The Family Photo
When it comes to taking a picture, the best camera is always the one you have at your disposal. In this day and age, that camera is very likely your smartphone!
For parents in particular, smartphones are the go-to item for capturing a child’s special moments with speed, sensibility, and flare. The portability of the camera phone when juggling jackets, strollers, accessories, and pets make it an invaluable tool for parents and lone cameramen alike. While at times the allure of the camera phone is incredibly strong, I highly encourage the use of traditional cameras for documenting exceptionally special moments. Here's my reasoning...
The experience of photographing children with an analog camera is a challenge unlike any other and above all, a challenge that should be explored.
Whether you are a seasoned professional or even an amateur photographer, the experience of photographing children is one of knowing that what you see in your view finder, is rarely what you are going to get. As soon as you see a "great photo," it’s gone before you or the family you are photographing even know it. That alone is reason enough to face a challenge lens on.
When individuals are faced with a difficult challenge, they experience a multitude of emotions. Some individuals experience frustration, anger, or disappointment, where others view challenges in a more positive or inquisitive light. In the case of photography, facing such a challenge demands that the person behind the camera transcend all negativity and approach the challenge in a productive manner. This, in time, helps to build photographic confidence, a thick creative skin, a better understanding of your subject(s), and most importantly— a wonderful collection of images to be enjoyed for years to come.
The experience of photographing children and families using a traditional camera brings out the inner-child of everyone involved, whether you know it or not.
As someone who interacts with members of every age group, I can confidently say that there is a “kid” in all of us. It manifests in the form a good riff, an unexpected smile, and the sense of childlike wonder and adventure with which we approach something new. In photographing children, photographers must connect with their own inner child, to better connect with their subject(s) on a reasonable level. Connecting with this energy in the face of new challenges inspires creativity, re-aligns us with our goals, and bridges any potential gap between those in front of the camera and those behind.
The common misconception is that children are not attune to the changes in demeanor or attitude their parent or other elder may experience, in their presence. Children are little people, equipped with emotions, preferences, and hang-ups just like their elder counterparts. One could even argue that children are hyper aware of our movements (especially with a camera in tow), always noting the tone of our voice and how we are feeling, while interacting with them and their parents.
In my experience, I have noticed that children behave differently when faced with an analogue camera as opposed to a smartphone. Most children are greatly amused by the size, look, and shutter sound of an analogue camera, making them inquisitive and more likely to interact with the camera itself. This added level of fun puts an interesting spin on the shoot, opening the door for more unique images to come into view.
Photographing families with an analog camera increases one's mental focus by filtering out unnecessary distractions.
Photographing a child (or anyone for that matter) is a collaborative effort. The photographer is dedicating their time and focus to documenting the subject(s) and the subject(s) are interacting with the photographer, providing the moment for documentation. By using an analog camera, those in front of the lens can be sure that you (the photographer) are devoting your full attention to their experience, free of text messages, email, and social media notifications. In the instance where you are both the parent and the photographer, you can be sure that your full attention will greatly add to your child’s excitement. For those who prefer to spend time with their loved ones in front of the lens rather than behind it, there’s always the option of having someone take the photos for you.
I have found that the best way to build trust with a younger subject is to treat them with respect, maintain clear and constant communication, and listen to what they have to say on the shoot. The act of taking a photo is a two way street and what the child wants to express during this time is of the utmost importance. They may express their thoughts and feelings through spoken or unspoken means, so it is important to remain empathetic.
Photographing your family (or having them photographed) with an analog camera rather than a smartphone, better ensures your ability to share, store, and reproduce those images across a wide range of mediums.
The tools we use greatly impact our approach to problem solving and the overall outcome. Some may find the use of designated camera technology passe, but one simply cannot argue with results. Even with current advancements in smartphone technology, there are still images that can only be produced with a traditional camera. These professional or "serious" images are the ones that make it to large format prints, family greeting cards, and ultimately, into your living room.
At the end of the day, pictures taken with an analog camera can be both printed and exhibited through a digital medium but images captured with a lesser quality smartphone are typically not as print-friendly. Having the ability to convert your memories into something tangible is an incredibly rewarding experience that should not be cast aside, for the sake of convenience. Your family memories are important and should be preserved as such. If not for yourself, then at least do it for the little people.