A documentary story shows more than what you look like - it shows who you are at this moment, the fascinating way you relate to your environment and the people around you.
Honestly? Not everyone needs the validation and joy of a documentary story.
This is not for the shiny-haired mom bloggers who post chirpy updates every week. This is not for the moms who spend evenings meticulously recording grams of bananas in and poops out. This is not for the moms who have time and energy to create gorgeous scrapbooks.
This is not for perfect moms, who are juggling everything just fine, and don't understand why the rest of us are a hot mess.
Actually - unlike those perfect posed formal portraits, this isn’t really for the moms at all. This is for our children, who will one day be grown-ups like us. This is for our grand-kids to laugh and cry over in 2056.
Our little families, we are in the eye of the storm - and time is fleeting.
In six months, a year, everything will change. We think we will remember it all, but as life speeds by, our memories will be overwritten by shopping lists, after-school schedules and college tours. We can try and remember those stories of tickle monsters, the velvety feel of a sleeping cheek, or our 2-year-old’s obsession with cinnamon ketchup, but those words will bounce off uninterested little ears.
Unfortunately, those vital moments that live only in our hearts will last only so long as we do.
But your children's story of these moments in pictures?
Those will outlast us all, and grow more breathtaking every year.
Throughout the year, I may feature some family sessions on my blog, along with a short story from the day, or I might use the images from your session to highlight a relevant topic from your family story. The safety and happiness of each family is at the top of my mind when I write public blog posts featuring families.
On my website and ARP-affiliated posts, I use stricter privacy standards for other people's children than I do with my own. I will never, ever share details that you would prefer to keep private in your written documentary. The names of minors are always changed for safety.
As an autistic adult, I'm familiar with the lack of education about ASD in the medical and educational community and the discrimination and misunderstandings we face, so I take care to avoid disclosing medical diagnoses and take reasonable care to prevent sharing sensitive information that could fuel discrimination against your family further down the road.
For sessions in the Invisible Obstacles series, we will discuss during your Design & Order Consultation which details you'd prefer to publicize, and which you'd prefer to keep private.
Before or during our session, we can discuss what sensitive images you are comfortable with me taking, and which you'd prefer that I capture, from bath-time to diaper-changes to breast-feeding. While I do not have any particular bans of nudity on my website, I honor all requests to keep images of this sort password-protected in your viewing gallery if that is your preference.
All portraits of children who are wards of the state are kept private unless images are taken through my volunteer efforts with MARE and the Heart Gallery and authorized for publication on my website.
All of the above-mentioned privacy protection comes standard with every session (because it's the decent thing to do). If you prefer to keep your entire session completely private, you have the option to include a non-disclosure agreement addendum to your session contract. Because I cannot use these images on my website to show recent work, and I will not use any of the images from your session in my portfolio, marketing material, or any and all future artistic exhibitions, an NDA option is available for an additional fee.
For the protection of your family and to avoid all of the weird, creepy things strangers do with photos of kids on the internet, I typically watermark all web-formatted images when possible. Hi-res, downloadable digital files are water-mark free, but you may request watermark protection on them in the form of a my digital signature and embedded metadata.
I'm a documentary family photographer.
No posing, no artificial, orchestrated stuff. Just kids, parents, pets, favorite friends - the people whom you love the most. Doing what they do.
I photograph families because kids are tons of fun to photograph - they do the weirdest stuff! Family life is vital for kids, and for us parents - it's everything that truly matters.
These little moments, tiny stories and routines, these ever-changing stages and milestones create fascinating stories that I feel blessed to be a part of. Creating storytelling documentaries for families is a win-win gift for everyone.
Families who invite me to tag along and become a part of the family for a day are offering an amazing gift - this vulnerable honesty that is vital to showing the absolute beautiful thing they have created - their family.
When I show families their stories - it lights me up. I'm using my super-powers to create the best gift I could ever provide to someone, something I would cherish, as a mom. It's inspiring and world-changing to provide hard-working parents with tangible proof that what they do matters.
