Are you ruining family events with your camera? Is taking photos for the family scrapbook spoiling everyone’s enjoyment? I know you don’t mean to spoil the day. In fact, you have the best of honorable intentions. You just want to document your beautiful family for generations to come. I’ve been there.
I love being the family photographer. I’ve photographed weddings for my siblings, and for their children for the last 30+ years. And it’s pretty much expected that I’ll always have a camera for family get-togethers. I left it at home once and everyone was upset because no one else thought to bring a camera.
One thing I’ve learned while photographing all these family events is boundaries. There is a definite difference between being the family photographer and the annoying family member taking over the event with her camera.
Do you really want all of your children’s memories to be “mom with a camera”? Wouldn’t you rather have them be “mom with us?” Don’t justify it with “they’ll thank me later.” They want you present NOW. They’re not likely to care later.
And yes, I know sometimes Dad is the family photographer, but most often it’s mom who is guilty of these five offenses against family memories.
So, what are these five ways your photos are ruining family events?
You are so busy photographing everything and everyone that you aren’t a participant in the event.
If having an important family event fully photographed from every angle is important, hire a photographer. As good as it is to document our family events for posterity, it’s more important that we be a part of them now. As the family photographer, I am often called upon to document family events like weddings and reunions. My oldest daughter was about 10 years old when she said after one family wedding, “When I get married, promise me that you won’t bring your camera.” I asked her why, and her response has never left me—and it changed the way I photograph. She said, “When I get married, I want you to be my mother, not my photographer.”
Even at that tender age, she recognized that when I came to family events as the photographer, I wasn’t a family member fully participating in the event. Now, before you tell me I was obviously doing it wrong, I wasn’t. You can’t do both jobs effectively at the same time. Choose ahead of time which you will be. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few photos for the family album, but when you become so wrapped up in photographing the event and documenting every minute “for posterity,” you end up not being a part of the family.
You are so obsessed with getting the perfect photo that you make it not fun. Every minute doesn’t need to be photographed and every photograph doesn’t need to be perfectly arranged.
In 50 years when your grandkids are enjoying the family scrapbooks, they aren’t going to care if your layouts look like a photo shoot from Perfect Photographer magazine. What they really want to see is images that tell the story of your family. Your imperfect family. You’re not working with hired models here. It’s your family. Lighten up. The purpose of family events isn’t to create blog posts and scrapbook layouts, it’s to build and strengthen family bonds. So take a deep breath, take a few fun photos, and then stop being in everyone’s face and have fun with them instead.
If you want to create perfectly styled images for your next blog post, stage them separately from the event. When I know I want some blog or portfolio photos, I make plans to arrive early, before the event begins and create my awesome images without torturing the rest of my family. If you need some models in them, make an arrangement with friends or family members ahead of time, and be prepared to engage in some bribery to make it worthwhile.
You insist on planning everyone’s clothing for outings and vacations so they’ll “look good in the pictures.”
Ugh. This makes me want to throw up. Seriously? Do you think for a minute that anyone is going to look at your photos and think, “Wow, what a cool family. They just happened to all wear matching outfits for their camping trip.” How about if you focus on planning how to have fun and letting everyone choose clothing they enjoy wearing for the trip? Besides, think of all the money you could spend on fun vacation activities instead of blowing it on matching outfits. Your teenagers, especially, will thank you for this.
If you’re making a formal family portrait, then by all means, coordinate your clothing. But for everything else, dress like normal people.
You script out every event so it will look great in your scrapbook or on your blog.
Your scrapbooking should be a reflection of your life, not the other way around. Weddings get to be all imperfectly planned, color-coordinated and matchy. Birthday parties, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and your summer vacation should be more relaxed and fun. Stop trying to create scrapbook moments and focus on enjoying family moments. It’s not a contest. Really. Your posterity will not care that every moment was perfectly scrapbooked. In fact, they’ll probably wonder what was wrong with you.
You insist on taking all the photos and you’re not in any of them.
Do you really want future generations to think your children were orphans? Loosen your grip on the camera and let someone else have a turn. I get it. I really do. I’m the best photographer in my immediate family (duh. I’m a professional). You can generally tell which photos I’ve taken and which ones were taken by someone else. But you know what? My unphotogenically smiling face isn’t in the photos I’ve taken. I don’t care if you need to lose 10 pounds (or 40 or 200). I don’t care if you’re having a bad hair day. I don’t care about any of that—and neither does your family. Give someone else the camera and spend some time enjoying yourself and allowing yourself to be photographed and become part of the event instead of just the photographer. Your children and the rest of your posterity will be forever thankful.
This post isn’t intended to make you feel bad. And it’s definitely not intended to make you stop photographing your family. What I hope to do is to remind you that it’s your family and your family events that are important—NOT the pictures you’re taking of them. I’ve been guilty of most of these at some point in my photographic life, so I definitely know where you’re coming from.
Just remember these things and remember to focus on your family first at your next family get-together.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Agree? Disagree? Have an experience to share? The comments are open.