Recently I shared something on social media about how powerful it is for children to see themselves in printed photographs on the wall or in a frame on the shelf or over the mantle. The messages we send to our children is that they are loved and cherished and precious and they belong in a family. 

Young happy parents smiling at each other with their newborn son

I got a text from a dear friend and Purple Lemon family about how she’d read that and then opened photographs to put on their wall.  Her sons were giddy with excitement to see themselves and know that they are worthy to be part of the home- literally adorning their walls. 

As a parent of both adopted and biological children, I see this so clearly.  The value of having our children in a photograph to demonstrate their belonging is important.  It takes the abstract and makes it a visible, concrete thing. 

Family with three sons laughing during family portrait in Webster Groves, Missouri

But I think all too often, we forget the value of the whole family being in those photographs. It can be tempting to let the kids become the showcase. They are adorable and are hitting milestones we do not want to forget. Sitting up alone, walking, starting school, missing teeth, graduating. Those celebrations hold tons of merit and value.

And that makes me think of two things. 

First, Mamas and Papas- you have to get in the pictures.There are many excuses to sit it out, but I’d say, get in there. 

I recently had two Mamas share about how important it was to be in the photographs with their kids. 

Mother with three children individually

“I am so happy you got pics of me with each child. I have a history of cancer and I just got a discouraging imaging result.  I wanted each child to have a pic with me individually in case something ever happens to me. I tell you this because I want you to know that what you do is really important.”

This Mama was sharing about a photo online after receiving positive comments.  I knew these parents weren’t anticipating more photos after we’d recently shot together, but this family trusted me, and I loved the outcome of a photo altogether.

“...the funniest part is that both [of us] were totally unprepared for pics that day. She had to come back because O was fussy the first time we did pics. We thought she was just going to get some baby shots. I had wet hair and zero makeup, no glasses. Lester has on an old T-shirt. Somehow it worked!”

Family posing with newborn in nursery and older sibling in Fenton, MO

Secondly, people remember what they were doing when they see certain photos. Sometimes, people need to stand or sit in an awkward way to get the right angle and I hope they don’t remember too much about those.  But often people will say to their new spouse at a wedding preview, “Oh, that’s when you made me laugh!” or “Do remember that? That’s when Dad walked out in his shorts and tuxedo jacket!” 

The memories we create when we take portraits of a family is more than just the photo itself. I love encouraging parents to engage with their children when I photograph their family. I’d much rather a child remember their dad being goofy and dancing behind me or their mom smiling at them and giving eye contact than the photographer lady trying to make them laugh and everyone calling their name a billion times. 

First time mom silhouetted sitting with newborn in Shrewsbury, MO

Mamas, take this nugget that my youngest tells me and hold on to it for yourselves.  “You are the cutest Mama in the whole universe! You are beautiful.” (He also tells me I’d be more beautiful if I wore a dress with flowers on it, but I’ll leave your botanicals to your own discretion.)

You ready to be in the photos? To show you belong, too? Email Nikki