Real life is beautiful.

Say it. Say it again. Say it a little louder. Yell it if you have to. Make yourself really hear it.  Do you believe it yet? If not, you might want to just move past this article and read some of the other delicious tidbits further down in the blog. If you do believe it… or if, at the very least, you think you could be convinced to believe it, read on. I’m about to share with you how those four words have changed my life. Yes, my life. I’m a daughter, a wife, a mom, a small business owner, and a photographer. If real life is beautiful… well, that changes things for me in all of those areas.

I came to this realization about the beauty of reality while looking through a few family photo albums, late in that ever-frightening teenage decade.  My mother has always been fastidious about taking her children to have their portraits done. As a result, she has a photo album of me that begins with pages and pages of studio portraits taken of me as an infant, toddler, and child. But further on in the album, there are snapshots. And more snapshots. There are hundreds of moments captured. Somewhere in that album (and this image is currently nowhere to be found, which is heartbreaking for me) was an image of my father, shirtless and exhausted, lying on the couch under the living room window… and me, sleeper-encased and equally exhausted, curled into the flat planes of his chest as we slept. That image is so much more beautiful to me than those portraits. It was taken with my mother’s simple consumer camera. It was not framed well. It was not tack-sharp. But it is real. In it, I have evidence of the way that my father loved me. In it, I have a visual on what love looked like in my family. In it, I have so much more than just how we looked.

I think my grandparents may have cornered the market on taking pictures of real life. Their photo albums are packed with countless images capturing slices of life. They constantly had their little cameras pointed in our direction. They rarely (if ever) stopped us from our play or our chatter, to ask us to “Say Cheese.” They merely photographed the madness. My Grandaddy has been known to say, “Y’all ignore me. I’m just playing with my camera,” and as soon as we stopped our incessant “cheese-ing,” that’s when he would start photographing again. There is an image of my parents and I, less than a week after my birth, that lives in one of my grandparents albums (I swiped it, so I could scan it and share it here). My parents are dressed in their Easter finery, and I’m dressed as a good newborn southern Baptist girl should be… all pink cotton and lace, with blankets and booties and bows to match… I would have expected to see everyone lined up in front of my Nanny’s azaleas, smiling proudly at the camera, perfect and beautiful, but instead, rather than mugging for the camera, my parents are loving each other, and me. I am bolstered by the reality of their love, so evident in that image. Powerful stuff.

As Nathan and I began our venture into professional wedding photography (which is a completely different story to ask me about someday), I found myself constantly re-confirming my love of reality as I reviewed the images that we had captured. In a sea of beautiful details and ceremony moments and perfect portraits, a close up of the groom stealing a loving glance at the bride would leap out at me. It would say, “This! This is real! This is what love looks like!”  When I had my second child, and wanted to move from a weekend wedding warrior to a full-time work from home photographer mom, I decided to photograph babies. I practiced on our new addition, Baby Addison. And I realized quickly that it was not the cutesy posey images of Addison that resonated with me. I loved seeing what she looked like, but I wanted images that made me feel something more than “Ooh, so cute.” I wanted images that she could look at when she was a teenager, and that would show her not just what she looked like, but what her life looked like… or even better, that would show her what her life felt like. I wanted images that I could look at when she was older that would make me remember all of her baby life (even the screaming parts, or the poopy parts, or the sleepy parts) through the silvery haze of beauty. I wanted to be reminded of how beautiful our reality was.

I could wax philosophically upon this topic for hours, but let me sum it up for you. In short, I love reality and showcasing the beauty in reality because of how affirming it can be. My job as the lifestyle baby photographer is to learn about a family’s life: what do they do? what do they love? how do they love? what do they hate? what has been hard for them? and assimilate that information into the creation of images that document the realities of their life (even the parts they don’t love… even the hard parts) in a beautiful way. If I can do this, I have given them an unmeasurable gift. Not only will they have images that truly document who they are, not only will their children be able to see proof of how loved they were, but they will also see the parts of their lives that are struggles translated beautifully… and that will give them a little surge of positivism. They will think, “Wow, we look that pretty when we (change diapers, breastfeed, deal with a tantrum, etc)?!? Well, maybe it’s not that bad after all. Maybe we can survive parenthood after all.” Giving someone that feeling is a life-changing (as well as referral inducing) gift. That feeling is why I believe so strongly in the power of lifestyle photography.

