Have you heard of “day in the life” family photography?
It can also be called “documentary family photography” or “family photojournalism” or shorten to “DITL”.
You may find that each photographer using these terms will have their own vision and processes, but in general, it means capturing real-life moments without directing or posing.
Most of my work is documentary family photography and I will spend between 2h and 10h with a family and capture whatever happens during that time. You might choose to hire me for a normal day, with no specific plans and let things unfold. Or you might choose a special day/activity.
Head over here to read more about my sessions and packages.
How long does a day in the life photo session last?
My most popular session with families is my half day in the life and they will usually pick a Saturday or Sunday and 5h coverage allow me to capture a range of moments, connections and emotions, without any pressure to perform a certain way. It also means more time for everyone to get used to the camera and show their real personalities.
What is interesting, however, is that, so far, my full day in the life has been chosen by mothers who wanted to capture a weekday when their partners were working. It’s not to say that they didn’t want to capture the special relationship between their partners and children, but they also wanted photos that represented a phase in their family’s life. A phase when they would be spending a big part of the week caring for little human beings without their partner (and try to work…).
Is it not awkward to have a photographer with you for so long?
I would say that the longer the photographer is there, the less awkward it becomes. It’s important to remember that during a DITL family photography session, you don’t have to perform or do anything “just for the camera”. So when you’re tired: you rest. When you’re hungry: you eat. When you need to parent: you parent.
I’ve been told to have a calming presence and that it feels like having a friend over. That’s the best compliment.
Children seem to warm up quickly to me and while they may want to smile for the camera or play for the camera at the beginning, they end up reverting to their normal self.
We also usually have conversations throughout the day and I take breaks when/if the children are napping or watching a movie.
Travelling for full day in the life family photography sessions
I actually travelled to a gorgeous part of Switzerland for this session and stayed a little more than a full day. This family had just only moved from Dublin a few months earlier and I had photographed them before the arrival of their second baby.
We had a wonderful session with you just before our second daughter was born and you captured those last moments as a family of 3 so well. It’s wonderful to have not only beautiful pictures from a technical point of view, but also to have pictures where we are all present as a family, showing the dynamic, and moreso pictures where I am present!Monica
I take pictures all the time, but they simply do not compare to having a proper photographer capture our moments. We have had such a huge lifestyle change since you last saw us, involving an international move, that it not only feels fair to offer our second child some proper pictures in which she is actually more than a bump, but it also seems like a wonderful opportunity to capture our new life.
Feel free to watch a music slideshow of this family session on Youtube or keep scrolling for more images.
Documentary family photography is PERFECT for those who don’t like being photographed :D
I asked Monica why did she choose to have a documentary family photography session over a traditional portrait session.
We don’t enjoy the portrait style of photography, as a family or even myself personally and my husband simply would not agree to a posed session, he thorougly dislikes them. Something strange always happens in posed scenarios where I just hate looking at myself in the finished product, I always look ‘wrong’.Monica
Whereas the documentary style captures the natural movements and expressions that make us all who we are. I also feel that there is very little chance of anyone getting a natural picture of my 4 year old in a posed setting these days, nor indeed of the 19 month old, as they are both very much into ‘funny faces’ at the minute….
Getting a reluctant husband to agree to a family photography session
I don’t really like man/woman generalisations. But… I have to mention this one because it seems to be a concern for a lot of mothers wanting to get family photos done. Past clients have also told me they would be no way their husbands would have agreed to anything else.
Here is what Monica said about their maternity photography session:
I showed him the website and examples of other pictures and explained how it was going to happen and how nice it would be to have these pictures and he agreed reluctantly to let you come over and take pics, and he was distinctly nervous but the nerves just melted away as you started working and by the time it was finished he was the most enthusiastic about having those pictures. This time was an easy sell, instant yes.Monica
The location or “backdrop” doesn’t matter at all!
Yes, this session took place in beautiful Switzerland and I got to capture amazing photos by the lake. But if the place isn’t meaningful to the family, then it really doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong: I love beautiful landscapes. But what I love even more is what happens in front of that landscape. The connections, the personalities.
My goal is to capture photos that make you say “This is SO her/him!”.
Other concerns I hear before a session are: messy house and body self-consciousness
I have written an article a few years ago called Mums, 8 reasons why you should exist in photographs. It seriously needs to be updated but I do acknowledge that it is sometimes difficult to feel at ease in front of a camera if we don’t feel good in ourselves.
Since I wrote the article in 2017 I have changed and grown a lot and my relationship with my body has greatly improved, but I can still put myself in my old shoes and understand this concern.
I’m terrified of having to commit my current body shape to camera. During the last session I was pregnant and ready to burst and I absolutely love my pregnant body so I had no qualms, my only worry was the state the house was in! I am sincerely dreading what the camera is about to show.Monica
I rarely take pictures of myself these days anymore and I’m living in a world of total denial and no mirrors, and I’m really hoping that a professional, documentary style lense will perhaps be kinder on me than the mirror or a smartphone. Perhaps I will be able to look back on myself more kindly through your eyes. I guess there’s always photoshop too :p
I won’t lie and say that I will Photoshop your photos. I won’t.
I won’t lie and say that you will like every photo of yourself that I will take. You probably won’t.
I won’t tell you to “love yourself, love your body” because it’s not that simple and I know it.
What I will say is:
- You are taking these photographs for your children as well. And they love you the way you are.
- You don’t have to print and display photos you don’t like on your walls.
- There will be photos taken in lot of different angles and you might be surprised at what it feels like to see yourself from my perspective.
- You rock!
Johanna, we downloaded the video and the pictures at midnight last night :D:D OMG they are so fantastic!!!!Monica
These photographs now live on the pages of 3 photo albums in Switzerland, not on a computer.
One for the parents and one for each girl.
What do you think? Is a day in the life family photography session in your future?
It is a worthwhile investment for your family legacy. It will bring you joy in the present and future. It will be fun.