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Family Photos in Madison: A Documentary Approach

family photos in madison

Some of you reading this post may know just what I mean when I say that my approach to family photos is a documentary one, and some of you may not be totally sure what this terms implies. That’s exactly why I’m writing this post! When I explain to potential clients how a session with me works and how my version of family photos in Madison may differ from other local photographers, I get a variety of responses. But most of the time these responses are a combination of interest, excitement and relief.

While traditional portrait sessions often produce really lovely photos, they are just not my thing. Instead of a posed photo, I want to make photos that show your family’s real life and how you interact with one another. I want to photograph your family in a way that celebrates who you are, what you love, what brings you joy and how you live your life. And because the only thing you need to do to share that with me is to be yourself, my approach eliminates so much stress from the family photo experience. A session with me is incredibly customizable, making it so very easy for us to design a session that is an authentic representation of your life, resulting in a set of photos that show who you and your family truly are.

My approach to family photos in Madison ensures that your session will absolutely reflect your family’s spirit, interests and values because there are as many different ways to photograph a family as there are families. When we plan your session, I take time to get to know you and your family and learn what you value, what brings meaning and joy to your life and how you love to spend your days so that together we can make photos that are you perfectly you. And it’s this particular and personal understanding that comes from my person-to-person connection with you that is at the heart of how I photograph families.

The Details: What Does a Session Actually Look Like?

While you can pretty much choose any kind of activity for a family photo session with me (and I’ve done a lot of awesome things with my families during photo sessions), there are a few types of sessions that tend be more popular others. Read on to get some ideas of how you might choose to structure your perfect family photo session and to get a feel for what it’s actually like for to work with me to collaboratively make photos that celebrate your family just as it is.

The Adventure Session

Madison is a city full of people who love the outdoors and find joy in a solid outdoor adventure. I’ve lived here for five years and that stereotype about our awesome city definitely seems to hold true. Consequently, many of the sessions I plan with families are structured around an outdoor activity that they love. Whether it’s a bike ride, a hike, playing in the snow, a trip to the farmer’s market or time spent on the water, your family’s favorite outdoor activity will make for a session that is relaxing and enjoyable for you. And, maybe more importantly, it will help you remember your family’s favorite activities through heartfelt and emotive photos that will tell the story of this time in your life.

Family Photos at Home

Home really is where many of our hearts are and family photo sessions at home have always felt particularly meaningful to me. After all, so much of our lives are spent at home and it’s the spot where an incredible number of our families’ important moments and milestones take place. Photographing your family at home, no matter what you’re doing (think activities like playing a game or with your kids’ favorite toys, eating a meal together, playing in the backyard or just hanging out) is bound to be both comfortable and fundamentally representative of who you are.

And I can promise that it is so, so easy and pretty much stress-free. It doesn’t matter if your house is messy or tidy or if your home is big or small, what matters is that it’s yours and that it’s where you live your lives. Planning an in-home session is incredibly simple, too. Just tell me how your family spends time together and I’ll make a plan for our session that honors who you are as a family and that you’ll genuinely enjoy (I promise!).

P.S. An in-home session is a perfect way to celebrate the arrival of a new baby in your family. Learn more about what this particular kind of session can look like by heading here.

The Extended Family Gathering

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Coming together to enjoy time with your extended family is something that has always been incredibly important. But as we all know, the past few years have made these types of gatherings fewer and further between and I think that this has made them even more meaningful and worth documenting and commemorating with photos. These types of sessions celebrate the joy of simply being with your loved ones and can be structured around any kind of activity that represents your family’s unique connection and spirit. Family photos in Madison don’t have to be only for your loved ones who live here: a backyard dinner, a big party or even just spending quiet, quality time together are all great ways to celebrate the connection and unique dynamic that characterize your extended family.

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What Is It Like for Me to Be Your Family’s Third Wheel?

“Catherine came into our home and captured our chaos perfectly in beautiful photographs. While we relaxed and chatted, Catherine snapped away and made us feel at ease while our kids danced and played…These are photos we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”

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“Casually chatting to make sure everyone felt at ease, while also blending into the background so our family could carry out our daily lives uninterrupted for her to document. The outcome of our session was lovely! She provided images that made me laugh, choke up or see our family dynamic in a new, special way. I am grateful for this gift and this wonderful phase in our lives that is now frozen in time because of her.”

“Catherine has such a gentle and unobtrusive way about her that I have finally been able to relax and allow myself to be seen and photographed in the way that I have always longed for.”

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Catherine Hilcove Photography: Family Photography, Madison WI