Introducing a New Kind of Photo Session to Clients: Documentary Family Photography

It’s kind of like fashion, every season brings a new style. Sure, it may have been a new item that in reality is being circled back from 1982, but it’s new to the current generation none the less. One brave soul starts a hot trend and it’s picked up by the masses. I’ll admit, I’m no fashionista. This post is about what I’ve learned about introducing a new kind of photo session to clients. Read on!

introducing a new kind of photo session

Everything is new at one point

  • In my parent’s generation, they announced their engagement via a newspaper announcement. There were no engagement photo sessions.
  • Family portraits were done in a studio (we went to Kmart!). If outdoor family photo sessions or lifestyle sessions existed in the 80’s, they were unheard of in my family.
  • When I was in high school, there were no high fashion photo shoots. We went to the local studio and had backdrops that looked like outside.
  • Trash the dress? Maternity sessions? Boudoir Maternity Sessions?

Every type of session was new and unheard of at one time. So for those of you that strive to be a Documentary Family Photographer like we talk about here at Fearless and Framed, please keep this in mind!

We have this new-ish style we are bringing to the industry and it won’t be built up over night. I see Facebook Page after Page and website after website of similar photography. I call it the photography epidemic (which may make me kind of a snob). I see many sessions with beautifully coordinated outfits, in a beautiful location, being directed by the photographer to provoke smiles and laughter. And they are amazing images! Truly. Canvas-worthy, incredible photos. I think it drives me so crazy, because I once shot in that style like it was the only way. I felt I had to in order to get bookings. (More on that whole topic here: Letter to Photographers). If you are selling something outside of the “norm,” it’s only natural for clients to be like (insert DJ stopping the track sound), “Wait, what?!”


It’s important to understand when selling something unfamiliar to your target market, it’s going to take extra effort on your part to help them understand.

When our potential clients are see their friends’ sessions and some even having experienced a usual session themselves, expect them to assume how it’s all gonna roll. Some may run for the hills out of fear of spending money on something that is different. When you start to consistently show and promote your documentary style sessions to the world, people will pick up on it. In any kind of photo session, you are going to get a whole lot of no’s about booking before you get a solid yes. This is true with any kind of sales – network marketing, selling a car, anything. Get over it.

Imagine being a newly engaged couple seeing your BFF having her engagement session and the thrill of the photos. What would happen? You’d be wanting one too.

Think about when the first photographer that wanted to do a high fashion senior session had to run that plan by mom. I can imagine mom being like, “Hair? Professional makeup? I don’t wanna spend that kind of money!” It was probably scary to that photographer that wanted to build their business only marketing those sessions when they are unfamiliar. The session happened and I’d bet the senior’s BFF was begging her mom to have one of those sessions too. Now, high fashion sessions are super common. So much so that to many families now, it’s like prom, graduation, etc…. just something that is going to take place with no thought of it being different.


Share the inspiration

So how can we know that documentary style sessions can grow to be a real, common type of photo session? Imagine seeing your sister take the kids to Grandma’s with a photographer for a documentary style session. The photographer documents exactly the happenings and feelings felt when visiting Grandma’s home. The photos draw out your senses as you can almost smell the scent of her home (the potpourri in the bathroom), you can feel that old furniture, you remember the feeling of her hugs. The photo session is as unique as a fingerprint, because everyone’s story and perspective of a relationship is different. You see your sister’s gallery of memory-evoking photos and you are going to want photos of your kids like that with Grandma! How could you not? Want proof?

Click on this session to open in another tab:

Aunt Spray Photography shared this session on our Facebook Wall and I was blown away! It came at the perfect time as I was in the middle of writing this post. Tell me now that you wouldn’t want this experience for your family?! When I initially saw this post, I was instantly envious in wishing my Grandma’s were still alive so that I could do this with my children. It brought back memories of my 4 day stays at my Grandma’s home and remembered sleeping in my mom’s old room that she grew up in. I remembered the crafts we would do and how she taught me how to crochet.

Your clients will feel the connection and love for this type of session once they see an in-your-face session like this that they can relate to.

Documentary sessions may not get dozens of re-pins like a beautiful photo setup may, but the emotions felt over the images by our clients will be more heartfelt. These documentary style photo sessions will take off if we only believe.


3 Tips for Introducing a New Kind of Photo Session to Clients

1. Have a few documentary style photo session on your website portfolio/blog. Make sure they’re all fairly different. This will help give a visual to your clients.

2. If you are afraid to jump completely over to documentary style shooting or having difficulty obtaining bookings, make it a separate blog category from the rest of your sessions. Offer something exclusive to this style. I’ve seen many photographers adding a “Day in the Life” line to their brand. This is essentially a session that describes a documentary session.

3. Promote only what you want to shoot. In your marketing tactics, constantly and consistently reveal documentary style photos and chatter. Talk about your favorite memories and engage in your audience to share their own memories. Give them the Fearless and Framed’s Double Dog Dare. Give them detailed session ideas that sound like story they can envision through your Facebook posts or newsletters. Above all, ask lots of “Yes” questions to get them thinking positive about why they need a session with you.

*Fearless and Framed will have a webinar called Making the Switch which will be full of information on getting started with booking documentary style sessions.


Homework: Sit down and list all of the ways you can promote your sessions. Make sure you are balancing social media AND personal contact with your potential clients. Make a plan to connect with x amount of potential clients per day. Then, track your efforts in your planner (or whatever you use) so that you can start to understand what your clients are responding to. 

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.

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  • Hey Marie! Love this! I clicked the link at the end od the blog for Making the Swith webinar and im getting a page not found error in my ipad. Will you be doing that webinar again at some point? Sounds great!!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I do plan on doing it again, but unsure on when. If you’re on the email list (I think you are), you’ll get notice when it’s available 🙂

  • I cannot believe I did not come across F&F earlier. I am so blown away by everything I read and see here… I cannot seem to control myself – all I want to do all day long is just be on this website and read and read… 🙂 Thank you for creating this inspiring community. What a place to be!!!