A Day in Our Life (family photography): FAQ
What is A Day in Our Life?
A Day in Our Life, a unique form of family photography, is a type of documentary photography. In a nutshell, I spend a full day documenting your family life. The emphasis is not on activities or individuals, but on the interactions and relationships within your family. The end product is a high-quality, professionally made album that tells your family’s story and preserves it for future generations.
When you say “a full day”, how many hours do you spend photographing?
I prefer to begin at least before the children have woken up in the morning, and continue until after they have gone to bed at night. A typical photography session lasts 14 to 16 hours.
Why should we choose A Day in Our Life rather than traditional portraits?
Traditional portraits still have their place, because people are used to them, and many people prefer them. However, there is an increasing number of people who feel that the traditional portrait seldom tells its viewers anything about the person in the photograph, other than what they looked like at the time. Traditional portraits also seldom place people in meaningful settings, instead showing them against a studio backdrop, at a beach, a park, or something similar.
Family documentary photography tells a story about the family, its dynamics, and relationships. While traditional portraiture is often about creating a piece of art, family documentary photography is genuine, natural, meaningful. It is a story that can be treasured and enjoyed not only now, but by future generations.
You seem to work mostly in black and white. What is the reason for that?
My rule of thumb for A Day in Our Life is to use black and white unless I feel that colour is essential to the story. There are several reasons for this. Among them is the fact that clashing colours can often distract from the main subject of a photograph. In traditional portrait photography, the photographer would move an object out of the way, or advise clients on what to wear, but in pure documentary photography, the photographer does not manipulate anything.
Another reason is that black and white photographs generally do not date, but retain a classic feel. Colour post-processing techniques and styles that are popular now go out of fashion and lose their contemporary feel relatively quickly.
It is also a stylistic choice. Monochrome has a long association with documentary photography, and I think it says immediately that this is not simply a snapshot, but something more considered, more meaningful. It is something not to be glanced at, but to be examined.
Why are all the A Day in Our Life photographs horizontal and not vertical?
Unless absolutely necessary, I avoid the vertical orientation traditionally associated with portraiture (there is a reason I do use it in corporate photography). The vertical orientation is unnatural. We humans don’t see things that way. If you look around you, you will notice that your frame of vision is a horizontal one. My photographs are horizontal because that’s how we see the world.
A secondary reason, but related to the first, is that computer monitors are horizontal. Horizontal images simply work better on a horizontal screen.
I also avoid the vertical orientation as a stylistic choice, as I am not creating portraits in the traditional sense, but telling a story.
As a result, the albums I create are also horizontal (landscape orientation).
Are you willing to travel?
At present, I am able to work with families only in New Zealand and Australia. Clients are responsible for travel expenses and, depending on circumstances, accommodation expenses. Those expenses vary, depending on how many bookings I receive in the same area in the same period.
The photography session
What should we wear?
Wear whatever you would normally wear. The album is meant to tell your story and preserve your memories of how things were, not present an idealised view that will have little sentimental value in future. If Mum doesn’t usually wear makeup, don’t wear makeup on the day. If Dad normally wears a pair of stained shorts at home, please don’t change that. It’s the memories of things like that your children will treasure when you are gone.
Should we plan any activities?
I usually advise families to stick to their usual routines. Activities are fine if they are things you usually do, and which include the whole family rather than individuals. The album is not about activities so much as it is about relationships and interaction.
Can we arrange a session for a school day?
I advise families to arrange sessions for days when everyone is at home. The idea behind A Day in Our Life is not to photographs individuals engaging in isolated pursuits, but to to tell the story of family relationship. If an adult is at work all day, for example, it is likely the album would unfairly tell the story of a family with an absentee parent. Sessions work better on weekends, public holidays, or other days when the whole family can be together.
Can we have friends or extended family members join us for the day?
As a rule of thumb, I would recommend not having friends visit during a photography session. This is about family relationships rather than extended ones. In addition, as sad as it is, some of the friendships that mean a lot to us now might not have the same importance in years to come. It should also be noted that a friendship that is important to one member of the family may not have the same significance for other family members. Furthermore, that friend will have no significance for a grandchild who may inherit that album 30 years from now.
With regard to extended family members, I advise that you discuss it with me before the day of the session. Circumstances differ from family to family, so rather than making a blanket rule, I prefer to chat about the circumstances and, together with you, come up with something that will work.
What happens if we’re self-conscious?
I find most people are a little self-conscious at the start of a session, but it doesn’t take long before that wears off as the day’s routines start demanding attention. I do also engage with the family, so you’ll feel like I’m a visitor or even part of the family. You’re likely to find you won’t even notice the camera after a while.
Do we need to feed you?
I prefer it if you don’t, as it tends to complicate things for me. In any case, I seldom feel like eating when I’m working. I’d appreciate some water or black tea from time to time, but I’ll usually bring an apple or two to tide me over if necessary, so please don’t worry about feeding me. I promise I’ll be fine!
After the photography session
Will we get all of the photographs from the day?
No. Because of the nature of this kind of photography, not every exposure meets my quality-control standards. I spend quite some time after the session editing the images so that only my favourite photographs from the session are shown to you in a viewing session. This “personal gallery” consists of between 100 and 200 photographs. I edit these down even further, usually to about 50 to 80 photographs for my own portfolio to promote myself as a photographer.
How many photographs go into the printed album?
That depends on you. Your options begin with 30 photographs (I recommend choosing them from my portfolio edit rather than your personal gallery, but it is ultimately your decision). However, you can choose to add more photographs. Please feel free to ask me about your options at your viewing session.
Can we buy digital files instead of a printed album?
Although I’d prefer you to invest in a printed album, I do offer digital collections. The choice is yours, but I do prefer the printed album option. The reason is that, as odd as it may seem, my purpose with A Day in Our Life is not to create photographs. My chosen purpose is to create a legacy. I want your story to be preserved for you, your children, and even their children. Digital files cannot guarantee that. For one thing, formats change. File formats that are in common use today may not be in use 50 years from now. For another thing, hardware and storage formats change. Remember those big 8-inch floppy disks from the 1980s? Good luck accessing the information on one you may happen to have lying around! Although you are free to choose a digital option, in a way I feel that digital files without a printed album is doing yourself a disservice. For more information, please read my blog post, Why printed albums instead of disks?
Do we also get the digital files if we invest in an album?
If you have invested in a printed album I do give you the option of licensing web-resolution digital versions (JPG format) of the photographs in the personal gallery, with a small watermark in the bottom right corner. These are perfect for sharing on Facebook and other social media, or for emailing to friends and family, but they can’t be printed at a large size. If you want high-resolution images without a watermark, you can invest in a separate digital collection.
How soon after the session can we view the photographs?
At present, I arrange a viewing session three to four weeks after the photography session. The reason for this is that, unlike many other photographers who outsource aspects of their work, I carry out all my own editing and post-processing of my photographs. In that way, I have full control over the quality of the photographs I deliver to my clients.
You talk about editing and post-processing. What is the difference?
In traditional usage editing is the process of selection and rejection of photographs from a session. For a single A Day in Our Life session, this step alone typically takes me two days. This is followed by post-processing, which involves working on the individual selected photographs and completing them so they meet my stylistic and quality expectations. Outside of the kind of pure documentary photography I undertake, post-processing can also include advanced retouching and photomanipulation. I do not retouch or manipulate A Day In Our Life photographs.
Many photographers to editing as “culling”, and post-processing as “editing”, but I prefer the traditional terms.