There’s a story behind every family photo, especially this one


May 2, 2017

Think of your dad. Think about what he taught you, what he did to make your world safer, your day brighter, the realities a little less heavy, and you a better person. This article is to pay respect to Doug and his loved ones in this photo shoot. He plans to make an impact in his family’s lives long after he passes.

People usually take professional family photos for post cards, decorative purposes, or to get at least one organized picture of their otherwise chaotic clan. Doug’s family used their photo shoot for something much more important.

Below is the family’s backstory, and below that is what was captured on camera.

It started with Doug and Jen, who first fell in love with each other, and then fell in love with raising children together under God’s guidance. In the midst of adopting five children, they had one of their own to add to the mix as well. Ultimately, Doug and Jen became mom and dad, to six beautiful kids! And, while not all the children are blood-related, there is no mistaking that this is the kind of family that loves, depends on, and grows with, each other.

But, this family received a crushing blow nearly a year ago: it turned out their dad had terminal cancer. Their world now had a time limit on it. While Doug was the only one who would physically die from it, the entire family felt like they were losing to cancer as well.

It felt unfair, and it felt too soon. Yet, Doug was determined to use his life-ending cancer to inspire his wife, his children, and strangers equally.

With the understanding that dad had limited time left, the family decided to take some photos to capture their family as a whole while they still had the time. The group of eight met me at the beach in front of the Hotel Del Coronado for a sunset-colored shoot.

I admit, these pictures became some of my best work. Why? Because that family was reminded, maybe for one of the last times, that they still had their dad, Doug, by their side. Everyone smiled again, even though he would be gone soon. Doug’s family had a great time with their feet in the sand, the water at their toes, and God’s sunset shining on them. Their emotions glowed in the pictures.

Photos can be an amazing thing. They can freeze an emotion, and help bring back memories. If I did my job right, that family will be able to look at these pictures and remember their dad as he was, at least for a second. The kids will remember his beautiful singing, his wife will remember those 24 years of love, and all will remember Doug’s gift of inspiration.

Since this photo shoot, Doug has passed. His family will always miss him. But if they know what Doug would want, it’s to “choose to smile.” And they will.

As you can see from these pictures, these kids will be O.K., and Jen will be right there with them.

Doug is watching over them, smiling.

To hear Doug’s full, inspirational story, visit

  1. Stacy says:

    Beautifull and oh so true.

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