when in fact I am a documentary photographer to the core. Now I know how to explain it to clients and make the required changed. So helpful!! Thank you so much.

  • I absolutely LOVED this! And I absolutely LOVE documentary style pics. But I can’t thank you enough for the creative idea you have suggested to get the juices flowing. There is never a time when looking at old photos is bad. They always just make you feel better, especially the ones that truly show you what once was. I believe I am someone who tries to think outside the box more than not, so I appreciate you sharing this. It’s not always easy. Babies posed with balloons, cute. Babies playing with or watching balloons, not only cute, but emotional to see! Thanks so much for this. Will be sure to follow along 🙂

    • You are so right – ‘there never is a time when looking at old photos is bad.’ When you look at old photos, the flaws disappear. What crooked horizon? You only see the memories. Thanks for the comment love 🙂

  • I am in the middle of a project 365 and this really resonates with my desire to capture our lives in the most raw and REAL way possible! Not posed. Not stylized. Real. Thank you so much! I will be sharing this article!

  • Olá!
    Adorei o post! Sou nova na fotografia (apenas dois meses como profissional) e fico muito insegura com minhas imagens.
    Quando se tenta algo mais natural fica mais fácil e mais bonito também.
    Espero um dia ter fotos lindas neste estilo!

    Translation: Hello!
    Loved the post! I am new in photo ( just two months as a professional ) and I’m very insecure with my images .
    When you try something more natural it becomes easier and more beautiful too.
    I hope someday to have beautiful photos in this style !

  • This is such a great post! I am excited that my friend shared your site with me and look forward to learning more how to move my work in this direction as it’s what I love so much!

  • Beautifully written and inspiring piece. We are documentary wedding photographers based in the UK. We are on the brink of starting to do more family photography after we did a documentary maternity session for a former bride of ours and loved it. If we do family sessions this is exactly what we love and want to produce. Thank you Marie this is just what we have been looking for, and we stumbled across your site by accident, what a lovely and inspiring discovery. Live the dream, see you on Instagram 🙂 x

    • I love your comment!!! So happy our paths crossed. We’ll be adding more wedding photography to our site in 2016, so I’d love to see you submit to be featured (link is in our navigation menu) 🙂

  • I have been trying to sell this idea to clients for a year or so, but am finding difficulties. I love the article and will read the e-book too for more tips. I agree that posed and staged shoots are boring and unflattering for the client. I am still trying to increase my clientele and build a photography business. If I can do that with this type of photography, I would feel blessed!

    • Hi Jayne!

      This genre is still a bit new to clients, but more and more photographers are finding sessions. In fact, one of my mentor student just booked 2 at her full rate, not discounted, over the last day. You should check out the Mastery Moment-Seekers course when it becomes available again. I have no doubt it will help! http://www.masterymomentseekers.com

  • This is PERFECT.

    I have been struggling with my little business for a while and wanting to go where my passion lies, documenting moments and memories, but am finding that many of my clients just don’t get me…they love the photos I take, but when I go to take theirs, I can see their faces and know that they are not getting the whole “DONT POSE, just do what you do…BE YOUR SELF!” comments.

    I can’t thank you enough for getting what was in my head out on paper…and also how to help my new clients see the beauty of documentary style photography.
    Its all about the emotion and the memory that you feel when you look at a photo.
    I love watching my clients faces when they see their final images, but this is going to help THE CLIENT understand the image so much more.

    Again, Thank you for being such an inspiration.
    A photog friend who knew I was struggling sent me your way…Im so glad she did, and I look forward to reading more of your posts…Im off now to do my list!

    • Hi Vianna! Thanks for the warm feedback and thank your friend for the referral! We have free tools on the blog + tools in the store that help with client education – that is truly the golden ticket. Be on the lookout soon for a free webinar about using beginner photography workshops for moms as a platform to hook moms onto the documentary approach for their next family session 🙂

  • Marie, I’m in tears. This is the photographer I want to be. Every day I wake up wishing I had a photog on the wall because I know one day I won’t remember the tiniest moments with my family. Like the way my boys look at me or kiss me or smile at me. The way they cry because they want some of my food or whatever crazy thing they do. Thank you for this post.

  • Love this. Great perspective. I can appreciate all styles…lifestyle, posed, documentary. I think the photographer has a lot to do with what is captured. Which I why I will never stop learning.

    • Agreed! And we should never shoot for a label – it should always be what inspires us 🙂 Love your keep-learning attitude!

  • I am on the verge of tears almost! I LOVE this post and your blog is my new favorite! This type of photography is where my passion is. My family has always been picture takers. We have albums and albums of old photos and my family is constantly digging for family history. So naturally as a kid me and my sister would buy disposable cameras and have my grandma and mom take us to develop tons of pictures of our days just being silly. I can remember doing this as young as 8 all the way until I moved out. But when I moved I had lost all of my albums of that time period. My sisters also had got destroyed. This is something I am still so upset about because that time in my life was so important and I wish I could get that back. I want to offer clients the opportunity to create such memories to crave to go back to, as much as I want to just have my photos back 🙁 this post is amazing

    • Thanks, Krista! I love that you want to be able to offer clients this opportunity and you can so clearly see the value in how you can help and serve others. Keep up with that energy girl! 🙂 Thanks for the post feedback.

  • Marie
    What a beautiful post. I LOVE IT! So inspiring. Thanks for the challenge. When I was in college I took more editorial styled photos. Recently I have started to take on more clients this year. I really want to stretch myself and try more of this approach with my photography business.
    Thanks for the free guide plan on downloading it and reading it soon.
    Carrie Wohlt

  • Yes. THIS is why I love photography. Not the make-a-client-look-good-work. Its the heart-work. The images that make me long for that moment in time to come back – just for an instant. The images where I get lost in my memories.

  • I agree with your memories of the heart, nothing like creating our own history by sistering it with a beautiful memory. I will make a list of my own and will have my granddaughter make hers. My mind is already tracing history of my life. I am sure my granddaughter will have many happy loving memories too. Thank you for your advice. Everyone should do this. Thank you for your contribution. I will always take this journey. Health, Peace and Happiness to you, D
    (I am not a professional photographer but I absolutely love the art)

    • This is so awesome to read! I’m trying to expand our brand beyond photographers, so I’m especially over the moon to hear that you found value from this. I keep saying – simple pictures with big backstories. Doesn’t matter your skill level, just document it.