the letter that changed my mind about extended family sessions {columbus, ohio family photographer}

I have a secret.  I do some work I haven’t told you about.  Still photography, mind you.  But photography work that I never share.  You’ve never seen me post it here on the blog or on facebook, because every time I do a shoot like this, I think for at least one second, “never again.”

I take on sessions with…..

Big families.  I don’t mean like 12 kids (although those, of course, would be fine also).  I mean like, grandparents, their kids, and their grand kids.  These are always hard sessions for me, as I have to somehow make a large group of people interact in order to give them what I do best.  As you can imagine, this is tricky with large groups, so we instead get images like this…columbus ohio family photographer and this…columbus ohio family photographer and also this…columbus ohio family photographer and this, too.  columbus ohio family photographerNow, don’t get me wrong.  My clients really like these images.  And I am happy to provide them.  I LOVE meeting a whole big extended family and sharing some time with them.  I love it.  But it’s these smiling-at-the-camera pictures that always make me wonder, at least for a second or two during the session, if I’m being true.  True to my clients, true to myself.

But then, images like this happen within the same session.columbus ohio family photographerAnd I think to myself, “Yes!  Yes, yes, yes.  This is good.  A bunch of cousins having ice cream.  How could it get much better?”

Or I get an image of the grandparents, who started this big, wonderful family, being in love for a second, like this: columbus ohio family photographer Or this:columbus ohio family photographerAnd maybe, if it’s a lucky day, we get some cousin love.columbus ohio family photographersarah gee-8445Or aunt or uncle or grandparent adoration:sarah gee-3852sarah gee-1614 columbus ohio family photographer columbus ohio family photographerAnd it’s when I get to see and document these moments, that I think, “Yes.  This is right.  I would love to have a good picture of my grandparents tickling me when I was little.  Or my aunt holding me tight.”  I feel undeniably lucky to get to witness these times and to be able to give these images to the people who love them.

So, for a long while, I went back and forth on offering big family sessions.  Until I received this email from one of the lovely ladies pictured in these images.  It read:

I just wanted to really thank you for the wonderful experience of our family photos last December at Easton.  Dad passed away on September 21 and mom and I have commented several times since then how thankful we are that we got those pictures taken.  We even had one of the large ones displayed near the casket during the viewing and mom said absolutely everyone commented on the wonderful picture.  So I just really wanted to thank you for taking our pictures.” (shared with permission)

And that.  That right there sealed it for me.  Yes.  I absolutely do big family sessions.  I will take those smiling-at-the-camera pictures that you want.  But most of all, I will document your family – generations of your family.  Grandparents with their grand kids.  Adult siblings in an image that hasn’t been taken professionally since they were children.  Love and love and love.

Generations of love.

It would be my absolute honor.

If you would like a big family session, head here to tell me about your ideas!




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  1. These are all great points! It is easy to want to say no to these types of shoots, but you’re right, some serious magic can happen at them. Ps. Love the one of the cousins eating ice cream!

  2. Oh my goodness I just love that picture of the children eating ice cream!

  3. You’ve capture so many really special moments! Love them all!

  4. Wow, this gave me goosebumps!! Such an awesome post – I love your philosophy on extended family sessions, and also your heart for them. It really shows in your work!!

  5. These are so precious! I love what you had to say and you can tell these photos are heartfelt.

  6. I’m a big believer at formals at weddings for just these reasons! Now there are 3 people that have since passed away. Having these memories really are priceless to any family!

  7. Extended family session are a lot of fun! I love all your photos here!

  8. agreed. i have to remind myself of that for weddings as well!

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