UPDATE: June 15, 2020—Now that Phase 1.5 has been created for King County, the governor has announced that professional photography can resume, following all guidelines for Phase 2.
It's so tempting. Your college-age kids are home. Your husband is in the next room. The younger kids' sports schedules are cleared. Everyone is available. Why not attend a family photo session? Wouldn't it be best to get that done now, before life becomes hectic again?
Family photo sessions are awesome. This picture of an older brother reading to his younger brother is priceless. The forest setting makes it look straight out of a fairy tale. These are the moments to remember, are they not?
"I need to get that on film!" you say. "That moment will never happen again."
Besides, your photographer could manage to stay six feet away at all times, right? Maybe use a distance lens? Maybe he or she would wear a mask? But you and your family couldn't wear masks, of course.
That's the first sticking point. The six-foot rule is designed to be used only in short situations where it's impossible to maintain a distance farther than that. Such as waiting in line. For most interactions, you should be well more than six feet away.
"Okay," you say. "But this is my son's first birthday. And this was supposed to be my daughter's track season. And we have all this sports gear and nowhere to use it, and wouldn't a photo be just the thing to mark this special time? My kids can't have what they normally would have: a big party, a recital, a graduation. Can't I meet up with a photographer with my awesome family? What's the harm?"
Seeing how families interact with each other, and being there to celebrate the milestones with you is one of the biggest joys I have as a family photographer.
I can't argue against everything "you" said up there. It's true. These moments are fleeting. Your son will only turn one once. And for kids missing milestone events, my heart breaks.
But it's just not legal. Not yet. Under current Washington state guidelines, professional photography can resume when Phase II of the reopening plan begins. A detailed memorandum specific to photographers can be viewed here.
Plenty of local photographers are already working. Right now. While we're still in Phase I. Booking clients, holding sessions, and claiming it's perfectly safe.
But have you considered the photographer you may book for a session may have recently held a session with another family?
And if there was any risk involved in that family's session, your family may now be at risk as well.
Trust me. I know how deeply we love our children. How deeply we hurt for them when their plans are shifted out of their control. How much we want to forget all the terror and the uncertainty and leave the fear behind.
But it's just not safe.
I'm a family portrait photographer. I'm itching to get back to work. I should maybe be on the other side of this argument, like a lot of my fellow photographers are, both here in Seattle and around the country.
A quick search opens up dozens of names of photographers doing photo sessions right this minute. While most of the country is still on lockdown, and while many Washington counties are still in Phase I.
Does it mean those photographers are reckless? That those families who book them are reckless?
It means they're doing their best to do what they think is right. To get through these unexpected and unprecedented times. There is no road map. There is no one, correct way through this.
But there are a few rules. And one of them says professional photography is not permitted until Phase II. We'll get there. We're all working so hard, every day, to get there. First responders haven't let up since the epidemic began. Parents haven't either. Or teachers. Or, most especially, the children.
The way my daughter described finding out her whole world was about to change was quite unsettling, when I thought about it.
One moment she's in class, the next she's in the hall and all the students are saying school is out for the rest of the year. There's some disease.
At her school, word spread in uneven ways. Some teachers told their students; others did not. And in the middle-school hallways, the news began to grow.
We ask so much of our children.
We ask them to adapt. To understand. To change directions. And in one blink, to give up sports team practices, play dates with friends and for the older ones, even graduation.
Yes. These are moments they will not get back.
But we've done all these lockdown measures for our children. For our parents. For our at-risk neighbors and friends. We've come so far. Waiting it out until Phase II is totally doable. It will be here soon.
And the world will change once again. It won't be the same as it was. But hopefully, it will be a little better. A little stronger. And a lot more compassionate.
And so will we.
People are reaching out right now in extraordinary ways. And pictures you take yourself of all the amazing things you're doing -- making thank you cards for health care workers, or giant signs to hang on the sides of highways praising hospitals, or even homemade masks, meals and care packages -- if you do one of these things, snap your own photo. Then you will have given your family a truly priceless moment. A moment just as important as those from a family photo session.
A moment to remember. Of how things were, of strength and of compassion. Photos don't get better than that.
(Disclosure: these photos were taken in the fall of 2018. Well before the virus even existed.)