family photographer – this is my journey to photography

How I became a lifestyle family photographer in New Jersey

How do you become a lifestyle family photographer? There are many paths and each photographer’s journey is unique. Some are more straight forward and some like mine have to take a little detour first. Let me share my path with you today.

The beginning – the foundation of my photography

We will have to start all the way at the beginning. I grew up in a small village in Germany together with 2 younger sisters. It’s a very idyllic little place located near what is called the franconian swiss. It got its name because of its beautiful landscape and mountains that back in the days reminded artists and poets of Switzerland. The village also has its own amusement park that grew over the years from just a park to having a few animals for a petting zoo to a tourist attraction with roller coasters, cowboys, knights and everything else you can imagine.

The probably best known city in the area is Nuremberg. Even though outside of Germany it is mostly known for its dark past, the city has plenty of other things to offer. I went to architecture school there among other things. But more about that later. Let’s dive into my photography journey and see how I ended up wanting to be a lifestyle family photographer.

The first attempts with film

The passion for photography came from my dad. He just like any other parent took tons of photos of us. But even more photos were taken of his own passion, which are steam trains. And so he dragged us to tons of events and steam train rides. And it is just as boring as it sounds. But what stuck with me was his eagerness to get the best shot. Setting up the camera and then waiting for the perfect moment. And sometimes he would let me take a photo. Not of his trains, but of our family.

My first camera

Soon I got my first own camera. Not a nice SLR like my dad had. It was the point and shoot type, but it was my own. Back then it wasn’t digital and you had to wait to get the film developed to see what you captured. The anticipation was always great to finally get to see you what images I was able to Capture. You didn’t get a second chance because the moment was gone so you had to get it right the first time.

I specifically remember my dad’s 50th birthday celebration. He got a new telephoto lens. And I used it at the party to take portraits of all the guest unknowing to them. First my dad was upset because I used up so much film. But once we got the images back he was happy that I captured all of the guests in sincere moments  and he had those pictures to remember them by.

Photography as part of life

Photography was always part of my life, but not the main focus. I finished high school and went to architecture school. But even there I took a photography class and again borrowed my dad’s camera. Playing around with the settings was just so much more fun than using the auto function of my point and shoot camera.

My move to NYC

I originally moved to New York after college to pursue my career in architecture. But I quickly realized that photography was missing in my life. I wasn’t able to borrow my dad’s camera anymore. It was time for me to get my own. So I saved up for an entire year and then finally bought my first professional DSLR camera.

Back then I was mostly interested in the city life so I took lots of street photography and cityscape images. To me it was about the energy of the city and the little details that often get lost in the every day hustle.  I looked for unique viewpoints, unusual details and color. A city as busy as New York is surprisingly full of calm moments and color despite its many skyscrapers. So I practiced my photography always looking for uniqueness. I even did a 365 challenge to keep looking for the unusual in the ordinary every day life situations. And later on even turned to more experimental photography such as double exposure images. But I never thought I’d be interested in becoming a family photographer.

My move to lifestyle family photographer

Getting people in the picture

Up until then you could barely find people in my photographs. Even though I took a lot of pictures in a city full of people I always tried to capture the calmer moments without much distraction of human beings. With the birth of my first daughter things started to shift in my photography.

All of a sudden I had discovered a different subject. People. Not just my daughter but also how friends and family interacted with her. This little person could melt my heart with just one look. And I wanted to capture all those little moments that seemed to be flying by so fast and hold on to them through my images. Documenting those priceless moments, the many firsts that occur in the first year of life became a way for me to hold on to time. It helped us as a family to remember the little details and intimate feelings of become a family of three and now four. With my part of the family still being in Germany, it was also important to document those much anticipated visits from the grandparents and aunties. Capturing those cherished and way to few moments that we get to spend together is priceless. So somehow I became the family photographer for us.

Improving my photography skills

I started to improve my photography skills not only by practicing almost daily, but I also started to take classes. First in person and then online. And my passion only grew bigger.

A while back I had started an Etsy store to sell some of my street photography prints from New York. While I sold a few of my prints, the item that was much more popular were calendars. And not just of my own pictures, but of pictures that clients sent to me in order to create calendars for them. They would send me their images and I would create a beautiful calendar for them. Some of them came back year after year. They sent me the moments that they captured during the year and cherished so much that they wanted to be reminded of them daily. Sometimes the pictures were more professional, but often they were just cell phone snap shots. It didn’t matter to them that they were blurry or not really in focus. All that mattered was the beautiful moment, the meaningful connection that they captured on those images.

