On a perfect Sunny day on December 4th at 12:59 in a suburb of Houston, my daughter Lucy was born.
She was gooey, crying and perfect.
It was the most surreal moment that I've had shooting photos. I was encouraged by the doctor to take photos. She knew that I was a photographer and how important these images would be later on.
I've shot important events before. Weddings where it was crucial to get the dance with the beloved aging grandfather. Family photos before a parent have gone off for active duty. But nothing compared to the emotion of seeing your first daughter come into the world.
I learned that it's incredibly difficult to shoot photos when your eyes are welled up with tears because you can't see a lick out of the viewfinder.
The incredible tension of wanting to be there with my wife a new daughter conflicted heavily with wanting to creatively and professionally tell the story of her birth.
The balance that we all must figure out as parents who are also photographers is learning to balance between documentation and being present with those you love. Living in that tension of looking for that next shot and being a dad or mom who is just there, present, enjoying the moments that I've figured out are so incredibly fleeting.
Rob Bell in his book 'How To Be Here' says something so true, "“At any moment in the day, you can only do one thing at a time. And the more intentional you are about knowing what your one is, the more present you will be.”
I've struggled with this, always wanting to document, always want to have a camera on me. Sometimes, if I'm honest, my camera has been a distraction from the world around me. It's a crutch to being fully present in those moments.
Photography can quickly move from creative expression and way to documents moments to insecurity and a way to avoid genuine human interaction.
Here are a few tips that have helped me in my pursuit of photography/fatherhood balance:
1. Follow the 80/20 rule. Most of the time I follow this simple rule. Whenever/wherever we are as a family, I try not to spend more than 20% of my time shooting photos or video. 80% of the time, my camera is away, in my bag. If I must shoot a moment, for those unexpected moments (if I can't get my camera fast enough), I'll use my iPhone7. I've shot some incredible photos with my iPhone.
2. Plan some trips where you don't bring your camera. Commit to not even using your iPhone. Be present as much as possible. Let your memory take the snapshots for you.
3. Pay attention to your kid's attitude towards the camera. At the age of 3, my daughter began to let me know she was annoyed at my need always to take photos of her. The first time she said, "No pictures dad" was like a punch in the stomach. Lesson learned. If your kids are annoyed by you taking photos, it's probably a time to take a break.
I once heard a neurologist talk about how memories are formed; he said that it takes seven full seconds of being present and focus on a positive/happy memory to be retained long term. Alternatively, it only takes 2-seonds for a negative emotion/memory that kept long term. It's because of this, why we remember so much more negative moments in our lives than we do positive moments.
Creating positive memories means being intentional about the amazing moments we find ourselves in. We must focus on being present with the ones we love, even if it means missing that incredible shot. It's so much better than missing being there with the people we love most.