Cutting the Cheese: A Case for Family Photography and an Explanation for my Broken Heart

I just got home from my second photoshoot of the day (note from the editor/writer: this was obviously written the night before it was published. On Saturday night. Does everything make sense now?). On top of everything else, I’m a photographer, and for the first time in a while, I’m back at it. I started actually getting paid for photography back when Dan and I were dating but I officially pulled back from it a year ago when I was pregnant with my third baby. And then, all of a sudden, as if I never stopped at all, I had three photoshoots in the course of a week.

Absolutely perfect light and location for a photo shoot. I love doing this sometimes. #photographer

A photo posted by Laura O’Rourke (@lauralorourke) on

I always surprise myself with how much I love taking pictures of people. But capturing that perfect shot that will be treasured forever is such a privilege. And autumn is quite simply the best time to do it, too. The scenery is always so beautiful and getting that family pic now means Christmas cards will be up to date when it is time to send them in a couple of weeks.

I am a firm believer that hiring a photographer is a worthwhile investment in your family. Doing so regularly is a great way to capture and remember each stage of life. In a world where we Instagram everything, it is nice to get beautiful family photos off the cloud and onto the walls. Family portraits captures the essence of your family and celebrates the beauty in it.

A Case for Family Photography |

(photo credit: my sister, Amy Pike)

The problem is, I can’t take my own advice.

We have arguably never done the whole professional photographer thing. We didn’t do engagement photos. We hired a wonderful photographer for our wedding but to cut down on costs, we arranged for her to hand over the raw files to edit ourselves. Even the huge family photo that hangs over our couch is one snapped by friends on a photo-swap outing. Recent family photos have either been snapped by my mom or sister or using a remote and tripod.

A Case for Family Photography |

(I am so grateful to the family member who took this photo and I am glad to have us all in one photo together this past Easter in our super cute outfits, but I kind of need to overlook the fact that I look terrible and none of the kids are looking at the camera.)

Family photos are important to me, and I make sure that they happen, no matter how much the rest of my family hates it, but we have never had the benefit of a professional whom we pay to pose us, edit us, and make us look our best. Even as photographers ourselves, my husband and I cannot manage this alone for flawless results, especially as our family grows.

A Case for Family Photography |

(This is a beautiful photo. But what you don’t see is that it is a mix of two photos so that I could get everyone with their eyes open in one photo. Thank heavens I know Photoshop.)

Every day I look at that very expensive, massive canvas of our family of four and it makes me sad that it is missing someone.

  Our first and biggest wall art is up. #newhome   A photo posted by Laura O’Rourke (@lauralorourke) on

During a fundraiser, I purchased a gift certificate from a favourite photographer of mine. Soon after, I found myself pregnant with Logan. I talked to the photographer and told her I would like to wait until we had the baby before I used the gift certificate. If we were going to spend big money on a new family photograph for our living room, I wanted to make sure it included the entire family. I went through pregnancy, Logan was born, and then the photographer started booking her fall sessions. I jumped at the opportunity and scheduled us in.

Fall is my favourite season, of course.

We committed to driving the hour both ways to get to the photographer’s town. I started imagining our empty walls full of family photo collages. I didn’t look at the big beautiful photo on our wall with sadness anymore.

We were going to be photographed by a professional. In a gorgeous location. Posed. Proper framing. In focus. Professional editing.

The day before we were scheduled to do the shoot I got a message. “My daughter’s sick. My husband is away. If she is still sick tomorrow, I’ll have to cancel.”

Yes. Of course. That makes complete sense. I am a Mom. I get it. Family first. Always.

The next day it wasn’t just the daughter who was sick. It was the photographer too.

Cancelling was understandable. Except I didn’t realize that she couldn’t reschedule. She was busy and booked solid.

We still don’t have professional family photos. There’s no time to schedule with another photographer and don’t have it within our budget anyway.

I don’t begrudge the photographer at all. I understand her and her current situation and can easily put myself in her shoes. But I am so incredibly sad. It has taken us this long to plan anything like this and I have no idea when we will get our act together to do it again.

I often feel like the only person in this family who cares about this. It is hard to convince a photographer-husband that two photographer-parents need to pay someone to take their family’s picture. But it matters to me. If I want professional fall photos, I now have to wait a year. We will go through one more year with the massive photo of a family-of-four on the living room wall in the house of a family-of-five. Another wall will be empty for another year instead of the photo collage that is intended to be there. There will be a handful of more attempts to get my family in any picture together, hoping that a camera with no professional controlling it can hopefully manage to get us all in focus and looking in the same direction.

So I’m sad.

