What is Documentary Family Photography?

It’s a regular morning. Harriet sits in her highchair, half of her Cheerios on the floor–the other half spilled in her seat. Remnants of yogurt and oatmeal stick to her hair, rubbed into her tresses by slimy little fingers. It’s almost time for me to wash her up–an activity she now greets with screams and loud protestations, squirming and wiggling to avoid the wet cloth on her face. But I wait a moment–I hear Jay’s shoes coming down the steps. It’s time for him to head out. “Say goodbye to Dadda, Harriet!” “Daddy’s going to work.”

And then without prompting, she waves. It’s more a flapping of her whole arm…but it’s a wave. Her first wave. “Yes!! Good girl! That’s right, Harriet! Wave goodbye to Dadda!” She looks at me, surprised at the reaction her hand flapping has garnered but obviously very pleased with herself.

I guess it’s not a regular morning after all. It’s the morning when Harriet first waved.

If only I could pause that moment, soak it up, see the delight in her face, and remember our morning routine together. I know I’m going to forget it. I know we’re going to have new routines and new firsts…but oh to hold onto those little moments just for a bit!

documentary family photography

What are the things that makes your family special? What memories do you hold most dear? Of course we all love to look back on highlights–family trips, vacations, new places we discovered together. But what about the day-to-day? The ups and downs…the laughs…yes even the tears…of every-day-crazy-life together? Those are precious memories too.

That’s why I love to shoot documentary photo sessions for families. It means capturing those little moments, those daily routines that so quickly fade. Documentary family photography goes beyond cute pictures of everyone looking at the camera to meaningful, story-telling moments. It’s more than “here’s what we look like all dressed up for pictures.” It’s “here’s what we look like when we’re laughing at our corny jokes and juggling our one-year old.”

Don’t get me wrong–having great portraits of your family is also meaningful, and it’s something I often take during a documentary photo session. But having pictures that in some small way “pause” those sweet memories and passing moments is a wonderful gift to your family for many generations.

So what is documentary family photography? It’s your family: unscripted, beautiful, real, incredible.

Natalie - Mary! I love this. Harriet’s first wave story brought a tear to my eye :)

Rosaura - Oh you said it just so perfectly it made my heart ache and smile at the same time. Thank you Mary! :)

Milla - This is SO PRECIOUS. I love this post, Mary, and I can’t wait to be part of your every day routine next week! :)

Crystalyn - And that’s what I cherish so much about the photos you took of our family. They were our chaotic, messy every day. Something we don’t capture enough (at least with me in the photos!) Unscripted. Perfect. and photos I’ll cherish forever.

Ashley - I wish I had you to document our dinner last night…Keegan was manipulating Matt into feeding her dinner and dropped her fork with a face and screech that said “I am the master of Chaos! Bend to my will!!!” I would pay good money to go back in time to capture that face!!!

Pumpkin Patch Baby Photos | Harriet is 9 Months Old

This past weekend my sweet mother-in-law came into town to visit us…well, I think mainly she came to see Harriet. And who could blame her? Harriet is only too glad for the extra attention, and she’s just so cute right now–if I must say so myself. It was also my birthday, so I took advantage of the extra help and headed out to the local pumpkin patch (Queen Anne Farm) for some classic fall photos for Harriet.

Yes, I am officially one of those parents dragging their kid around a farm and plopping them in front of squashes for pictures. But hey, let’s admit it–kids and over-sized vegetables are cute. Besides, this also doubled as Harriet’s nine-month photo shoot, which is hard to believe is here already. As my mother-in-law says, the days may seem long at this stage, but the months and years fly by.

So I leave you with some cute baby photos. Enjoy the weekend!

Also, a side note…Harriet was Miss Fussypants when we first arrived at the farm, but after a tasty lunch she finally perked up. I bet you can see the difference in the photos. The rest of the pictures are bonus ones from Nana’s visit.

Emilie - I may be biased but I think pumpkins make for wonderful pictures and family outings. Glad to see she eventually enjoyed it.

An Anytime Session | Milla and Brad

“Congratulations!” A stranger passing by yells, ducking into the shadows of hanging nicknacks and touristy wares from the shop. I laugh at first because the couple I’m photographing aren’t taking photos on their wedding day or celebrating a recent engagement. In fact, they’ve been married for nine years. But the man doesn’t know that–he simply sees a couple in love.

And then I quickly realize that they of all people should be congratulated. You see, it’s one thing to get married–to make a commitment to love and faithfully care for another–it’s quite another to live that out. The former is full of excitement and anticipation, the latter is more staid and sometimes mundane. It’s all those in between moments that build the legacy of love in a marriage.

We often celebrate the milestones and highlights in life–but I think we should also recognize the sweetness of day-in, day-out devotion. That’s one reason why I so enjoyed photographing my friends Milla and Brad one afternoon a couple weeks ago when I was in Pittsburgh. It was an average afternoon–no fanfare or flowers–just a beautiful, ordinary day. And the dogs of course. You can’t forget Tuco and Turk!

Congratulations Milla and Brad. You deserve it.

Caryn - Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful!!

Milla - Mary thank you thank you thank you. You have such an amazing way of capturing things creatively and naturally. They feel just like “us” – so, thank you for your friendship and for once again providing us with amazing photos that I will cherish forever. Love!!

Sherry - HOLY COW! These are so amazing Mary! I absolutely LOVE them all! And Milla you look gorgeous, love the new hairdo! Really just WOW!!!

Maryland Family Photography | Priscilla is One

“P” is for Priscilla and for personality–because this little girl has a lot of it! I recently photographed Priscilla and her family in honor of her (parents) making it to one year. And believe me, this is definitely an event worth celebrating and documenting!

Until I had my own baby, I never realized just how much work they are! Now when I see other babies and children, I not only see a bundle of cuteness but also many, many long hours of care and love from their parents. In the midst of baby rearing, it’s easy to forget all the sweet little moments, especially because babies change and grow so quickly. And while you’re proud to see your baby growing up–a part of you wants to just hold and snuggle them forever as they are. So I hope these photos are a precious keepsake for Priscilla and her mom and dad. Congratulations to them all on Priscilla’s first birthday.

Here are just a few favorites from their day.