Percival Family - Lifestyle Session at the River

I first began my love affair for photography back in 2007. I was expecting my first child and had all of these images in my head of “the perfect shot.” Back then I was all about the staged photos and all of us looking at the camera smiling. I even dabbled in a business posing newborns for pictures. 

And then I became a mom. 

Very soon after the birth of my daughter something in me shifted. I softened, embraced the beauty in imperfection and realized that the moments that mattered most were never caught on camera. So many of those precious memories lived in a space just between the two of us, mom and babe. But by the time I had my second child, I realized there was a whole field of talent dedicated to photographing life just as it is. I was captivated. And that is when I hired my first lifestyle photographer. 

She came to my home and spent time with me and my family. She caught my son rubbing his nose with his favorite lovie. She caught my daughter rolling around softly on my bed, first thing in the morning. And she let my kids splash ferociously in the bathtub. The joy on their faces, that she caught on her camera, was the real thing. No tense “SMILE FOR THE CAMERA NOW” moments. It was real life. And I was totally hooked. 

From then on I vowed that my photography sessions would no longer ever be for my Christmas Cards. My sessions would be personal, special and scheduled around life’s true seasons. If we got one for the card, awesome. But the rest were meant for my walls and my own albums. Photography became a gift for me and my family. Nothing more. 

I first met Sara when we moved back to San Antonio. After a rained out session, she made the wild suggestion to shoot in our completely gutted renovation project house and I jumped on it. What a COOL thing to document! She came for our mini session and it was magic. She was calm and creative. She caught glimpses of what mattered. And I knew that we had to work together again. 

BUT…photo sessions have always been a point of contention between my husband and me. He doesn't love them like I do and always tells me how he feels like they are forced and often the opposite of authentic. I can see that. We often did mini sessions and the pressure was on—as we only had our talented photog for a little while and we had to make the most of it. So there was underlying tension and even if I didn't say “SMILE!” or “JUST COOPERATE” through my mouth, it was in my head. And my family felt it. 

When Sara coaxed me into doing a Creative Session I really didn't know what to expect. It’d been a long time since we’d spent more than thirty minutes with a photographer and I was a little nervous about how my family would take to that. We agreed to head to my family’s favorite spot in Texas so I knew that even if it felt weird and long, we’d be in our happy place. 

And happy place it was!! We met Sara surrounded by light and mountains and water.  What I never realized about mini sessions is that we never got time to warm up. We always had to force the moments because we didn't have time to just BE. With the freedom of a longer session came the ability to relax and carry on. Sara was simply along for the ride, bringing her creative eye to capture what we already are, in real life. 

As a mom, it’s easy to get sucked into the perfection trap and find ways to stress over what we look like and how to hide the leftover baby belly or seek the most flattering angle. But what’s missing when we aim for body goals are the feelings. Smooshing that little boy’s face or holding that sweet girl tight. That’s what we long to remember. We know how much we hit the gym, what we eat and how strong we are. Whether that shows in pictures should be secondary to the energy we bring to our family. 

“These are my favorite pictures anyone has ever taken of my family” said my husband, as we flipped through our digital gallery. A big compliment, as we’ve had such amazing artists document our foursome over the years. I asked him why, as I was quite surprised. I did see my baby belly (that very well may be leftover forever) and my whole family in their river shoes…not the most fab for picture day, but necessary. And all he said, with eyes welling up, was that “These were US.” 

And he was right. This was our family. There were even some pictures of him and I sprinkled in there. What a gift! By the end my kids wound up completely submerged in their clothes in the river and you know what? Those are some of my favorite images of all. This is who they are. This is who we are. Camera or not. 

And to have that documented means SO much to me.

Sara asked me to share my experience with her and I may have gone overboard here, but mom to mom—I really cannot encourage this kind of session enough. So often we document our family with our camera and are left out of the frame. But there are beautiful opportunities to let our hair down, be who we are, and have someone tag along and give us the gift of photography, which we cannot ever give ourselves. Sara makes it so easy. 

Sara, thank you for sharing your immense talent with me and my family. We are all so grateful to have you in our lives!  I cannot wait to style my home with your beautiful art!!! Now the hard part…how will I ever choose which ones?! :)