Bumblebee Hollow (Ashia Ray Photography HQ) is located in Newton, MA.
Session and order consultation travel anywhere within the greater Boston area is free of charge.
I am available to travel throughout New England. Our sessions are longer than traditional portrait sessions, and I've got littles of my own to cuddle, so there is an additional fee to cover my expenses to areas beyond 30 miles of Bumblebee Hollow.
Since documentary sessions aim to capture the real you, the best sessions take place in a regular, comfortable environment that holds meaning for your family.
Many families choose to have a Day In The Life session at home, but we can stop by the family beach cottage for the day, take a trip to your favorite park for a hike (or climb) or even go on a special adventure.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but the sweetest, most gorgeous images will be of you guys just doing regular, ordinary daily things. Pick someplace you can just be yourself - so we can focus on the moments between you, rather than the background environment.
Once you get an idea of the difference between a studio portrait and a storytelling album, you'll begin to see why families who are tired of identical cookie-cutter portraits are leaving studios for something that speaks to them.
This is who you are. This is your story. This a moment that will be gone tomorrow.
Documentary storytelling sessions are completely different than the cheesy, chin-on-fist-pose we grew up with. Families are understandably hesitant to step out of the comfort zone of portrait studios of 1996 and and the grassy posed outdoor sessions of 2008.
Combining the skills of a wildlife, sports, journalism, and portrait photographer, family documentaries are technically challenging to capture, physically demanding to execute, and time consuming to edit - that’s why it’s so rare.
Unlike a wedding - which contains orchestrated details, you will not be performing. You will not be asked to smile, endure bright flash bulbs and awkward posing.
You will be yourself. This story will be the real family you are raising, a richer story full of tiny details and genuine laughter.
Nope, sorry. They just don’t do it for me.
Grown ups just stand there and people rarely throw food and jump on the furniture - where is the challenge? I have a few amazing colleagues who do weddings whom I am happy to refer you to.
Having had the gamut of a natural labor and unplanned cesarean as well as an epidural and VBAC, I regret not having images of my first moments as a mother.
Back then I thought a birth photographer just catches the gristle and gross bits, so I didn’t consider it. (Turns it that's not what birth photography is, after all!)
Sadly, our camera was stolen in the hospital in the chaos of my first son’s birth, and we simply forgot to take pics after my second labor.
As a super-organized planner, this is a testament to how 'I'll just take some pictures with my phone' is simply not a good plan, even for those of us on the ball.
It would be a huge honor to help you catch your family’s first moments together. I don’t yet offer a birth photography pricing plan, so currently they fall under regular session pricing. (Tip: they will be more expensive when I get around to crunching the numbers of being on call - so it's a pretty sweet deal!)
And parties, reunions and shindigs?
Question for you: Is it possible that someone attending might jump on the tables, climb under furniture, have a tantrum, or throw cake? Are funny hats involved?
If so, yes. Kids parties are a blast.
If it's going to be some civilized cocktail party, no thank you. Sooo boring.
How about an adventure/road trip/final step of my evil master plan?
Yup. Almost definitely. Contact me and we can brainstorm something amazing.
Of course! I love to show off my recent work!
Seeing ALL the images from a session will give you an idea of the consistent quality of images and provide a better idea of what a day-in-the-life documentary captures.
Because I'm always posting new work, feel free to contact me. Tell me a little about what you are hoping to capture and I'll send you a link to an active gallery on my online order form.
Each client has access to an online order form after your proofs are ready. There, you'll find an example of the Vital Collection images I've personally toned and meticulously touched up by hand - the best images from the day that capture the story each family requested I capture. I also offer a Vital + Peripheral Gallery - for those of you who believe more is better, it offers loads (too many, really) of all the extra images of the day.
Before the Big Day
Every family is unique, so unfortunately there is no one-sized-fits-all-guide.
