In the early periods of professional photography the underlying emotional and social values of family photography were often neglected. Back then, photographers have no idea how to motivate their clients, while family subjects on the other hand failed to actively take part during photography sessions. It can be observed that most if not all family stills from centuries ago were usually stiff images wherein the subjects are idly sitting on chairs without showing unnecessary movements, snapped under limited lighting with large format cameras and slow film.  Because of the extremely long exposure times they really didn’t have much choice.   The resulting photos are too formal and stiff, that they lack emotional value and appeal.

It should be taken into account that just like storytelling, photos are strong indication of the ties of each family member, but more often than not past family photography failed to show this. However, with the improvements in technology, changes in photographing behaviors have also become apparent. As more and more people gain access to cameras and become familiar with its technicalities, the process of photography also became less intimidating, which in turn changes the emotional content of family photos. In short, family members become accustomed to being photographed.

Modern family photography has strayed from the stiff and formal effects of past photos that were often shoot inside boring studios.   Even though I have one of the nices studios in the state I still take a large percentage of my family portraits on location.  Three of the locations we love and don’t charge any extra for are murray park, wheeler farm, and a place up big cottonwood canyon.  Today, more and more circles of family are choosing to have their portrait shot at a location that holds special meaning to them. It might be at their bedroom, at a favorite vacation spot, or with their prized possessions””a clear representation of family bonding time. Nonetheless, while subjects of early photos were often posed and required to look straight at the camera, modern snapshots permit the family to engage in an ongoing activity, not necessarily staring at the camera.

There are three key reasons why many parents commission family portraiture: pride, documentation of family growth and of course as means of remembrance””to remember not only the faces but also the laughter and encapsulation of fun and memorable moments.  photographing children, for instance, has become so common because for parents capturing their little ones during their early years is a priceless reminder of a time that will never be returned again. Children photos are more than just historical records of their growth, they are also universal truths that speak of their innocence that would be lost once they are exposed to the outside world.  I believe that displaying family photography on the walls of your home sends a strong message to you family and everyone who enters your home.  The message is that my family means more to me than anything else in the world.

The same thing goes with teen photos often commissioned during high school graduations, which is an essential changing time for the whole family as graduation is the time when parents often feel proud about their kids’ accomplishments and maturity, and on the other hand also represent the parents realization of how fast their children have grown. From that point forward, family gatherings become less and less frequent, so the times spent together as a family during special occasions become more and more special. Whether it is during a wedding, anniversary or christening, the idea that the family is complete once again after a long time is already enough reason to capture every sweet moment in the camera. Family portraits frame freeze important parts of our lives that often remind us why we work, love and live.  I truly feel bad for those families who have neglected family photography through out the years.  It is history that cannot be recaptured.  All you have to do is ask someone what they would grab if their house were on fire.  I’m sure most people you ask would say their family photos.

Today, family portraiture, regardless if they are teen photos, children photos or parent photos, is more than just capturing the aesthetics of each family member. It is about getting a hold of the inner heart and soul of the family. The subjects must be able to look directly at the camera and speak volumes of their emotions through their eyes, or never look at the camera and speak volumes about themselves through their actions. Succinctly, family photos greatly detail how a family perceives the world.



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