Parenting: The Ultimate Photography Lesson

Parenting: The Ultimate Photography Lesson

There are a lot of frustrating moments we all experience as photographers. Things we all know like missing that perfect shot by mere seconds, equipment failing just as the sun drops below the horizon, flashes not firing, memory cards corrupting, not booking that big job we quoted… the list goes on and on. I shoot weddings, so when things go wrong they can feel amplified ten-fold. For a long time I was like a sponge for negativity. It soaked into me, and it got under my skin and rattled me. Murphy’s Law used to kick my ass, and I never felt like I could stop it. Then my son was born, and everything changed.

My son and I last Fall.

Please know that I am not suggesting that having kids can make you a better photographer, nor am I telling you that a photographer without any kids is somehow worse. What I want to do is tell you why my kids completely and totally changed my entire world, including my work as a photographer.

Parenting is hard. I don’t even have older kids yet, and it’s already the hardest thing I’ve ever done. (My son is two and my daughter, as I type this, is less than a week old). When you are responsible for small humans, you very quickly get the thrill of experiencing every possible emotion at the highest level. In a typical 24 hour period you might feel joy, anger, sadness, elation, frustration, intimidation, and an incredible surge of adrenaline followed by an unimaginable bout of pure exhaustion. It is quite literally an emotional rollercoaster.

In all of this chaos though, exists a really important lesson. You are forced to learn to even out the ups and downs, and to find calm in the turbulent. To put it simply, you learn to be patient. That’s where the link between parenthood and photography lies. Before my kids, I was on edge. I would get frustrated at weddings, and it inhibited my ability to create the images I wanted. Little things like the makeup crew running 25 minutes late, the bride’s brother going missing during the nine minutes we have set aside for family formals, unhappy bridesmaids refusing to shoot out in the rain, bad light at the hotel, rowdy groomsmen, rude DJs, missing vendor meals, all of these things would eat at me through the course of a wedding.

My daughter at two days old.

I had no idea how to be patient because before I had my kids, I never really had to learn. There’s something very empowering about being the photographer who brings with him a sense of calm. I have had many of my couples tell me that in the thick of the wedding day, when things were on the edge of unraveling and the whole timeline was breaking down, that I was the only thing that kept it all together. 

I remember specifically a wedding where all of the bridesmaids’ dresses had gone missing. They were stranded somewhere on a mysterious FedEx truck, and we were 90 minutes behind schedule. The old Eric would have gotten upset, frustrated that “my” photo time was being cut, and now things were going to be much harder than they had to be. Eric the dad just took it in stride. This is a wedding, it’s a happy day, and there’s no reason to get upset. I just had to hustle more during the group photos. It was that easy.

Having kids is amazing. It’s the most rewarding and challenging thing a person can do. My son and my daughter are my entire world, and there is nothing more important to me than their happiness and safety. It’s also very grounding. Suddenly, you realize that the small things in life that go wrong mean nothing. So when the battery on the limo dies, or the air conditioning at the venue breaks in the middle of July, or the tent for the reception half-collapses, I just roll with it. I’m a photographer, and I take pictures for a living. There’s no reason to make it into more than that.

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20 Comments

Vincent Morretino's picture

There is so much in this article that I can relate to, it's like someone scooped out thoughts from my own head and expressed them with some eloquence :)

Peter Brody's picture

"I had no idea how to be patient because before I had my kids, I never really had to learn."

From all the bad things you described, there were all the reasons you needed to learn patience - to become better at your job.

"Having kids is amazing. It’s the most rewarding and challenging thing a person can do. My son and my daughter are my entire world, and there is nothing more important to me than their happiness and safety."

No offense intended, and assuming you are married, but what about your wife? Kids grow up and then they have a life of their own. You may not like this unsolicited advice, but children shouldn't be the center of any family, and they should never come before and between husband and wife. Your wife should be the most important person to you, and she should know that.

Anyway, that's my advice from someone that has happily been with the same woman for probably longer than you are old. I wish you the same.

Anonymous's picture

I think you're overthinking his comment regarding his children's importance. While I understand your point, it's not a zero-sum game.

Peter Brody's picture

Not at all. Read again what I quoted. His words and sentiment are very clear.