Real life is beautiful.

All of it: the smiling, cooing babies, the adoring, gentle parents, the learning, the exploring, the love, the laughing, the crying, the diapers, the tantrums, the clutter, the fear. Even the sleepless nights. All of it.

If you can figure out how to believe that, you’ll find it easy to capture. And if you can capture it, you’ll create images that will resonate with your clients. Those clients will build your business for you. Those clients will see that their reality is beautiful, and make sure that everyone they know knows who made them see it.

But first you have to believe it. Repeat after me.

Real life is beautiful.

Written by Amber Holritz the lifestyle baby photographer

Amber is a wife, mom, and photographer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can see more posts by Amber in the coming weeks here on the Pictage blog as well as at www.amberholritz.com.


12 Comments

  • Jim Collins says:

    Amber,

    This is such a great post. I love your perspective on this and the practical ways you are trying to help folks figure it out. More than that I love how your heart and your talent show up in your images. Great work.

    JC

  • Wow. I really needed to hear that. Thank you so much for sharing…I love it!

  • Anna Sawin says:

    SO loved hearing you at WPPI and so loved reading this. Just did this kind of shoot with two-year-old triplet boys (what other kind of shoot COULD I do!) with torn books scattered all over the floor. LOVED it.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Chad Stewart says:

    I recently received a box of old photographs from my mother and I have started scanning them. They are a mix of real life snap shots and what I would call formal portraits. The real life shots have a lot more meaning to me. A photograph of my grandmother either driving the boat or holding the big fish she caught or sitting with family during the holidays means so much. It is nice to get a glimpse of what life was like back then, before I was even a consideration.

    Reading this post made it sink in! Real life is beautiful and needs to be enjoyed. I need to take those little snap shots of my kids as they grow up, so that one day I can look back on them and have fond memories, but also so that my kids, grand kids, and great grand kids can do the same.

  • Sara Dotson says:

    Amber,

    This made me cry.

    When I look back at our first session with you and how Ella screamed through the whole thing I’m reminded that she screamed for months…but yet in your photos it’s the love we have for each other and for her that resonate and for that I am eternally grateful.

    Your work is so powerful and the gifts you give to families are simply invaluable. Thank you for sharing your thoughts behind your work. You challenge us all to not worry so much about perfection…but to capture emotion and reality.

  • amber says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words guys… I’m so blessed by this community.

    xoxox

  • [...] read an article about lifestyle photography a few days ago,  and the blogger reminded me why I loved photography and why I’m a lifestyle [...]

  • Oh your pictures are beautiful and I loved reading this.

  • Gena D says:

    Oh I soooo have to agree with you!!! When my son (who is now 15 yrs old) was a baby … I took copious pictures of him in all settings, places etc… and today when I look back I still adore those images and the reality they portray (in most instances I can still remember each and every moment!!) There were two sets we did in a studio and altho he looks ogrgeous, when I look at those, they have little or no real meaning to me…
    Today I am at the start of my phtobgraphy business/career (after hoppping off the corporate bus, so to speak) and rememer clearly that whe nI decided to do this, about a year ago, that my sole purpose and main objective would be to portray real life, real people, real moments and settings……

    Lovely post and great info
    Thanks
    Gena @ Thinking Aloud

  • Meredith says:

    Amber, this is awesome. I feel the same way. I think I have been trying to squeeze myself into the posey newborn photography because I am crocheting all of these hats and blankets for those kinds of photographers. I just need to remember that I am not JUST that kind of photographer. Thanks for reminding me. Hope to see you soon.
    -Meredith
    @beforeitwithers

  • [...]  LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY.  Real life is beautiful.  Absolutely!  And Amber gives some great insight into how Lifestyle photography helps to capture [...]

  • [...] my last three articles, I expressed my beliefs regarding the beauty of real life and I detailed ways to overcome client insecurity. With this philosophical platform under our feet, [...]

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