18 realistic family photos. Because we know parenting isn't picture-perfect.

Family photographer Danielle Guenther gets the struggle that is parenting.

As a mom herself, she lives and loves the daily grind. Sure, she relishes those occasional picture-perfect moments, but she also relates to those very real moments her clients experience before, during, and after she takes family photos.

It was after one such family photo shoot that she decided to capture a real moment.

The mom "just sort of laid down in complete exhaustion," Guenther told me in a phone interview. Then the dad collapsed next to the mom on the couch. Guenther thought it was funny and they came up with the idea to add a few props and take a more realistic family photo right then and there. She titled it "Parenting Is Exhausting." (Isn't that the truth?!) When she posted it to her business Facebook page, "people went crazy for it," she said. "They were relating."


"Parenting Is Exhausting." Don't panic — it's apple juice in the wine glass! (See that jug of Mott's in front?) What parent hasn't felt this exhausted before? This is the photo Guenther described above — the first in her series. All photos belong to Danielle Guenther Photography and are shared here with Guenther's permission.

It was the opposite of all those nearly flawless pics we flood Facebook and Instagram with. And Guenther could see the very real need parents have to connect to these more authentic experiences.

And that's how her photo series "Best Case Scenario" was born.

In addition to or even in place of traditional family photos, Guenther takes staged but oh-so-real pictures for her clients. Guenther gets to know each family, and, based on their lives, she creates a moment in time for the perfectly imperfect shot.

They're hilarious and relatable, and she shared "Parenting Is Exhausting" and 18 other gems with us. Enjoy!

1. Rush Hour

Getting out the door in the morning is an exercise in patience.

2. The Escape Plan

You don't get those parenting stripes until you've army-crawled out of your baby's room to avoid being spotted.

3. She Got the Bug

Nope. Parents don't get sick days ... just bigger messes to clean up when they're feeling better.

4. Welcome to Our World

Multitasking: a parenting survival skill.

5. Playdate (in)Sanity

Now this is my kind of lemonade stand.

6. Why Did the Parents Cross the Road?

Family life = chaos.

7. Oh No...

We've all been there: The baby has finally fallen asleep, and you're deathly afraid to move to reach the thing you want to keep you entertained.

8. Day at the Spa

There's no such thing as showering alone and/or in peace when you have small children.

9. Got Milk ... Yet?

'Nuff said.

10. Fully Loaded

This is why it's easier to do laundry after everyone's in bed.

11. Just Another Mouth to Feed

Those tiny sleep thieves leave parents vulnerable to exhaustion-induced errors.

12. One Year Later...

Guenther photographed the family in photo #11 one year later. Looks about right.

13. Cleanup on Aisle 5

Grocery shopping with three young kids in tow isn't for the faint of heart.

14. Check Please!

That moment at a restaurant when your kids lose their minds and even if they're normally well-behaved, nothing works. You cannot. Get. The. Check. Fast. Enough.

15. Keep Your Head in the Game

Warning: Cooking with babies could result in dangerous mistakes. "They had this awesome sense of humor," Guenther said of the family in this photo. "It was near Thanksgiving and they wanted it for their holiday card. I was laughing hysterically with them. I knew [the photo] had to be funny and quirky." Mission accomplished.

16. Loser Unpacks It All

Moving pre-kids? Not so much fun. Moving with kids? Ugggghhhh.

17. Breakfast in Bed

'Cause there's no such thing as a "relaxing family vacation."

18. Hold on a Sec

That moment when one parent is juggling everything and the other is casually checking their phone. We've all been in both positions!

I know I could relate to more than a few of these photos, and that's what makes them so great.

Guenther loves being a photographer — and the different types of photos she takes. It's a passion that comes through in her work.

"Usually on photo shoots, parents say, 'Oh I'm sorry my kids are misbehaving,'" she told me. "It's OK! These are kids. This is what they do. It's nice to have wholesome, beautiful photos … but it's also just as refreshing to see something falling apart in front of you. This is reality."

And every parent on earth knows firsthand how real parenting can get.

"I think my favorite part about these is that social media often makes even the everyday moments seem perfect," Guenther told me. "But we know better."

She said that even though these photos capture the imperfect side of parenting, "it's also so beautiful when you photograph it. I know I don't want to forget these moments. I want to remember them — even when they're complete chaos."

Because that's what parenting is about — the highs, the lows, and the moments between.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."