No doubt he will not like hearing my unsolicited advice, but it is that kind of attitude that destroys so many marriages and families today, and I speak out against it every time I see it.

Anonymous's picture

I, and I think you, like to be very specific with my words but most people aren't. I can't imagine it was his intent to put his children before his wife, regardless of his words.
That being said, when they're small children (and his children are very young), I would put my children's life (but not happiness) before their mothers and I would hope she would do the same.

Peter Brody's picture

You don't have to imagine anything. His words clearly put his kids before his wife, three times. I'm not pulling an Alex here Patrick.

As for the last comment, there's no way I would do that. It makes no sense and goes against the vows of most marriages.

Anonymous's picture

I didn't imagine you would agree with that but that's okay. If we held identical views, there's be nothing to discuss! :-)

Simon Patterson's picture

If you and Peter had identical views on something, I reckon you'd each still find a way to disagree about it! 😉

Markus G's picture

You have made some very bold, very interesting assumptions about my marriage. Which is fine, because I know that I open myself up to this kind of criticism by writing on a national platform.

Thanks for the read and the comments about your perspective. I don't hope for my marriage to be as long and successful as yours, I know it will be, and so I look forward to it. Cheers!

Peter Brody's picture

Assumptions? No, just a very reasonable and logical conclusion, and response, based on what you clearly said. That's all.

And there is no way you can "know it will be." That kind of attitude is dangerous to any marriage.

Anyway, I've said what I wanted to say.

Liz Hinman's picture

Assumptions...yes...unless you are a close, personal friend and have seen a couple together. Why is it that on every article with a comments section, there is someone spewing nasty judgments at other people that they don't even know. Who does that help? And you can certainly know that your relationship will last if you have a happy marriage with healthy communication and you are dedicated to keeping your vows. There is nothing dangerous about a commitment to making a relationship work...its essential.

Peter Brody's picture

I did not assume anything. He made his position very clear, not once, not twice, but three times.

Clearly my position is one of commitment, so you trying to lecture me on commitment makes no sense. I suggest you read again what I have written, assuming you read it in the first place.

To say that you know your marriage is going to last is amazingly naive and amazingly arrogant, for no one can predict with 100% certainty the actions of other people. It's a very dangerous attitude to have if you want a marriage to last.

Ben Sandness's picture

Children shouldn't be the center of any family? They shouldn't be loud, stinky, messy, or germy either. LOL, good luck.

Peter Brody's picture

Children not being the center of the family is how children used to be raised, and it's no surprise that divorce rates were far less, and children didn't grow up to be the many spoiled, self-entitled, self-centered, ill mannered, young adult brats that you see today.

My parents, and the parents of all my friends, raised us to be respectful to them , to other adults, and to know our place. No, we were not loud, stinky and messy (I'm not talking about toddlers). That kind of crap was not tolerated. Improperly interrupting my parents while they were talking was not tolerated. It's all about instilling discipline and good manners in children. That's what all parents should do!

The ones that put their children at the center of their family are the ones that need luck if their marriages are to survive, and so that they don't end up with a dysfunctional marriage, household and children.

Simon Patterson's picture

I agree with that.

Anonymous's picture

Great article and something I tell people a lot. Parenthood offers most of life's most important lessons for those who take the time to learn them. :-)

Rob Mynard's picture

Great read Eric, and this is what you have to look forward to -
https://fstoppers.com/originals/when-good-location-scouts-go-bad-127838

Simon Patterson's picture

I can identify with this too. Being a parent has helped me become (a little bit) better at getting perspective and patience when things don't go to plan.

Simon Patterson's picture

And congratulations on the newborn daughter, less than a week old! She's beautiful! Exciting times in your household.

Pitter Brayan's picture

So beautiful pictures! My kid is in one of the preschools in Brooklyn https://littlescholarsnyc.com/ . I like all the events they suggest. They have professionals in different fields. I mean, there are a lot of classes such as reading, writing, art, and others. They make professional photos of kids as well. I do not know how it is supposed to be this year due to the pandemic. They take care of children's health. They still work while our previous daycare centers are closed or have a lot of cases of the virus. Fortunately, we are kind of protected now. I hope that everything will be better next year.