5 Reasons Front Porch Photo Sessions Need to Wait... and What You Can Do in the Mean Time
Updated: Apr 6
Phew... what a few weeks it's been! Our family has been self quarantining & social distancing due to the COVID-19 global pandemic since schools were announced they would close in Illinois (Friday, March 13th). We have essentially been "sheltering in place" or staying home and only going out for essentials just as long. Although Governor Pritzker made the official order in Illinois a little over one week ago- for our family, this has meant only going to the grocery store on a limited basis for just shy of 2.5 weeks.
I want to take a minute to share my thoughts but before I do so, I need to preface this post with a quick "warning". It absolutely breaks my heart to see this topic become so polarizing within my own local photography community and facebook moms' groups. I don't mean to bring this up to stir the pot, offend anyone, or start any arguments. I'm simply hoping to share my heart and concern. I welcome comments and discussions on this post, but please remember to be kind!
If you've spent any time on social media the last two weeks (which, if you're reading this... you're probably as guilty as me for the amount of screen time you've been filling your days with) you may have seen articles, posts from local photographers and friends re-sharing this idea of "Front Porch Photo Sessions" or "The Front Porch Project". I got a call from one of my best friends today... "Hey! My mom said there is a photographer doing front porch sessions in Colorado" Facebook message after Facebook message has popped up this week... "Hey- this is cool, you should do these."
Honestly, I can see the appeal that some families may have for these photo sessions. I love that some photographers are giving back to their community and taking donations and I love that others are getting creative in ways to make ends meet while we can't work the way we typically would. With that being said, here are my 5 reasons why front porch photo sessions need to wait:
1. Photography is a non-essential business
This point is pretty simple and straight forward but for some reason it's still a grey area. I will say that I don't know the guidelines currently in place for each state, but because a majority of my own photography network and my own client base is located in Illinois, I will be focusing on our own state guidelines. On Friday afternoon, March 20th in the State of Illinois, Governor Pritzker issued an official order. This executive order laid out three main directives:
Non-essential business and operations must cease
All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned
Stay at home, except for essential activities
Photography is categorized as a non-essential business. Simple as that. Non-essential business must cease operations. These are tough times, I get that. I know there are SO many families suffering, making sacrifices, experiencing loss of income and navigating uncertain times. I have studio rent to pay and other fixed expenses just like other businesses. Considering your business more important than another during a time where the greater good needs to be considered isn't fair to other businesses also making sacrifices. One of my favorite sayings is,
"Be kind. Always. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about..."
2. It's important we ALL stay home right now
If you've done any reading about flattening the curve or social distancing, you may already know why it's so important to stay home right now. Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, other medical professionals, first responders, grocery store employees & all other essential businesses go to work FOR US, so we need to stay home FOR THEM! Even if a photographer is at the curb with a long lens and safely social distancing- that means that we're not at home, and putting others at risk by conducting non-essential business!
Photo Credit: AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet
3. Professional photographers typically can't do their job well while social distancing
This point might be argued by some photographers, so I will speak for only myself on this point. I can't do my job well while standing 6ft. away from my clients and their kids. I use a long 70-200mm lens for ALL of my outdoor sessions, and I have for years before social distancing was even a phrase in our vocabulary. That doesn't mean that I'm always standing that far away. I need to talk, play, tickle, giggle with, tell jokes, talk about boogers & poop and have fun with my littlest clients to get them to smile and interact with their family. Although a majority of my own clients are young families, I do work with families with high school age or adult children- even then I prefer to pose and move people to get the perfect composition and generally greet, talk with and connect with all of my clients regardless of their age.
Photo Credit: Caro Gardner
4. There are other ways to give back & heighten morale safely
I think the good coming of these sessions is inspiring, and I never want to discount the giving nature being inspired in others. I also don't want to discount the value of raising the overall morale of the community during these uncertain times. The ramifications of quarantine and isolation on our mental health is just as real as any concerns for our physical health or economic health. BUT, I do think there are other ways to give back right now and encourage your friends and neighbors.