But I think that maybe, this sadness is also helping me find much more meaning in my recent photography sessions for paying clients. As a photographer, I have always known the importance of family portraits. But right now, I can also really feel it. If I can’t have my perfect family photo, at least I can give another family there’s.


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Searching for Spring

I once loved winter. It used to be my favourite season. It contained my favourite holidays,Christmas and Valentine’s Day (otherwise known as my birthday). The crisp fallen snow on a lawn made everything look so peaceful and quiet and beautiful. And crunching in that snow for the very first time to create footprints made me feel brand new – an explorer walking where no one else had ever walked. I was creating something new on a pure white canvas with only the soles of my shoes. That’s one small step for a girl, one giant leap for her imagination. Winter meant warm sweaters and extra quilts and more nights with hot chocolate.

Becoming an adult ruins everything.

I have begrudgingly started to dislike winter as I’ve grown. Snow in university rarely meant a snow day and instead promised discomfort on my walking commute to class. Winter after my graduation meant walking through the city streets in cold and bad weather as snow days became essentially obsolete in this adult working life. Winter as an adult no longer made me feel all warm and cozy inside with the cost of heat constantly looming over me. Winter with a car meant emptying our pockets to put on the winter tires. It meant cleaning off our car and defrosting windshields on frigid mornings. It meant driving through dangerous conditions to get to daycare and to show up for the paycheque. And as of this year, our first year in our new house, it has meant all of that plus shovelling. All of that, plus broken furnaces and empty oil tanks.

The snow is all but gone outside. I’m hopeful that we won’t need to scrape the windshield again this season, let alone shovel. Still, I feel its heaviness. I feel the chill and the weight of snow on top of me, as if I’ve been laying on the cold, frozen ground all winter and have been erased by the snowfall, waiting for a thaw that does not come.

I’m struggling to find signs of spring.

There are flurries in the long term forecast. Temperatures hover around freezing, taunting with the promise of dropping. And I wonder why humans don’t simply hibernate for the cold months because I wouldn’t mind hiding under my covers until the temperatures stay above freezing for good.

Signs of Spring

I went out for a walk yesterday looking for signs of spring. Maybe the calendar was working against me. Yesterday was still winter. Today is transition. Tomorrow is spring. Blessed,wished-for spring.

The snow was gone but nothing else indicated spring’s imminence. No buds on trees. No shoots bursting through the ground. No birds chirping in the trees. No green anywhere. No colour.

Spring is coming. I know it is. The calendar says so. The radio says so. Logically, I know it to be so.

I don’t see any signs of it though. Not yet. But I promise, I’m looking.

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Cameron at 4

Things change so quickly. Since Cameron’s birthday, I’ve heard the phrase “They grow up so fast” often. I’ve said it. You’ve said it to me. As parents, we say this to try to gain back some of our power over time, as if, by acknowledging its speed we can somehow focus so hard on the present that we slow time down.

I’m pretty sure that no matter how hard our brains try to enjoy the present and revel in the now, we’ll never be able to slow down time. Our kids will still grow up at break-neck speeds. They’ll still change in an instant. We will still blink one day when they’re dressing up for prom or heading off to university or standing at the alter, and we’ll wonder how they got so big and so old.

Even though they’re my kids, I can’t hold on to their littleness. I can’t keep them small. My job as a parent is to encourage growth and maturity and independence. But. I can make memories. Those, I can hold on to. I can take snapshots – in words and images – to remember who my kids are today.

Dear older-Laura with older kids. Here is your precious Cameron at 4:

Birthday Interview

My favourite food is: “Donuts” — but then I asked if we really meant “bagels” and he clarified his answer: Bagels with butter. He gets bagels and donuts confused, understandably.

Birthday Bagel Breakfast

My favourite sport is: Curling

My favourite show to watch on TV is: Mater’s Tall Tales (Netflix for the win!)

The thing I do best is: Racing cars (which happens to be the exact same answer he gave to this question last year)

If I could change my name, I would change it to: Gavin

My favourite colour is: Red and Black

My favourite toy is: The toys from Disney Infinity and race cars and 2DS

When I grow up I want to be: A race car

Cameron on fourth birthday

My favourite snack(treat) is: Powdered Timbits with jam inside

Food I don’t like: Beef and hot dog (We had steak (“beef”) for supper the night I asked him the questions. He didn’t like it. The truth is, he barely eats any dinner we give him. Except, he does like hot dogs, which made his answer strange.)

My best friend is: CJ and Sebatian and Nathan and Gavin or Sadie (and Daddy… this was answered after Daddy insisted he add Daddy to the list).

If you could have any wish in the world, it would be: to have a race car

My best memory is: When I was turning 4 years old, there were a lot of balloons on my bedroom, that was the best part.

Cameron on fourth birthday

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