Family with mother, father, and infant son in warm embrace

Top 5 Things I Learned in 2021

2021 was the best year for my business since I started this venture 4 years ago. My vision for my work is becoming clearer, and while I know it will evolve over time, it’s a good feeling to see it take shape, and for my voice and style to emerge. I learned quite a bit this year, but here are the top 5 things I learned this year as a San Diego family photographer.


1. I learned to slow down.

Slowing down seems counterintuitive when there are littles ones to keep up with during a family session. In the past, I would be constantly on the go with a lot of energy, moving the family to keep up with the pace of the children or to keep them from melting down. But this year, I slowed down and got quiet. I waited patiently to observe and see what would unfold naturally. I created soft, quiet moments for families and sat back to wait for them to relax into them. And what I got were images of sweet, nurturing, connected, loving families.

2. I learned to prioritize what’s most important to me.

In the first 3.5 years of shooting professionally, I shot a wedding, a bar mitzvah, a baptism, birthday parties, products and events. I also did headshots for companies, sessions for newborns, extended families, bloggers, and high school seniors. I shot landscape and macro nature as well. But for 2021, I decided to niche down. I wanted to solely focus on family photography and deliver the absolute best service and creative work that I could for that genre. The results were exactly what I had hoped – better and stronger work that was more connected to my vision and voice. As an extension of my family photography, I am going to focus on maternity and couples as well because each season of life is significant as part of the whole journey. Being able to document those 3 big seasons of life is a priority for me as I go forward.

3. I learned that every mother is harder on themselves than any other person would be on them.

I know this one from personal experience, but I saw it time and time again in my sessions this year – mothers who were self conscious about their bodies. I often wish I could do a separate individual photo session for each mother, just to show her how beautiful and strong she is. No one sees the flaws you see in yourself. I see so much power, strength, and perseverance. There is so much beauty there. And while I will always try to capture you in the most flattering way possible, if even then it’s still difficult to see yourself in images, please be reassured these images are visual love letters to your children and when they look back at them when they’re older, they will only see your love and devotion to them and that’s an incredible gift to them.

4. I learned to create art that fills my soul and attract the type of client who will be drawn to it.

There were many sessions I shot this year where I didn’t capture a single image of everyone looking at the camera and smiling. I provided guidance and direction to every single couple and family, but was able to capture much more emotive images than the traditional posed ones. I was able to draw in more clients seeking this type of session. The emotive shots are the ones that don’t get captured on a regular basis, despite the feeling that is there on a regular basis.

5. I learned that no matter what obstacles or setbacks families or couples face, they are incredibly resilient.

What an honor it’s been to witness and photograph so many families this year from so many different backgrounds, different parts of the country, with all different stories. I saw pain and heartache, and joy and love, and I’m just so grateful to have been able to document a small piece of everyone’s story. I photographed couples who faced infertility, ones who experienced the painful loss of an infant, families who suffered and overcame illness, families dealing with cancer, families who were reunited after being separated for so long due to Covid. And despite all of those hardships, what I witnessed and captured was love and connection.

So a genuine and heartfelt thank you to all of the families who trusted and chose me to document them this year. As much as I was able to provide to you with images for your family that will hopefully be treasured for many years to come, you all helped me learn some important lessons.

Collage of family photographs taken in San Diego

Collage of family photographs taken in San Diego

Collage of family photographs taken in San Diego

Collage of family photographs taken in San Diego

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Kim Belverud