Whoa. Starting out heavy with my first blog post, but I think this is an important topic to talk about especially since most of the time the photos we take together will one day make their way on to the world wide web. If you're unfamiliar with the term "sharenting" I highly recommend taking a look at this book and just acclimating yourself with the landscape our children are growing up in.

The TLDR is our children are going to grow up with so much of their lives on display for the world without their permission. This history is so complete and starts at the moment of birth for most in the developed world. It's pretty nuts. I wanted a photo of me as a 2 year old to compare to my daughter currently, and I had to call my mom, and she had to look through a bunch of old photo albums some of which were dated some of which weren't. Once she found one, she had to take the photo out from behind that sticky clear protector and sent me a pic of it with her phone. Our kids won't experience that same search-and-find game. It's on Facebook. Forever. Time stamped. What we share of our kids without their permission, that's sharenting.

Most of the time, people talk about sharenting as a negative phenomenon. I understand this, people are concerned with the safety of their kids. Their consent. That it will paint them into a corner of who they can become in life. I agree with these concerns, but there are also some positive things to consider. For example: there's a belief that your digital history will be used as part of your college entrance requirements in the future. Like a credit score, having no "purchase history" (digital history in this case) could actually work against them as part of these entrance decisions. I bring this up, because mindful sharenting can have positive outcomes too.

Family photos and unintentional sharenting

Even the family with the most rigorous personal boundaries around sharenting at a young age (me, that was me for quite some time) have a tendency to unintentionally break these rules when we sign up for the Christmas Minis every year. Here's how this happens.

You find a photographer. They're amazing. They've got this killer 15 minute session price for the quality you're going to get back and you're like "hell yeah, let's do this!" You sign up, and they send you a contract and you pay either the full session price or some non-refundable retainer in order to secure your spot at peak golden hour on Saturday. In the contract, 99.99% of the time you're agreeing to a model release. What this means is the photographer can publish this photo on social media or in ads or whatever and you've consented. This sounds trixie, but it's not; this is standard operating procedure. You chose this photographer because you saw a sample of their work and you loved it. Chances are, it was work done of another family or partners. If photographers don't include this model release, it inhibits their ability to market themselves to future customers. It's not nefarious, it's crucial to their business model.

Happy Today sessions and model releases

I fully understand the purpose of Model Releases. They're in my contracts. My customers typically sign them. BUT I offer you the option to opt into or opt out of model releases for your images. I know what it's like to have a young kid and worry about their digital footprints and safety. It's actually why my Instagram is now a private, personal page instead of an open, business one since so much of my work is very personal (I welcome new customers or interested real humans I've connected with to friend me though)! Knowing that the ability to share my images is how I get new customers, by not signing a model release it means I can't show future customers HOW AWESOME the images we made together were. So, I offer a tradeoff. If you're OK with images being posted to social media, sessions are prices as listed on my investment pages. If you'd like to opt out of the Model Release statement, sessions are $100 more to account for the lost marketing potential.*

To me, this is a happy medium. A lot of photographers won't remove this statement from their contracts, and while I get that, I don't think the policy is keeping up with modern children and families' needs and wants.

Additional resources

If you're interested in learning more about Sharenthood, I highly recommend checking out the following references:

Sharenthood - Easy book to read through

Berkman Klein Center - Harvard's center for thinking about digital society/ safety/ social media issues - A great place to start for how to think through your own personal policies, sites to avoid, sites to embrace, how to shift your expectations as your children grow up, etc.

*I waive this fee for any law enforcement professionals, foster or adopted families, and other situations where maintaining privacy is a necessity. I'm not a cyborg. Message me if you have a safety concern outside of general Sharenting and you'd like me to waive this fee. I may say yes, I may say no, but it doesn't hurt to ask.