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Thoughts on a sensitive topic …
October 25, 2011
As a parent, I think it is my right to decide how I raise my children … from the books they read, to the clothes they wear, to the food they eat, and discipline. Everything is under me and my husband’s guidance, because we love our children and want to raise them to be the best possible human beings they can be, to the best of our abilities.
As a person, it is not my right to tell anyone else how to parent … How you want to raise your children and treat them is entirely your choice (within reason of the law, obviously). I may respectfully disagree or may entirely agree – but that’s beside the point.
As a business person, there is a delicate balance between my views on parenting and my rights to speak up. I’ve decided it’s time that I speak up about something that has really got me bothered, especially after discussing this with some colleagues who have shared similar experiences. As a business owner, I make each and every decision for my business (with my husband’s input) – and it’s totally terrifying and thrilling at the same time. There was recently a post done by photographer Jen McKen of Indiana (“I Won’t Photograph Ugly People“) about standing up for her rights as a business owner to not tolerate certain behavior in clients (in her case, seniors bullying others), and that really pushed me to speak my mind.
I can hardly believe I have to write this blog, it kind of breaks my heart that I even need to discuss this and even sadder that I need to add a non-violence clause to my contract. Over the last few months, I have had two incidents that have led me to this post, both instances dealing with a young child who was being uncooperative during a shoot that resulted in the child being spanked and humiliated right in front of me … I was totally flabbergasted that this would happen not just once, but twice during my career as a family photographer. Like I said, what you do in your own home is your business and I support your right to discipline as you see fit, but as a business owner – I won’t tolerate it because it affects my work.
Threats of violence (i.e. spanking) and acts of violence against myself and those involved with the shoot will NOT be tolerated. What you do in your own home is your business, but during a photo session -it becomes my business. The last thing that will work when a child is being uncooperative or throwing a fit is a child being spanked or threatened. It publicly shames the child and usually leads to crying and tantrums, which leads to – well, not exactly great pictures. Who wants to get a great family photo done with a child that has tears rolling down their face and mom and dad being angry? I know that I do not. And as a third party person, I can definitely attest to the fact it makes people feel very uncomfortable to be subjected to this behavior.
The whole point of getting pictures done is to remember a happy time – to laugh, be silly, smile, have fun and remember a special day – be it a first birthday smash cake session, a regular family session or whatever the case may be. I have four kids – so I am VERY familiar with the ups and downs of kids at all ages – I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly out of my own children. I know sometimes they just need some space, or a break, or snacks or a nap – and I am always willing to work with a parent during a session. I like to try and separate the kids from the parents so that way the kids aren’t having a well-meaning parent scream “SMILE!!” or “LOOK AT ME!!” at the kid. It just doesn’t work. You have to be able to trust your photographer to capture your child’s inner spirit – and sometimes that means taking a step back and letting me do my job. I like to think I do a pretty good job getting kids to relax and have fun during a session, but sometimes kids just aren’t in the mood – and I totally understand that!
So with that being said, if threats or acts of violence occur during a session, I will terminate the session immediately without refund. It is so much better to simply reschedule a shoot if you (or I) sense that today just isn’t your child’s day, rather than do something that will lead to tears, clinched jaws, forced smiles, and ugly pictures. The images captured represent my vision and talent, I put a lot of hard work into capturing the best memories possible for each and every family … so if that means having to reschedule, so be it! I would much rather have you enjoy your session and love your images and remember the fun time you had … rather than remember that so-and-so was acting out and just not cooperating and that you couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I’m not just capturing an image, I’m capturing a forever memory – let’s make it a good one!