I think the thing that’s most alarming about the prospect of having a documentary family photography session is the realization that you’re going to be seen, as you are, in your home. No props, no fancy styling, no perfect studio space and planned poses. Just you, being you, in your own space. It can be terrifying to be seen; to show up as your authentic self, and make a record of that for future generations. I get it.

A huge part of my job is helping you prepare for this experience, and I make sure I walk you through what you need to know, and that I’m available to answer all your questions. It can be daunting, but I am definitely not going to let you go in blind, and not without a hand to hold. So here are my favorite questions to get you started preparing for your documentary family photography session, or family film.

1. What do you want to remember about each of your family members, the way they are right now?

Your toddler’s chubby fingers? Your newborn’s fauxhawk? Your spouse’s gentleness with your special needs child? What is the thing that uncurls that spot in your heart and fills your eyes with tears?


2. What do you love about your life, the way it is right now?

Life changes so fast, and what we’re living now – regardless of how hard or wonderful it is – is a season. When this season is past, what will you remember with fondness and nostalgia? What are you grateful for?

3. Picture yourself in 30 years. Your children have grown and flown the nest. Do you think you would like to remember even the bittersweet and hard parts of this season of your life?

….Because I think you will. Let’s face it, raising kids is hard. Being married or in a committed relationship is really hard. Even when you don’t feel like it, you truly are a warrior, because that’s what life requires. You get up every morning and keep doing the hard work of being alive, and that makes it beautiful and meaningful. You should have a visual trophy, so to speak, for the hard work you’re putting in.

So if it’s true that the hard parts, the struggle, the chaos are all beautiful and something that you will treasure later on – then there’s nothing to stress over for your session. Truly. If the kids melt down, if the house isn’t perfect, if there are toys strewn on the floor, if the dog wants to be in every. single. photo. — it’s ok. It’s part of your beautiful, messy, priceless life. You can’t control every detail, so you can let yourself off the hook trying.

Which leaves us with the last remaining question to address, which is “what the heck are we going to do for our session? I don’t want to sit around awkwardly in our house.” To which I ask you a return question:

4. What do you love doing together?

Whatever it is, let’s do that. Some of my favorites (almost all of them age-dependent, obviously) are:

  • Blowing bubbles

  • Building blanket forts

  • Throwing a ball for the dog

  • Going for bike rides

  • Playing at the lake

  • Splashing in the pool

  • Baking cookies

  • Reading stories to each other

  • Eating ice cream

  • Finger painting

  • Berry picking

  • Scrapbooking

  • Sewing

  • Craft projects

  • Gardening

  • An outing (aquarium, playground, garden center, museum, train station, skating rink, bowling alley, farm, etc)

  • Building sandcastles in a sandbox

  • Playing at a water table

  • Running through the sprinklers

  • Water balloon fight

  • Roller skating

  • Picking flowers

  • Eating cupcakes

  • Jumping on the bed

  • Putting kids down for naps

  • Playing in the mud (yes, mud!! It’s fun!)


And guess what?! It’s going to be awesome.

FamilyEmily Lapish