Cutting The Cheese: A Case For Family Photography And An Explanation For My Broken Heart

I just got home from my second photoshoot of the day (note from the editor/writer: this was obviously written the night before it was published. On Saturday night. Does everything make sense now?). On top of everything else, I’m a photographer, and for the first time in a while, I’m back at it. I started actually getting paid for photography back when Dan and I were dating but I officially pulled back from it a year ago when I was pregnant with my third baby. And then, all of a sudden, as if I never stopped at all, I had three photoshoots in the course of a week.

Absolutely perfect light and location for a photo shoot. I love doing this sometimes. #photographer

A photo posted by Laura O’Rourke (@lauralorourke) on

I always surprise myself with how much I love taking pictures of people. But capturing that perfect shot that will be treasured forever is such a privilege. And autumn is quite simply the best time to do it, too. The scenery is always so beautiful and getting that family pic now means Christmas cards will be up to date when it is time to send them in a couple of weeks.

I am a firm believer that hiring a photographer is a worthwhile investment in your family. Doing so regularly is a great way to capture and remember each stage of life. In a world where we Instagram everything, it is nice to get beautiful family photos off the cloud and onto the walls. Family portraits captures the essence of your family and celebrates the beauty in it.

A Case for Family Photography |

(photo credit: my sister, Amy Pike)

The problem is, I can’t take my own advice.

We have arguably never done the whole professional photographer thing. We didn’t do engagement photos. We hired a wonderful photographer for our wedding but to cut down on costs, we arranged for her to hand over the raw files to edit ourselves. Even the huge family photo that hangs over our couch is one snapped by friends on a photo-swap outing. Recent family photos have either been snapped by my mom or sister or using a remote and tripod.

A Case for Family Photography |

(I am so grateful to the family member who took this photo and I am glad to have us all in one photo together this past Easter in our super cute outfits, but I kind of need to overlook the fact that I look terrible and none of the kids are looking at the camera.)

Family photos are important to me, and I make sure that they happen, no matter how much the rest of my family hates it, but we have never had the benefit of a professional whom we pay to pose us, edit us, and make us look our best. Even as photographers ourselves, my husband and I cannot manage this alone for flawless results, especially as our family grows.

A Case for Family Photography |

(This is a beautiful photo. But what you don’t see is that it is a mix of two photos so that I could get everyone with their eyes open in one photo. Thank heavens I know Photoshop.)

Every day I look at that very expensive, massive canvas of our family of four and it makes me sad that it is missing someone.

  Our first and biggest wall art is up. #newhome   A photo posted by Laura O’Rourke (@lauralorourke) on

During a fundraiser, I purchased a gift certificate from a favourite photographer of mine. Soon after, I found myself pregnant with Logan. I talked to the photographer and told her I would like to wait until we had the baby before I used the gift certificate. If we were going to spend big money on a new family photograph for our living room, I wanted to make sure it included the entire family. I went through pregnancy, Logan was born, and then the photographer started booking her fall sessions. I jumped at the opportunity and scheduled us in.

Fall is my favourite season, of course.

We committed to driving the hour both ways to get to the photographer’s town. I started imagining our empty walls full of family photo collages. I didn’t look at the big beautiful photo on our wall with sadness anymore.

We were going to be photographed by a professional. In a gorgeous location. Posed. Proper framing. In focus. Professional editing.

The day before we were scheduled to do the shoot I got a message. “My daughter’s sick. My husband is away. If she is still sick tomorrow, I’ll have to cancel.”

Yes. Of course. That makes complete sense. I am a Mom. I get it. Family first. Always.

The next day it wasn’t just the daughter who was sick. It was the photographer too.

Cancelling was understandable. Except I didn’t realize that she couldn’t reschedule. She was busy and booked solid.

We still don’t have professional family photos. There’s no time to schedule with another photographer and don’t have it within our budget anyway.

I don’t begrudge the photographer at all. I understand her and her current situation and can easily put myself in her shoes. But I am so incredibly sad. It has taken us this long to plan anything like this and I have no idea when we will get our act together to do it again.

I often feel like the only person in this family who cares about this. It is hard to convince a photographer-husband that two photographer-parents need to pay someone to take their family’s picture. But it matters to me. If I want professional fall photos, I now have to wait a year. We will go through one more year with the massive photo of a family-of-four on the living room wall in the house of a family-of-five. Another wall will be empty for another year instead of the photo collage that is intended to be there. There will be a handful of more attempts to get my family in any picture together, hoping that a camera with no professional controlling it can hopefully manage to get us all in focus and looking in the same direction.

So I’m sad.

But I think that maybe, this sadness is also helping me find much more meaning in my recent photography sessions for paying clients. As a photographer, I have always known the importance of family portraits. But right now, I can also really feel it. If I can’t have my perfect family photo, at least I can give another family there’s.


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