Basic InviteBasic Invite

Bay Area documentary newborn + family photographer Jenna Christina

Jenna Christina is a Bay Area based documentary newborn and family photographer specialized in natural sessions in the home. She truly believes that real is more interesting than (Pinterest) perfect.

There really is nothing more interesting than real life, which is why I went down the documentary newborn and family photography path a bit before I even knew there was a movement around it. Because the documentary approach is not very well-known when it comes to family sessions, I wanted to talk a little bit more about it:


What is the difference between lifestyle sessions and what I do?

I truly want to capture who a family is in an empathetic, curious and honest manner. The photos are not meant to remind families about the photographer, but about that specific time in their lives. It might be the time when the oldest one still enjoyed cuddles, when the little brother had lost his first tooth, when the 10 month old learned to stand up on her own, or when a newborn in the house meant new challenges for the first-time parents.

Documentary photography is not so much a style of photography as it is an approach to life unfolding in front of you. Every documentary photographer still has their own point of view that they photograph from, but they strive to not affect what happens during a session.


Why do I choose to make documentary pictures?

I used to think it was just because I wasn't good at posing families, or getting kids to "behave" in front of the camera. As time goes by I realize that it goes deeper than that – I have to feel that what I do matters, and making pictures that don't reflect the family's own personality just isn't interesting enough for me. I also think about what the kids will want when they are older – surely they'll be more interested in what their real life was like than an album filled with only posed pictures?


What kinds of pictures am I drawn to make?

The photos I'm most drawn to are people touching each other. A gentle hand stroking a newborn's hair, or a protective arm reaching out towards a toddler. I didn't used to be a touchy-feely person as a teenager, but as I've gotten older I see how much we all really need physical contact. It can be reassuring, supportive, a sign of agreement or love.

Other things that get my shutter going are the more subtle kinds of connections between people, whether it's a look or kids copying their parents' behavior.

Struggles of parenthood are very interesting to me, as well as the little things that happen throughout childhood that are forgotten when we grow up. I'm quite nervous when I think about having kids someday, but seeing how others tackle parenthood with humor gives me relief.

Lastly, kids do weird stuff ALL THE TIME. I like to document that for my families, because I love that my clients love their little weirdos just as they are.


Do documentary pictures mean they have to be black-and-white?

Not at all! Black-and-white is my preferred medium for many reasons. Colors can easily distract from the most important thing in the picture, whether that is a moment, movement or an expression. Sometimes I do think color is important though, especially when wanting the family to have a record of what something important looked like – like great grandma's quilt.

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” – Ted Grant


What do people do with their documentary pictures?

Print them! All my session packages include a photo book, because I feel like it's the best way to showcase the full story. I get giddy every time my most "non-traditional" pictures make it into a family's photo book selection.

The past couple years I've been pretty obsessed with printing personal pictures as 4x6s at minimum, because I worry about what will happen to my digitals if something happens to me. Someday when there are kids in the picture (pun intended) I'll have to rethink a little, I will probably start ordering yearly albums as well. We have personal prints up on our walls and I also print a photo book of my client work every year (one picture per session) to have as a memory.

You can follow along more of Jenna's work on her websiteInstagram as well as Facebook page.

Leave a Reply