My friend Laura is one of the most insightful, genuine, and kind people I know. She approaches life with a wisdom and perspective that most don’t. When it came time for family photos, she told me that this year she wasn’t sure she was too excited about taking htem — because, in a way, it felt inauthentic. She meant that to present one’s family in a “perfect” light is to betray the realness of who we are as families (especially with young children). We are imperfect. We are flawed. Opinionated (have you met a toddler?). Tired (have you met a parent of a toddler?). We’re just human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said since then. On one hand, as a photographer, I think it’s beautiful and wonderful to celebrate the goodness and joy in whatever life stage you’re in — even if your daily life doesn’t look like that one image might suggest. On the other hand, I think it’s raw and honest and vulnerable to present the parts of life that aren’t polished — that’s where real relationships form, and one of the reasons I love Laura as a friend.

So as I edited through her family’s photos, which were taken at the most picturesque time of year at one of the most picturesque locations in Kansas City, I was struck by how the beautiful and the imperfect intermingle in this space we call “family photos.” We’re presented with the lovely and the chaotic all in one space, which is such a picture of what family life is like. I love the image of Laura and her husband, Blake, laughing together under the perfect yellow trees. What you don’t hear in that image are the shouts of children running in the background (their children AND mine because they let me bring my OWN children to this photo shoot… see the next image after it, or the photo at the very end that shows my Luke covered in mud thanks to his big brother). ;) But in that image of Laura and Blake, their laughs are real. The story is real. It may just be a different one than you perceive.

So, I hope this year when you look at your family photos, you can appreciate the images of imperfection just as much as the holiday-card-worthy images. This time is fleeting. It’s happening right now. Document it well, and appreciate it for what it is.

(This is my little Luke, covered in mud by the end of the shoot…what kind of photographer takes her own kids to a photo shoot? Lol. The kind whose husband is out of town and it’s busy October and who has great friends who say “of course!” when you ask if your kids can come so you can fit it all in) :D