Family falls out of hammock

Introducing Paula Gerein Photography and the Documentary Approach to Family Photography

Hello, I’m Paula (she/her). I am so excited you are here and I cannot wait to introduce Documentary Family Photography and myself as a family photographer serving the Central Alberta, Canada region and beyond. Let’s get started.




  1. Me, In a Nutshell
  2. How Documentary Family Photography is Different from Traditional Portraiture
  3. A Photographer with Experience
  4. Highest Respect for All Humans
  5. Is This for You?
  6. Client Review: “There is a brilliance in this way of documenting life”
  7. In Summary
  1. Me, in a nutshell

I have been described as someone with a quirky and somewhat dry sense of humour, a positive attitude, and a calming aura. After graduating university with a Commerce degree, my 20’s and 30’s were spent mostly in Europe chasing dreams and love, and that’s where I discovered that I wasn’t destined to climb the corporate ladder but I had an artist’s heart all along.


My very random facts

  • I love being outdoors and believe there is no such thing as bad weather, only badly dressed. Water and I are like magnets but I’m terrified of lake weeds and sea cucumbers.
  • Intimate live music performances send goosebumps down my spine and music plays 24/7 in my house. I’ve played the piano since I was 6 and my current favourite songs to play are cinematic moody ones.
  • I’m married to a Dutchman and we have 2 daughters and 2 cats.
  • My culinary guilty pleasures are Mr. Noodles, ketchup slurped straight from the little takeout packs, and peanut butter by the spoonful. I also get pretty excited anytime I find popcorn, prosecco, and deep-fried pickles.
  • I have an ongoing street photography project of discarded banana peels I find laying around. As a kid I thought it was hilarious when cartoon characters would slip on peels in the street and I guess the fascination has continued.

2. How Documentary Family Photography is Different from Traditional Portraiture


Remember Sears Portraits?


From the time I was little, posed family photography never really spoke to me. I remember my mom dressing up my sisters and I to go do our annual portrait at Sears and it was always a painful process. I usually had to wear something I didn’t love but had to wear anyway because it matched my sisters’ outfits. We had to make sure to spill nothing on the way to the studio, not make each other mad enough that someone would cry and have puffy eyes, and then we had to smile and pretend we loved each other. Ok, deep down we actually did love each other, but we were the classic, “best of friends, worst of enemies” and I didn’t want to have to unnaturally put my hand on my sister’s shoulder and tilt my head, attempting to look like perfect little angels. 


This is what I remember from those posed sessions – they were fake, they weren’t fun, and while they created a trail of family portraits I enjoy having to mark how we changed over the years, they do nothing to inspire memories and emotions in me.


When I first discovered the documentary family photography genre, my mind was blown. Whoa. This is family photography?! I was enthralled. I spent the following three days stuck behind my computer learning everything and anything I could about this approach to family photography that excited me. THIS. I thought. THIS is what family photography can and should be.


I want photographs that burst with expression of all the emotions and not just big cheesy smiles. I want to photograph a laugh as it explodes out of your mouth, coming straight from your belly. I want to photograph looks of disgust at poopy, overflowing diapers or from a child being told to eat their steamed broccoli for supper. I want to photograph tears of disappointment and frustration, from emotionally exhausted parents, toddlers, and teens. I want to photograph the way two bodies in love completely melt into each other when they embrace. I want it ALL.


All of this life, this beautifully, messy, perfectly imperfect life. THIS is what we can capture together with documentary family photo sessions.

sisters laughing and playing in lake water by paula gerein photography

3. A Photographer with Experience


Since that magical time of discovery, I’ve gone on to do over 125 documentary family photo sessions directly for families and also for non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Muscular Dystrophy Canada, Kids with Cancer Society, and others.


Family photo sessions have covered life in the city, on the farm, camping in the mountains, vacationing at the lake. I’ve photographed newborns, those nearing end-of-life, extended family reunions and weekends together, teens who let their parents hang out with them, wild and crazy little ones, tame and tired not-so-little ones. Variety is the spice of life. At the end of the day, we are documenting life and whether there is a special purpose for hiring a photographer on a special day, or whether you want a photographer to help create photographs as family mementos, there is space for it all.


So many beautiful families; so many life moments

Parents hugging on front porch - from an Edmonton Family Photographer

4. Highest Respect for All Humans


I work very hard to teach my kids to have the highest respect for all humans. I firmly believe everyone(!) deserves respect regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, social status, political leanings, or opinion. A kind smile and a touch of understanding can go a long way, for you have no idea of the path the stranger next to you is navigating. Some might call this a diversity and inclusion statement, but I like to say that no matter who you are, you’ve got a safe place with me.

5. Is This for You?


If you’ve found your way here, then maybe you’re like me and documentary family photography was the thing you didn’t know you were looking for until you found it.


There could be a lot of reasons why someone is attracted to this genre of family photography:


  • You’re a sentimental kind of person who feels like you’ve won the lottery of life. You finish the day whispering to yourself, “How did I get so lucky?”, and you want photographs which will always bring you back to this moment in time.



  • You’re someone who greets life with bandaids, dirty fingernails, and a fabulous sense of humour and recognize that there is zero need to impersonate perfection.



  • Maybe your crew is a little wild and the idea of attempting a posed family portrait equates to the thought of fingernails running down a blackboard. You just want to have photos of your family while you are wild and free and having fun.



  • You’re an art lover who wants something beautiful and unique to only you. Photographs that are more art than snapshot; photographs that pull you in.
A girl swings outside on a beautiful summer day

6. Client Review: “There is a brilliance in this way of documenting life”


From Nancy, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her two teens:


The photographs Paula took of our family captured so many aspects of our daily life that just don’t get documented… knowing glances, moments of affection, unexpected hilarity, and the ‘just being’. Having these photos that remind me of what life ‘feels like’ is an incredible keepsake. 


Life is full and busy and we move from one thing to the next, often without appreciating or even noticing the myriad of special things that happen in any given day. The time spent with Paula gave us an opportunity to slow down and appreciate those things and the photographs will forever serve as an incredible reminder.


There is a brilliance in this way of documenting life. It was special for our family but it has also been lovely to share the photos with other people in our lives, welcoming them into our everyday. It is a wonderful thing to be seen.

7. In Summary


For me, photography is a form of time travel, bringing stories and loved ones vividly back to life, making me smile with appreciation of the experiences I’ve had and inspired for things yet to come. This is what I want my photography to give to you.


Edmonton, Canada is where I have built my home and business yet wanderlust still runs strongly through my veins and I will eagerly go anywhere.


Reach out anytime if you would like to talk. I would love to hear from you!

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Boy makes a silly face - from an Edmonton Family Photographer

Paula Gerein Photography

Documentary photography for families and businesses of Edmonton and Central Alberta, Canada. Available for travel.


© Paula Gerein Photography 2024

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