Monetary donations can be made without exchange for photos. Local hospitals are accepting donations of PPE (personal protective equipment) & crafty folks are sewing masks to be used to reinforce medical grade PPE. Local restaurants are donating meals & food to medical professionals working on the frontlines and SO much more! We can FaceTime or video chat with friends and family safely to check in on them and there are so many other online events happenings to help entertain our kids and ourselves and raise our spirits! I've listed my favorites below:
- Live streamed living room concerts (anyone love the Backstreet Boys as much as me?)
- Mo Willems Youtube Channel, Lunchtime Doodles
- Josh Gad's Twitter story time #gadbookclub
- Take home baking and cooking kits; Check with your local bakeries and restaurants! Some are offering take home cookie or cupcake decorating kits to help inspire creativity and fun! We even have a local company offering homemade pasta making kits! These are usually delivered or picked up with a no contact drop/pickup!
- Virtual workout classes, support groups, dance classes with Kicking it with Kevin, based in Naperville; a lot of these are free or have free trial memberships
- Online preschool/morning start ups for littles with Miss Megan's Camp Kindergarten
Photo Credit: Al Dente Pasta Artists, pasta making based in Naperville, IL
5. Some people might not want to remember this historical time with professional photos
I want to respect both sides of this argument by saying that I can understand two different perspectives and even variations of those perspectives. On one hand, I can see that some families like the idea of front porch photo sessions. Our own family has experienced a new sense of togetherness and there are definitely things that I have personally learned about my kids and our family that I will be taking into everyday life once our everyday lives are back to a "new normal" (kids are back to school, typical work resumes, etc.)
With that being said, we also need to remember that as harsh as this sounds, people are dying. Families are losing loved ones. The daily numbers of cases are climbing and to some families worrying about whether or not photographers should be allowed to drive or walk from house to house seems trivial. Our local medical professionals and first responders are risking their lives and their own families' safety to care for their patients; so social distancing from the curb and photographing funny photos of people in their pjs or with toilet paper and hand sanitizer may be offensive to some.
There is one variation of this perspective that I feel that I personally identify with the most, which is why I will be sharing the "what you can do in the mean time" part of this post. If there's one thing a global pandemic has taught me, it's that you never know how quickly things can change and how quickly someone you love and care about can be taken from you. As numbers rise in the Chicagoland area, I'm getting daily texts and messages asking for prayers for friends of friends, or acquaintances/connections that have tested as positive for COVID-19 and some that are hospitalized. It's a stark reminder how important family photos are.
So... what do we do in the mean time? Here are my best tips:
- Get behind the camera yourself! This is the perfect time to master your own skills & dust off that DSLR camera you got for Christmas. I would encourage everyone to take as many photos as they can on their own right now. If you're looking for extra help I teamed up with Simply by Suzy to offer her online photography class for parents.I have a Facebook group for all parents that have purchased the course through my link to answer questions and offer support in using your camera. I'm also giving families that purchase this course a $50 voucher for a future full session! Check out more about this course and purchase through my link online here. My friend Bari Baskin with Time Stops Photography created this awesome blog post with her tips to taking better photos while we're all hanging out at home!
- Bust out your iPhone if you don't have a DSLR! Though I have my fancy cameras, a lot of my favorite photos of our own family are on my iPhone. Suzy also has an iPhone only course available here. This course is included for FREE with the purchase of the full parent photography course or you can purchase it separately! If you want to get the whole family, throw on the self timer or rock a selfie!
- Just wait. I would LOVE to help you capture special memories for your family. Let's wait for it to be safe to do it the right way! You can fill out the contact form on my website if you're ready to book a future session and I will be in touch via email to make plans from there.
If you do want to do a front porch session, I won't be offering them- but I do have two local friends that are doing them once the shelter in place order is lifted. Check out Danielle Hardesty Photography based in Downers Grove & Latrice Murphy Design & Photography based in Aurora.
My prayer for you, your family, our local community and the whole world is that we all stay safe, stay healthy & stay selfless!