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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Photographing LGBT Families, But Were Afraid to Ask

Accompanying a recent Huffington Post article I wrote was a photo of my family, taken by Sara + Ryan Photography.  That one photo resulted in so many terrific comments and queries from readers about the duo’s work, which is primarily focused on LGBT families, that I thought it would be fun to learn more about them and their journey to their photographic specialty.  Both were happy to share how they became straight allies for LGBT equality and to specialize in photographing our unique community.

Given that you are both straight, how did you come to specialize in photographing LGBT families?

Sara: My sister is gay, as well as my best friend, and both have long term partners, but we didn’t necessarily intend to specialize in LGBT families and couples, though we always knew we would be open to it.  With both of these couples, however, we found that neither had ever had professional photos taken, until our sessions with them, as they felt it might be awkward to get pictures taken at a portrait studio.

So they felt more comfortable, given your relationship?

Sara: Yes, because they knew that we were completely comfortable with them being themselves.  After that, we started getting a lot of referrals.  Of course, we still photograph straight families as well, but most of our clientele is now in the LGBT community.

Ryan: We talked to a lot of same-sex couples who’d had previous experiences, where photographers had assured that they had experience photographing same-sex couples, only to feel that the photographer was a bit uneasy during the shoot, whether being uncomfortable personally, or in attempting to pose the couple as a traditional straight couple might be.

Do you think some photographers may have an issue capturing the intimacy a same-gender couple might express?

Ryan: We haven’t experienced that first-hand. We only know that we’ve had clients tell us on more than one occasion that some photographers will say they are comfortable, but then give off a very different vibe during the photo shoot. We are truly comfortable and enjoy couples being themselves – hugging, kissing, and complete public displays of affection.

What has the reaction been to your focus on the LGBT community?

Sara:  We got a little skepticism from a few people as to why a straight couple would want to specialize in LGBT couples and family photography, but for the most part the community has embraced us, just as we have embraced them.

Aside from your friends, what connections did you have to the LGBT community?

Sara:  Through our photography we’ve met a lot of truly awesome people and have developed some really wonderful friendships, and we’ve become LGBT advocates. I now volunteer for the Trevor Project, which is an awesome experience, though it can be heartbreaking at times.

How do you first approach a new photography assignment?

Sara:  Our first goal is to make sure we connect and get to know them, as we try to capture who the clients really are. We don’t go into it thinking about a pose or “great idea” so much. It’s more about how we will get them comfortable so that the shots sort of make themselves happen.

What’s the most important element in creating a good picture?

Ryan:  Photographing people is all about timing, light, and emotion. Lighting must be just right, emotions must be flying, and timing is most critical, the shutter has to be fired at just the right moment, and that means anticipation, too.

Sara:  I’d say lighting, composition, and perfect exposure are all important. However, when I have those three, and I press the shutter just when I see a genuine moment between people, knowing it will later evoke an emotion, that’s when I feel like I’ve got a good shot.

What advice do you give to those you are photographing?

Sara:  To be themselves and not worry about trying to pose for a picture. Most people get in front of a camera and already have a predisposition about how they are supposed to act, so I try to get them to engage with each other instead of worrying about what I’m doing.

Ryan:  I always tell them to ignore my presence and get lost in each other and the moment. I am interested in capturing raw emotions and moments in the truest sense, and I can think of no better way than bringing people into a setting and helping them disappear into each other or themselves.

What photographers have most influenced your own style?

Ryan:  Some of my favorite photographers include Dorothea Lange, Yousuf Karsh, and Ansel Adams. But when it comes to anything I do, I have always enjoyed trying to march to the beat of my own drum.

As straight allies, what do you see as the biggest issues facing the LGBT community?

Sara:  LGBT people still don’t have the same basic human rights that I do. There’s no reason for that.  The amount of ignorance and discrimination among some politicians, lawmakers, and religious leaders, who work every day to prevent equality, is truly sad.

Ryan:  No person should be discriminated against.  All people should have a right to a legally recognized marriage.

How important is it for straight allies to voice their support? 

Sara:  As humans, it’s easy to overlook what doesn’t directly affect us. We see it as “their fight.” I think when straight people come out to fully support for the LGBT community, it opens the eyes of a lot of other people.  We’ve seen it with our own friends and family; they see what we’ve done, and they now proudly advocate for LGBT rights.

Ryan:  Given that most of those opposed to equality are straight, it is important that straight allies stand up to them. Straight allies need to speak out everywhere possible, and let their support be known.  Many of the greatest people I know are gay. We need to create a world in which all people are valued, regardless of sex, race, or creed.

Photography by Sara + Ryan.  For more on Sara + Ryan, check them out on their website, twitter, and facebook.

Cross-posted on Huffington Post.

2 Responses

  1. Wonderful interview and great photos that capture love. Wish more people could open their brains and hearts to recognize all humanity as equals.

    October 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm

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