Recently there was an incident surrounding a fellow photographers image that caused a discussion about photographs of real motherhood and why they are shared online. When it goes as far as questioning the motives that documentary photographers have for sharing photographs online, I wanted to shine some light on the matter.
So – why does your photographer want to share pictures from your session online?
#1 Artists share their art
At the bottom of it all, photographers are artists in addition to being service providers. Well – I’m not necessarily talking about the person who creates “fast food chain” type imagery all day long at a big department store photography studio. But the independent business owner who creates custom photography for each of their clients is definitely an artist. Thanks to the Internet, they can share their art with a wider audience than they could have before.
Often the photographer has a purpose behind the imagery they share, hoping that sharing art makes people think or feel something. For documentary family photographers, it is often some version of celebrating real life over “Pinterest perfect”, perfectly orchestrated pictures – every photographer has a different view point.
Like all art, photographs of real family life are subjective. We may see humor where others see hardship – based on our own experiences, beliefs, education, expectations, and how we grew up. We might focus on insecurities because they have trickled down to us all the way from our grandparents. We may see the joy we felt in a particular time of life. We may think we see what awaits us some day.
We may never know what a subject in a picture truly was feeling – what we see is our own feelings reflected back to us.
#2 Photographers show their work to attract more amazing clients
Photographers share photographs from their sessions because they have loved what they created, and hope that showing their work will attract more clients that will appreciate the type of art they create.
When an image does go viral (which btw happens very rarely and to very few), it is easy to assume that the photographer has shared the image because they wanted to get exposure. But more often than not when an image strikes a chord with a large amount of people, it catches the photographer by surprise!
Just to be clear, an image going “viral” doesn’t pay the photographer’s bills. It may actually cause them more expenses, if they have to hire someone to manage the sudden attention they get.
#3 The picture stirred something in the photographer
I often find that the pictures I choose to share online resonate with me on some level – some deep and some less so – or caused some kind of emotional response in me. Funny moments and deep connections between sisters make me happy, because I have a sister who has always been a great ally to me. Images of how new parents handle the newborn time help me see that I, too, can do it someday.
What if I don’t want pictures of my family online?
A respectable photographer would never share a picture to make fun of someone, or to “go viral” at the expense of someone else. Respectable photographers will also only share photographs online that their client is comfortable sharing.
Photographers may offer an option to keep some individual images private (let’s say, you aren’t comfortable with nursing images being online but want them as keepsakes for yourself). They might have a separate price structure for families who want to keep all their images private. Often this is a higher rate because the photographer cannot use the images for marketing (#2). It is a good idea to have a non-disclosure agreement in place to protect you as well as the photographer.
Talk to your photographer about your expectations, so that there are no surprises.