Do You Think the New Trend of Shooting 'Porch Sessions' Is Dangerous?

Do You Think the New Trend of Shooting 'Porch Sessions' Is Dangerous?

Every year, we see different photography trends arise. This year, we're seeing something new: portrait sessions of families posing in front of their homes, smiling at the safely distanced photographer. But, is this a wise move of documenting social history or a risk that is not worth taking?

We've all heard it and we all know it: we should stay inside and socially distance from others to give our countries a fighting chance to decrease the spread of the virus. And we all have been hit hard by this new reality, especially those whose businesses have plummeted, so what do we consider a safe way of working in photography with the current circumstances? Can we truly ensure we have taken every single step to avoid making matters worse for ourselves and those around us?

A new trend of "porch sessions" has sprung up during this emotionally and financially challenging time where photographers offer to photograph individuals and families in front of their homes or through their windows or glass doors. According to Photobug, this trend originated from the Front Steps Project in Massachusetts and has begun to spread all over the world. It's very likely that you know someone in your friends circle who has either pursued this or has been photographed as subjects. Although the upside is that many photographers do donate the session money towards COVID-19 relief projects and organizations and others do it for absolutely free, there is still no guarantee that the photographer and their client have taken every precaution to avoid health hazards. 

A collage of front porch photo sessions.

You can find thousands of images from various locations on Instagram by searching for #frontstepsproject or #frontporchproject

Photobug tells us of an anonymous contributor who expressed their worry for this trend. Although they understand that photographers are suddenly cut off from all social contact and thus their clients, this type of photography is not a necessary interaction, nor is it an essential service. Although most do it with the best of intentions, it still leaves room open for mistakes that can cost lives. Some photographers may knock on the door or ring the doorbell, pass someone in the street, and by doing so pass, on or catch the virus. 

Furthermore, in many countries all over the world, essential work is limited to key workers whose skills and jobs are required to keep the society going, whereas in this case, photography, except those working with a media pass, is certainly not an essential job. For that reason, it can be illegal to pursue it in this manner. The anonymous contributor understands that we might be tempted to find loopholes to work around the current situation, but some things are better left as they are for a reason. If we collectively work together to socially distance, we are helping not only ourselves but everyone around us, especially the healthcare sector workers, to get through this one day. 

What are your thoughts on these sessions? 

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Mark B's picture

The purpose of stay at home orders is to stop the mass gathering of people in enclosed spaces. Depending on your state, you may even be encouraged to continue going outside as long as you are not in direct contact with others. Most states still allow people to congregate in smaller numbers.

To quote the Massachussets order specifically since this is where the trend started:

"Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order."

"The Baker-Polito Administration Order also limits gatherings to 10 people during the state of emergency, a reduction from the 25 person limit established in an earlier order.

This includes community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, and any similar event or activity that brings together more than 10 persons in any confined indoor or outdoor space. The order does not prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people in an outdoor space, like a park or athletic field."

It looks to me like these photographers are in compliance with the order.

Alex Cooke's picture

On the other hand, in Ohio:

"All persons may leave their homes or place of residence only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to participate in Essential Businesses and Operations..."

Kendrick Howard's picture

when they close the liquor stores and the dispensaries (in Colorado) I'll take it a little more seriously

Matt Williams's picture

Closing liquor stores can be very dangerous for alcoholics. You can die from alcohol withdrawal and alcoholics ending up in the hospital only further endangers lives.

Also, people would probably literally riot if liquor stores closed.

Not all states sell liquor in grocery stores, either.

Marijuana - you won't die without it, but for many people is as essential as many other medications. I won't die without my Adderall, but it's still essential enough that I can go get it. Marijuana is not just used recreationally.

Alex Harris's picture

Maybe someone can also explain why gun shops are essential businesses and need to be open... Or is just lobbying/pressure from the BS NRA?

Matt Williams's picture

I actually didn't know they were and now that I do I agree that that is nonsense. I'm sure it absolutely is pressure from satan's minions at the NRA, along with governors not having a backbone and not wanting to anger the people in their state that jerk off with guns or whatever they do. I personally think no one needs to own any gun ever, but that's a pipe dream in this country - they certainly don't need to be going to gun stores during a pandemic though.

Mike Ditz's picture

Nobody wants to piss off a bunch of panic buying gun owners. I'd guess 90% of the guys lining up around the gun shop near me are not buying their first weapon, probably stocking up on bullets and another gun or two. The LA county sheriff suspended gun sales and that lasted one day, then he was removed from the emergency manager position replaced by a local politician.

Matt Williams's picture

Oh, I know they aren't buying their first weapon. I've seen tons of people on twitter talking about stocking up on ammo and whatnot. Guess they're planning to shoot the virus.

Alex Harris's picture

Exactly. Stocking up for what?

Matt Williams's picture

For the upcoming civil war that they all think is going to happen because of the libtards. When in reality if that happened, none of them would leave their houses. People who buy lots of guns are the most scared people in the world, though they'll certainly never admit it.

I love going out and shooting some cans or some clay pigeons with a shotgun every now and then (I don't own any guns myself though), but anyone who thinks they need a gun that holds more than like 7 or 8 bullets is just damn crazy.

Joshua Meadows's picture

Might want a firearm and ammo if you have livestock. Also, firearms are nice to have if your home is broken into. I personally think if you want a firearm that's your business and I support a person's right to choose to have one.