And I get it. The picture doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to have a meaning, It has to bring you back to that moment in time, make you smell, taste and feel that moment. But wouldn’t it be nice if the image itself was beautiful as well? I always wanted to help those that sent the blurry cell phone pictures to get better pictures of those moments that meant so much to them. I guess that doesn’t work with an Etsy store. But I hope to capture your precious moments and turn them into memories that can be displayed in your home. Make you remember this very specific time in your family’s life.

Hold on to your memories

Time goes by so fast. If you have kids you get a constant reminder of that. They grow so fast. They learn new things every day. And don’t you wish that you could just hold on to that moment? To that moment when they still fit in your arm? When you can still take them on a piggy back ride or throw them up in the air? When you are still their entire world?

Well I can’t help you hold on to that moment, but I can help you remember that moment through beautiful and connected photographs. I can help you remember what it felt like to hold your baby in your arms and breath them in. How it felt to have your little one snuggle up close to you and feel protected. That trust that mommy can fix anything. Or how their laughter sounded when they get tickled from daddy. So wild and joyful like daddy is the most hilarious person ever. He most definitely is to them. So enjoy those moments and make sure you capture them.

Get the entire family in the picture

Which means that mom has to get in the picture as well. At the end of the year I like to look back at all the things that we did and create a photo album for us. But I always regret that there aren’t more pictures of myself in there. I was there, too. But I’m usually the one with the camera. Just like most moms are. Moms tend to be the family photographer.

Don’t make excuses like you need to drop those few pounds that you still carry from the last pregnancy or you need to get your hair done first or whatever else you can come up with. In a few years from now when you look back on your pictures you won’t think about the extra weight or your hair, but you will cherish the connection that is captured between you and your family. There is no need to get super dressed up either. Just be yourselves and have fun. That is how I want to capture you. Just plain you. Not in some stressful disguise. Family photos are supposed to be fun and not a stressful chore. They are supposed to capture who you are as a family.

Planning a lifestyle family photo session

So there is no reason to postpone getting those family pictures done. But what goes into planning a session? Isn’t that really stressful? I will make everything super easy for you. After all, this is my passion. I want you to have fun and enjoy each other. So here is all you need to do.

Photo session location

Picking your location is one of the first things to consider when planning your session. What are your interest? What do you do for fun? If you can answer these simple questions your your favorite things to do can be incorporated into your session.

Do you love to play games and read books? Then maybe an in home session is right for you. Are you an outdoorsy family that can’t get enough from nature, then maybe your favorite state park would be the best location. Or maybe you love the ocean and spend every free minute there in the summer. Then maybe a session at the beach is the right one for you. Maybe you just love the city and all the convenience it has to offer. Then a park along the waterfront might be the best pick for you.

There are plenty of options to make the session unique to your family. These are your photos after all. They are supposed to portray you as a loving family. So you don’t need to stage them at some fancy place. Just pick where your family feels most comfortable. We will work out the best location that is right for you.

Photo session outfit

The next thing you need to do is pick your outfits. And the same is true here as with the location. There is no need to put on a disguise. Just be who you are. If you are more of the laid back and relaxed type than your outfit should reflect that. Maybe not in sweatpants… but you need to feel comfortable.

It is best to wear complimenting outfits and not matching outfits. You don’t wear matching outfits at home either. But complimenting colors or patterns show a connection between family members without being too much. Mom, this is also your special day. You’re making the effort to get everyone together for this picture and making sure that everyone looks their best, so take some time to relax and get yourself ready as well. Pick something to wear that will make you feel good. Maybe there aren’t that many occasions lately that allow you to dress up like you used to. So take this opportunity and make yourself feel good about yourself. You deserve it.

Capture your precious moments

And that’s it already. You will be ready to meet your family photographer. Not really too much to ask for and you will have documented a beautiful memory of your family. All you need to do now is show up on “picture day” and I will take care of the rest. You just need to enjoy yourselves and have fun being with your family. Take this as an opportunity to spend time together. Make this a family event. Something that the entire family gets excited about and looks forward to.

This is my passion. I want to create great moments with you. Moments that represent you. Holding on to the fun times that you have as a family. Making sure that you remember how it felt like. And also being able to have your kids look at these in 10, 20, 30 years. To have their childhood documented and see how much you love them.

So don’t let another great moment pass you. Don’t make up another excuse. Get in the picture now. Send me a message and let’s book your session to capture those memories.

julia mann photography - family picture

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Published by juliamannphotography

New Jersey Lifestyle Family Photographer

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