I found myself looking through old pictures today. Of big moments and small moments starting when I first became a mom. When I held my daughter close, and my husband and I counted her toes and watched her stick out her little tongue. And I breathed her in for the first time.
I continued looking as she got older. As she learned knew things. As she became a toddler. As we welcomed her baby sister.
You know that moment when the Grinch’s heart grows? I’m not saying that my heart was small, but the love inside just pounded against my chest, as though it was growing yet another three sizes.
And while I looked at all these pictures and felt all these emotions, I realized something that I think I had forgotten or honestly never realized. People are what matter.
In my journey to become a better photographer and a better storyteller, I’ve studied light, played with composition, sought my voice, mastered camera settings, invested in equipment, learned to edit, practiced posing and prompts and more. As I focused on learning, I think I unknowingly began to think that a worthwhile picture can only happen when a list of technical and artistic requirements is met.
But there is only one requirement.
That the person in the picture is my person. Mine.
If it is a picture of one of my people, it doesn’t matter if the lighting is horrible, if the picture is a little blurry, if there clutter in the background. If it is a picture of one of my people, that is all I need to make me feel, to help me remember that moment, to make my heart beat hard inside my chest.
My people. My loves. That’s what matters.
I’m not saying the skills I have devoted myself to learning don’t matter. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for professional photographers. I’m not saying I’m going to slack off and not work hard for my clients. But I’ve spent most of my mom life wishing I could afford to hire a photographer, thinking that I am missing out on memories, wondering if I’ll regret it years down the road, but knowing that I couldn’t afford it.
A while ago I saw some amazing pictures of a mom giving birth, and I had these thoughts again. Thoughts that perhaps I had missed out on something. I wondered if this would turn into a regret, not having a photographer at any of my children’s births, but just now, as I looked at me holding each of my children in the hospital when they were brand new, all I felt was love and peace and gratitude for the picture taken by a regular person on a regular camera with nothing special about the image other than the fact that I was holding one of mine.
And that was all that mattered.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It’s okay if you can’t afford a photographer. You have the most important thing for pictures you love. Your people. That is all that matters. Get out your camera or your phone (even if it doesn’t have the best of cameras) and take pictures of your people. And make sure, every once in a while, that you pass your phone to someone else and get in the shot with them.
Bethany Allen is a photographer focused on capturing all the love, beauty, and art that is already part of your story with your people. She specializes in family photography and wedding photography. She mainly works in Cedar City, but travels throughout Southern Utah and Utah.