Kendrick Howard's picture

What are the alcoholics and "essential" marijuana users going to do after we socially distance ourselves into abject poverty? Hopefully they are lucid enough to buy a gun so they can get their essential items by some "other means".

Matt Williams's picture

You have to be joking.

It offends you so much to stay 6 feet apart in public that you're worried you'll have to take a deadly weapon to steal goods.

That's insanity right there.

Your dismissiveness of alcoholics and marijuana users (many who, once again, use it medically) is, well, actually exactly what I'd expect from a gun nut. Screw everyone else that isn't you, I suppose.


In my opinion people are just freaking out.

If you're not having contact with anyone else, nor with anything they touched, it is fine.

People are thinking that breathing the same air as someone else 1000ft away is going to kill them.

Keep your distance, wash hands, clean instruments, use protective gear. But I'm seeing more and more people thinking that stepping outside is a death sentence.

Kendrick Howard's picture

That's because they subscribe to group-think and get most of their "news" from social media......

Karim Hosein's picture

Sure, if they want to take partraits from 300m away, with a 3,000mm lens, sure. Why not? Let them at it. I am not woried about them, «breathing the same air as someone else 1000ft away,» but breathing on things within 2m of where they are standing, and later, infecting someone else who touches those things.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

“The rule applies to everybody, except me, ‘cause I’m special and I’ll be careful.”

Please. People need to stay home.

Everybody can come up with an exception for why they should be out and about.

If everyone did, where would that leave us?

Additionally, I’ll bet all of these sessions are being conducted for free or for some nominal, “not a profitable business” fee.

It doesn’t matter that they’re donating any proceeds if, in the process, they’re undermining the industry by creating a worldwide project that teaches people that photography is free or cheap.

Each one of these sessions is taking a family out of the market for a family photo session after this crisis ends.

Where does that leave those who run family photography businesses?

I suspect this is mostly hobbyists doing this. Hobbyist meaning anybody not doing photography as a full-time job.

Their fun little project is going to extend the impact of this crisis for those who earn their living through family photography.

AND they’re potentially spreading the virus in the process.

What an awesome project.

Stuart Carver's picture

Wtf is so difficult to understand, just stay at home.. it’s not even a difficult thing to do.

c0ld c0ne's picture

Agreed. Going out of business is not difficult at all.

Stuart Carver's picture

It’s better than being dead

Christoph .'s picture

To me, this is the problem when the "hive mind" of society gets collectively outraged about something they don't understand and want to get worked up about something. I'm seeing in my own area on the big "community" FB pages people calling people out for something that poses absolutely no risk, and then they order takeout which actually carries more risk.

As long as good distance (4m or so) is maintained and there is no physical interaction, it's a safe practice. We have to find ways to continue to live without having to completely turn society off. This will be a long haul and we need to find ways to make as many things work as we can or the wheels will just completely stop turning.

The purpose of isolation is to reduce the R0 of the virus. The only control we have on this is by lowering the people you interact with. The less people interacted with, the likelihood of transmission goes down. You can shoot one of these sessions with a 70-200 and remain at a totally safe distance and have 0 interaction as far as this virus is concerned.

It's a far higher risk going to a grocery store or gas station without a mask on than it is shooting one of these sessions from meters away.


100% agree.

It is very hard to get this virus from the ambient.

And it is easy, being on the richest country on earth sitting on your ass and getting paid more than other 6.5 billion people that are actually working.

We have to make society work again, take protection measures, change habits, but we have to move on.

Paul Jarrett's picture

Time to lighten up some, this is not the Black Death. Half of Europe, North America and the rest of the world are not going to die. Yes, people are getting ill, some are dying. Even if there is a 3% death rate from this virus, that means 97% are not going to die; most will not even get sick. Currently there are 1.2 million confirmed cases out of a world population of 7500 million. But if we don't lighten up and get back to work, we are looking at 30 million unemployed (just in the US). Take that world wide and we are really talking about something catastrophic to the world's economy and society. So I am all for people getting out there, with precautions, getting back to work. Go get something to eat from a small restaurant and give a 20% tip. Get out there, using common sense and social distancing. If you are sick, for heaven's sake stay home!



People don't understand that it will not end fast. And even if it does, will we all quarantine for another year when someone sick travels from another country? Will we close all travel forever?

We can't stay locked in place forever, take precautions, change habits, but we need to adapt and keep going.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Economy first, health last. Typical capitalistic approach, isn't it? Maybe it's time that we realise that something went wrong in the past decades?


Me first and kill everyone that is not a socialism of starvation. What a great mind set

Karim Hosein's picture

As long as we keep the economy going, I suppose. Nothing else matters.

Rayann Elzein's picture

What's difficult to understand with the words "stay at home". That's only 3 words! Are people that uneducated that they cannot understand the meaning of 3 little words put together?

g coll's picture

It's not that they don't understand but rather they simply do not care and are selfish. That's it.

Ashley Hoff's picture

As someone who has health issues and two parents with COPD, I find it really hurtful to see people repeatedly downplay the situation. I ask that you please read the latest from the CDC and WHO, understand how easily transmittable it really is and then, if you still want to be dismissive, take a look at the photos of those who have died. Try to find photos of their loved ones.

My fiance's parents are currently fighting this. I don't want the last photos I took of them to already be in my hands. It's easy to get lost in faceless numbers and the upheaval of our lives, but please remember that behind every number is someone's loved one and immeasureable pain for them when theu are lost...

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