You might think that a mom who is a professional photographer would be on top of her game when it comes to capturing images of her own child. The real story for me is much more complicated.
Did you see all of the cute photos parents posted on Facebook of their children on the last day of school? Some parents even had a first and last-day-of-school photos posted alongside each other showing just how much their kids have changed over the long months of the school year.
I saw them too and I confess, even though I’m a professional photographer, I wasn’t one of those parents. When I went to go pick up my son from school on his final day of 3rd grade, I had just barely finished editing client photos, then writing thank you notes and printing out Amazon gift cards for his teachers before rushing out of the house leaving my camera behind, as usual.
I’ve been feeling a lot of guilt about that lately. I’m a mom of a 9-year old boy, an only child, who’s growing too fast. (I know you understand because I don’t know any parent who doesn’t feel this way).
I’m a professional photographer who turned a hobby that I was passionate about into a thriving business that I’m immensely proud of. When I’m not working though, I find the last thing I want to do is pull my camera out.
What does that mean for capturing my own family’s memories? I don’t want to look back on all my photos years from now having documented hundreds of other children, but not my own.
In the last Photo 101 class I taught to parents who want to take better pictures of their kids, a mom in the class asked how she should balance the feeling of needing to capture every moment of her young child’s life with the realization that she also wants to be fully present in those moments. I admitted that this is something I struggled with in the early years of my son’s life, too.
What I didn’t tell her is that since then, I’ve overcorrected. I started leaving my camera at home more often than not, telling myself I was going to enjoy being in the moment and not worry about taking pictures all the time. Eventually, I shunned the idea of bringing my camera along altogether. And in the process, I neglected doing for my own family what I do for so many others.
I gave my student some advice that I myself hadn’t been following. Our exchange gave me a lot to think about in the weeks that followed. In truth, I had been thinking about this for quite some time and the conversation helped crystalize my thoughts.
Here is what I told the mom in my class and what I am committing to do this summer to re-engage with documenting my family:
1. You do not need to have your camera out at all times or bring it on every family outing. Being present and mindful during the time spent with your child helps you pay attention to the little moments and details of daily life that you want to remember that go beyond poses and fake smiles. If you don’t have your camera, don’t stress! Once you recognize these moments, you will be ready the next time you do have your camera.
2. Do create a habit, or reawaken a dormant one. If you do not take your camera out every day, you’ll still need to take pictures often enough to create that picture taking habit. Also, frequent picture taking is an absolute must to gain experience for anyone trying to improve their photography skills. Maybe it’s every other day or a few times a week, but make it happen with regularity.
3. Find a theme or project. I want to photograph moments that tell the authentic story of our family. For me right now that means documenting the highs and lows of a boy recently diagnosed with ADHD and all that comes along with it: the intense emotion, the activity, the boredom, the humor, and the love. I know it’s not going to be easy to capture, but I’m eager to try.
4. Hold yourself accountable – without the guilt. I am not interested in declaring a project and then posting the images on social media as a means of proving my dedication. I’ve tried that in the past and I know that idea is a very quick way for me to completely lose motivation. Instead, I’m going to track it in my Bullet Journal, which is just for me to hold myself accountable. (I’ve been tracking several daily tasks and habits using a Bullet Journal for almost 6 months now and loving it. If you’ve never heard of a Bullet Journal, that’s a lengthy a topic for another time. This class is how I got started). Declaring my intention in this post is as public as I’m getting with this.
5. Do it for yourself, your child, your family. This is about creating something that is meaningful to us and that we will be grateful to have years from now. That means going beyond social media posts, getting the images off of hard drives and printed, creating albums or hanging them on the wall so we can actually enjoy them.
All images © 2008-2016 Julie Kubal. All rights reserved.
Julie Kubal is a DC-area photographer who documents the ever-changing lives of children and their families, capturing their unique spirit. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice in and around Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Her website is www.juliekubal.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/juliekubalphotography.