The fine art of photographing families

Melodie Davis

© Bradley Striebig Photography

Many readers got involved helping us choose the cover for this issue of Valley Living through our Facebook page, “Valley Living for the Whole Family.” Our cover story this issue features the family of Eric and Peggy Brubaker, just one of four beautiful families from the Shenandoah Valley in the now nationally-known band, The Steel Wheels. The group began like most bands with part time gigs but is now touring full time. Our board member Bonnie Hamilton encouraged us to talk to the Brubakers about how they and the other band members manage family life with the challenge of many days spent apart when the band travels. Lauree Purcell enjoyed interviewing the Brubakers and writing the story which begins on page 6.

Here at Valley Living we’ve made a commitment to feature more local persons and families, including on each cover, instead of using “generic stock” photography that comes from anywhere—for a lot of reasons. But photographing regular folks instead of models in an engaging and attractive manner—and working on an outdoor photo in mid-April for a summer issue can be challenging.

girls with eggs in basket

© Pinwheel Collective

The issues are the same for anyone having a photo session. You have to deal with weather, real children who may be excited but tired, who want to cooperate without getting cute clothes dirty on a muddy day, while posing (but looking natural), and thrust into a situation of smiling for a stranger they’ve never met before. Or with children, you never know when an idea pops into their heads of something more fun to do, such as suddenly running off and wanting to show everyone the eggs she gathered!

All of that aside, Amelia, a photographer from Pinwheel Collective, got some beautiful, natural looking photographs capturing a slice of the love, relationships, and energy of a young growing family. For a photo that works for the cover of a magazine there are additional issues: we need a background where article titles will pop out and be readable.

So the dilemma for our cover was the great photo you see there of Eric and his two daughters, Norah and Lydia, or a more inclusive and wonderful picture we had including wife and mother, Peggy.

Either photo would have been delightful, but we opted for the one that worked best as a magazine cover, while wishing it included Peggy! (You’ll meet her on page 7.) We could have shot more photos, but again, these were children, not paid models. When Eric and his daughters sat on the swing with the violins, Peggy was very gracious in dismissing the idea of adding her to that set up since she does not attempt to play violin and wanted it to be authentic. So I didn’t think she’d mind us using the photo of Eric and daughters in the doorway to their home.

Perhaps your family will be having a photography session outside of a studio sometime this summer or later this year. Brad Striebig, another local photographer who enjoys capturing families, photographed our family last year (a Christmas gift to the whole family from one daughter) when our grandsons were just five months and seven months old. Brad gave us a tip I’d like to pass on: if you’ve got babies in the photo, don’t even worry about capturing them smiling. All of the adults need to focus on the camera and not glance away to see whether the baby is smiling. Babies are adorable almost any way you take a picture, although of course no one wants their child to be crying or miserable through the photo session.

Elsewhere in this issue is another lovely photo of ballerina Caroline Kempfer in the lead role of Cinderella earlier in May with the Rockingham Ballet Theatre’s spring production, which is celebrating its 20th year offering twice yearly full ballet productions. Also check our Shenandoah Spotlight on popular YouTube blogger, author and motivational speaker Josh Sundquist who hails from Harrisonburg. Finally, The Steel Wheels’ own family-friendly local music festival, “Red Wing Roots” at Natural Chimneys Regional Park is coming up July 10-12.

Talent and opportunities for individuals and families abound in this scenic and supportive Valley community. Valley Living is happy to have a small part in forging a positive and healthy vibe!

Melodie Davis, editor


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