Life Is Not A Magazine Shoot (Though It Doesn't Hurt To Know Some Tips)

I wrote this post last Thursday. On Saturday, my Mom was hospitalized for a sudden illness. After three scary days in the hospital, she is at home recuperating. It makes me think of this experience in a different light, but I still want to share it. Life is not perfect. But we're so happy to have it.  -- ESS.


First, let me admit: I was a bit over the top with our family beach portrait.

In retrospect I was, perhaps, a bit obnoxiuos. 

Preparing a call sheet. Sending the photographer scouting shots. Creating a shot list. 

While everyone else shows up in khaki pants and white shirt, I was in full editor-turned-art-director mode, suggesting dictating a color pallate for wardrobe (corals and blues), laying out clothes and accessories, measuring the light with my phone. (I did stop short of calling everyone "talent." Ahem.)

I do this for a living. I plan and work to create images that are beautiful, that capture a moment in time. I stand on photo shoots on windy beaches and in freezing fields, analyzing the placement of arms, the angle of the sun -- every piece of the image that will then appear in the magazine's pages. I spend a lot of time in meetings dissecting such photos. (I even shared tips for a great beach portrait in our May issue.)

So when I decided to arrange a family portrait for all 10 of us -- my brother, sister, and I, plus spouses and two children, I wanted to get it right.

This was a special photo. A gift to my mother for her 65th birthday. The first time all of us had been on vacation, kids and all. A chance to have a professional capture what we so rarely get on film, because of time and distance. It was a small window of time to bridge our homes of Alabama, Misissippi, and New York. I wanted it to be perfect.

And that was my problem. 

Life is not a magazine shoot.

Within minutes, things seemed to be going wrong. My mom, who had injured her leg, was having a tough time walking in the sand. My nephew, a month shy of two, was ready for a nap. There were too many people in the background. My family started to melt in the late afternoon sun.

Luckily we had an amazing photographer who sprang into action. Romona and her husband Shane were quick to adapt, make changes, and make everyone feel comfortable. As I ran over the shot list in my head, she worked to race against the clock. 

My family was done before we could finish the shot list. I thanked Romona, but felt dissapointed in myself. It hadn't gone how I planned. We weren't the laughing Jazz Hands Family. There was some wind and heat and frustration.

The truth is: things don't go perfectly on any shoot. Ever. The best photos often are the last ones during a session, when someone lets down his guard, when things are a bit messy. The best photographers get that.

Romona did. And when she sent her images last night, I nearly jumped out of my chair. I called Mom and Dad, texted my brother and sister. It was ... perfect.


Jazz Hands Family! Nate, June 2013 MeganRickyBeach RyanJason_Beach