Hey photographers, does this sound familiar? You photograph more than 20 weddings/sessions/events a year and turn out books and prints for your customers, meanwhile, your family photos are sitting on hard drives or on the cloud. We get it. It’s the photographer family syndrome. We recently challenged one photographer to print his family photos. We had no idea, at the impact it would have. Grab some coffee and a chair, this is a powerful read as we introduce you to Photographer Robert Wagner of Man Overboard Photos.
How did you start in photography?
I’m a photographer and videographer and my wife is a social media manager and fashion blogger for The Weekender Fashion Field Guide. We have two spunky children, our son Noah is 8, and our daughter Coco is 4. We love to document our weekend adventures and get the kids involved as much as possible when planning crazy shoots!
My photography started 9 years ago when my wife got pregnant. My mom had the foresight to know that we’d want to document everything, so she bought me a nice Canon point and shoot camera. I started taking terrible pictures of Jess while she was pregnant but fell in love with the idea of creating images. Shortly after Noah was born Jess bought me Adobe Photoshop as a Christmas present. It was a huge surprise because at the time we had very little money but she found a way to get it for me. I instantly became hooked and never looked back. I became obsessed with learning everything I could, watching tutorials online, reading books. Really, whatever I could find at the time I took in. I had never considered myself to be an “artistic” person. I can’t draw or paint, in fact, I can barely legibly write my own name. So when I started taking pictures and actually had them turn out semi-cool, I would get super excited. I admittedly get a sort of high when I create a photo I’m proud of.
How have you documented your family over the years?
I’m like most people I think, and love to take pictures of my kids and wife. I usually have my camera at family functions and normal life events (first day of school, birthdays, holidays, etc…). However, I feel like we’re maybe a little different in that my wife and I run a lifestyle/fashion blog and are into sharing on social media. We include the kids when we can, especially Coco. She enjoys getting her picture taken, where Noah enjoys taking pictures. They both say they want to be photographers when they grow up! It only makes me want to strive to get better, so I can share my passion with them. We shoot planned and impromptu photo shoots all the time – just for fun. We love to create as a family. People ask us all the time how we find time to shoot so many photos, but honestly, it’s just what we do. Some families enjoy sports and spend Sundays watching football games together, and others are outdoorsy people and go camping and hiking together. Photography is our hobby that we share together as a family. I feel blessed and lucky that I can make my living with a camera in my hands, but nothing is more rewarding than when we do a family shoot and we all work together. I’ll be honest – the kids are 4 and 8 so I’m not going to pretend that every shoot is smooth and perfect, but that’s what makes it unique. Sometimes everyone is about it, and sometimes not so much, but whatever the case, we make the best of it.
Every Christmas and 4th of July we try to plan a family shoot that’s a little more elaborate and usually takes more planning and thought on our end. We scout locations, buy props/wardrobe, concept it, and sketch it out. Those are what seem to have gotten the most attention externally, but a lot of the pictures we have around our house are candid shots from vacations, or the kids dressed up for Halloween or the four of us from when we went to see the Nutcracker Ballet – just little moments like those. The big shoots are fun and we love the process, but it’s also important for us to remember to document the everyday.
How did you plan your gallery wall – from concept to completion?
We were talking about redoing the office space for Jess. I wanted to give her a place to write and relax and be inspired. So a gallery wall of the family made perfect sense and since it’s for her office we knew we wanted it to be bright and clean. She loves to have plants and flowers in the house so we wanted to include flowers in the shots. We also wanted a location that wasn’t just our house and had a “Victorian” vibe so I did some research on locations in Toledo that might have that feel and saw a picture another local photographer took in front of this window and thought it had the right vibe. I find with a little research you can you always find cool locations to fit whatever vibe you want no matter where you live.
Any advice for other photogs needing to take that step in printing family photos?
I think everyone should print more (including myself). Maybe you only snap on your phone or only shoot giant productions, but I believe there’s a special feeling you get when you hold a print in your hand. It makes it real, and it makes it a piece of art at that point. It doesn’t matter if you print a 4″x6″ or 40″x60″ that feeling you get when you open the package and pull out the print is so rewarding. I always say in the age of digital photography it’s probably the closest we come to the feeling of developing film because it’s the first time you truly see your picture for what it is.
I also believe that what you put on your walls in your home/office is a representation of who you are and what you value as a person. It’s an easy way to add character and personality to any room. I hate when I walk into a house and it looks like a showroom for mass-produced “art” work. I think this is especially important if you have kids. Spending the money to print the photos and display them lets them know you value them and want to show them off. It reminds them that this is “their” house and they belong there.
I’m actually ADD and like to change things up a lot. We buy frames and prints separate too, so we can keep swapping in and out recent photos. It sounds obvious, but I think sometimes people put a picture in a frame and don’t think about it for years. For example, you have a picture of your kid on his first day of school hanging up and then as he’s graduating HS. I like to keep it fresher and just lay one picture in front of the old one in the frame. My mom used to do that when I was a kid and I always thought it was fun when we put a new picture in, and pull out all the older ones behind it and look and them and see how we grew.
Robert is a commercial and portrait photographer from Ohio. You can follow him HERE on Instagram. His wife Jessica is a lifestyle and fashion blogger and you can follow her HERE. Robert and Jessica chose AdoramaPix wall decor framing with white frames and matting to complete their wall gallery. You can shop the look by clicking HERE.