During our free discovery consultation, I’ll dig deep to find out exactly WHY you want portraits so you can make the most of your our day together. If you want a comprehensive list of tips and tricks, I got 'em - but they have to be the right ones for you, ya dig?
Without getting to know you, I can’t even tell you to avoid wearing matching polo shirts, because hey, maybe my idea of creepy accurately depicts your esteemed family history of selling golf-balls (or whatever it is that inspires people to do that).
Heavens no, what a daunting task!
The best images will be of yourselves in your home, exactly as it is ordinarily. Well - OK, no one wants to work someplace that smells like air freshener and garbage. But visually? Mess just adds texture.
But I know that is hard to believe, so I'll humor you.
The question is - do you need to tidy up to feel comfortable?
Can you accept your messy home as it is - an accurate representation of the hard work you do every day, and ignore it enough to focus on having a good time?
Do you want your story to be about how you hustled to finish the kitchen cabinets before your session just in time? Or do you want your story to be about prioritizing late nights at work and sharing meals with your family over home decor?
BOTH are valid - and both can be a true reflection of your home and personality.
Go ahead and use your session date as a deadline to finally hang those curtains if accountability adds value to our time together.
But if you don't meet that deadline and make your house look the way it 'should' - no worries. This state of your home is a part of your story right now, and it is beautiful too.
During your Storytelling Session
I used to think I was just a slow-shooter, and it took a while to for people to warm up to me.
Then I realized that no one catches this level of intimate, breathtaking moments in under two hours.
During a longer session, we are creating something completely different. We're not capturing what you look like - we're capturing who you are, and how you fit into your environment and with the people you love.
This isn't a stressful trip to a studio to scratch off your list - your session is an opportunity to shut out daily noise and focus on what matters most. When was the last time you had a chance to do that - to give your family your undivided attention?
I tell parents that little kids need an hour to get used to the camera, have a meltdown, and then forget I’m there to take pictures. The truth is that it actually takes 15 minutes before the kids and I are on the same page.
We will get some great photos in that first hour - but we can only get the breathtaking ones after that.
What I’m really waiting for is for the grown-ups to forget the camera, stop smiling like a maniac for no reason, and get distracted with the challenges of parenting so I can catch the real relationship between you. There is no magic shortcut. I have to earn your trust and give you time to reveal what makes you awesome.
Your story has unlimited potential for adventure. Savor it. This kind of magic can't be rushed.
During our discovery call, I dig deep to help you plan an activity during your session - something to draw your focus and work on together with your family.
Not just any random activity, but an adventure that has meaning for your family.
Hoping to catch the tears in your mother's eyes when she first meets her new grandson?
Want to catch those first Sunday morning cuddles, pancake breakfasts and a relaxed day of fort building before nap-time snuggles?
Anticipating an afternoon of scaling granite, picnicking and exploring an old quarry?
Expecting only a few more mother-daughter brunches before your pre-teen is too mortified to be seen in public with you?
Once time is no longer an issue, there are endless opportunities to catch the most important moments of your life and hold on to them forever.
There are lots of tricks - both before your session, in camera, and in post-processing, to make you look great, just let me know what your areas of concern are.
However, keep in mind that we're not going for Glamourshots, here. We need to focus on what really matters.
Before we go blurring your face into the uncanny valley, remember that your kids have spent their entire lives comparing everyone to you - no the other way around.
They love you and will treasure memories exactly as you are - not ten pounds lighter, with a fancy hairdo and a contoured face. Your threadbare robe is the feel of a mother's embrace.
I remember the curve of my mother's old nose under my little fingers. It felt like perfection. As a four-year-old, I cried because my nose wasn't bumpy and pointy like hers.
She is beautiful to everyone in pictures with her new straight nose.
But she's beyond beautiful in the ones featuring her old bumpy one. To see that nose is to remember fitting my whole body in her arms when we were both young.