West Country photographer Rose Dedman details the appeal of a new style of beautifully meaningful and stress-free family photography

Documentary family photography is a fairly new style of photography and one which I fell in love with a few years ago after coming across work by amazing artists, which really captured the essence of the families they photographed. Rather than striving for perfection, documentary photography captures meaningful moments simply from the everyday, perfectly imperfect life of a family: it celebrates the beautiful uniqueness of each family and its individual members.

There are no bright lights in a studio to contend with, no being told to move into the light or put on your best smile, and zero pressure to ‘perform’. The only requirement is to be yourselves and do what you would normally do together as a family, as if the photographer was not there. This could mean that the photographer comes to spend time with you at home, capturing unposed memories of your family life together, or it could mean joining you on a family day out, perhaps to the zoo, the beach or even a birthday party.

You carry on with your washing, your lunch, baking together, the trip to the ice cream shop, a water fight in the garden, bath time, toothbrushing, bedtime… whatever your family normally do and the job of the photographer is to find the beauty in these moments and create storytelling images from them which you will treasure for years to come. Perhaps it is hard to imagine treasuring in these mundane, everyday moments… you’d be surprised at how beautiful they are: it’s a celebration of life, of being together and the love that you have for each other.

This type of photography is perfect for families with camera shy members or for those reluctant or unable to engage in traditional photography sessions – the aim is to forget that they are even there at all and this is when the magic happens. In my opinion, for the family being photographed, it is the easiest, most stress-free type of family photography there is, resulting in such beautifully unique, meaningful and real images.

A documentary family photography session is a type of photo shoot which you may never have dreamed of booking, until you see the photographs of someone else’s ‘everyday’ and see just how beautiful it really is. These are the moments you will miss when your children are all grown up. These are the moments in life which are exhausting yes, but which will make your heart ache when they are gone. Children marvelling at the washing going round and round the machine, needing help tying their shoe laces, wanting stories at bedtime or to snuggle up to go to sleep. These are all things to hold close for years to come and remember. To remember how hard it is: the exhaustion, the relentless parenting, but also the amazing, unconditional love, the sweetness, the emerging characters in your small people, the tight cuddles and all the moments and emotions in between. The time when they hand you a daisy they have thoughtfully picked from your front garden. The time they feel so pleased with themselves for doing up their zip by themselves. The amazing belly laughs when they squirt water at you from the bath as you stick your head round the door.

As a parent of three young children (aged 9, 4 and 3), I know just how busy, exhausting and relentless parenthood is. It’s so difficult (often impossible) to just stop and take a look around, to appreciate what you have and what you will miss when this is all over. A documentary family photography session can provide a beautiful keepsake of the stage you are at right now, which can be revisited whenever you feel the need. Many families book “day-in-the-life” sessions on a yearly basis and by doing this, they have an amazing record of their child(ren) as they grow, year after year. Children change so fast, and it’s so special to record the different phases that your family go through, with professional imagery, creating a precious, heart-wrenchingly real record of their childhood.

To see more of my work and to learn more about documentary photography, take a look at my website www.rosededmanphotography.com and do to get in touch if you would like to talk through ideas for a photography session capturing your unique family story. 
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