Photographers: Stop Being The Person Who Is Never There In Your Family Photos

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I was photographing my kids on vacation a few weeks ago as we enjoyed fun in the sun and sand at Cavendish, Prince Edward Island…and I began thinking about our family photos.
Like most people, I have albums full of great images of our vacations, school concerts, Christmas day, first days of school…all the special moments that I’ve captured.
The one thing missing from those photographs?
Me.

That’s the “curse” of being the photographer in the family.  You are usually never in any of the photos.

Years from now, when I’m sitting down with my grandchildren looking at these albums (or browsing my facebook albums or instagram stream), they are going to be seeing all these images of their moms and dads when they were the same age.
I can imagine them asking “Grampy, what did you look like when you were younger?” or “Grampy, why weren’t you on vacation?”

And my response? “We’ll, I was taking the photographs. I’m a photographer, that’s what I do.”

I’ve been a photographer for almost 20 years now. I’m trained to take well composed, properly exposure, perfect images every time.  So it’s natural that I’m the guy charged with documenting my family. (I’m sure the same goes for you. )

It’s difficult, but I came to the realization that I have to stop being a professional photographer for a second, and realize that all these pictures don’t have to be perfect.
That’s not what it’s about.  It’s about documenting moments with my family. Things that I am a part of and should be in the photos of.

Hell, I’m not even a shadow in photos of my children, because I am always shooting for the best photograph and take steps to prevent that from happening. (I took the main photograph with my shadow intentionally for this article and wouldn’t have otherwise)

The thing is, it’s not that difficult to get yourself into the photograph.

HOW TO GET YOURSELF IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS

METHOD 1: HOLD THE CAMERA OUT IN FRONT OF YOU

Pretty much the easiest, but also the most unflattering. Since you need to use a wide angle lens to get yourself in there, you get all that ugly distortion.
For iPhoneographers/mobile shooters, you can either use the facing camera to get proper framing, or use the better camera on the back and hope you get what you want in the frame.

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See? UGLY. (well, me…my wife looks awesome as always!)

 

Rear facing iPhone camera lets you compose the image a bit better
Rear facing iPhone camera lets you compose the image a bit better

See? UGLY.  (well, me..my wife looks awesome as always!)

METHOD 2: USE YOUR SELF-TIMER

This is the best method, as it will allow you to compose the photograph however you like, avoid the ugly wide angle distortion, get the proper exposure and focus, and then use the self-timer to give you time to run like heck to get into the photograph.

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Oops…make sure you use the 10 or 20 second timer!

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That’s more like it! The longer timer lets you get into position and take a breath.

It’s even better if to use your wireless remote! That way you won’t have to run to get into the photograph….

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For iPhoneographers/mobile shooters, you will want to pick up some type of tripod for your iPhone/phone, or you could find a solid place to set your device on. If you don’t already have Camera+ pick it up so you can use the self timer.

If you have iPhone earbuds with volume controls, you can also use that to take the photograph if you are close to your iPhone. (Thanks to Peter Harris for the reminder)


MORE TIPS BELOW!

I hope you find these tips useful! If so, it would be awesome if you would check out my LearnPhoto365 Photography Assignment Generator Apps on the app store and the Google Play store, a unique photography app that's meant to inspire you to take great photos!

Perfect for anyone taking part in a Photo 365 challenge, there are over a hundred individual assignments and hundreds of thousands of potential random ones. Versions available for iPhone/iPod and iPad, including free versions so you can try them out! Full details, including reviews and tour videos of the apps can be found at www.learnphoto.ca/apps Even if you only download the free version that would help get it up the app store lists!


METHOD 3: HAVE SOMEONE ELSE TAKE PHOTOS FOR A CHANGE

Why not get your spouse or kids interested in photography?
My daughter Olivia takes tons of picture with her Canon point and shoot. It’s not an awesome camera, but again, it does the job of documenting what is going on. I’ve given her tips on composition and suggestions on settings to use to take better photos.

Worst case scenario? Set the camera up for them so all they have to do is push the button! Throw it on shutter priority (TV/S), set 1/500th so the photo will be sharp, set the drive mode to continuous, kick in the AF, and hand it over.

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Not all family moments are pretty…
Well, Victoria is cute in this at least. Hopefully they'll look back years from now and they'll say "Boy dad, you sure used to be fat!
Well, Victoria is cute in this at least. Hopefully they’ll look back years from now and they’ll say “Boy dad, you sure used to be fat!

Or if you are vacationing or at an event with people you know who have a camera with them, ask them to take some shots and email them to you. You can easily return the favour for them.

If you are really stuck, there is always the option to ask a complete stranger to take the photo for you too….just make sure the person looks trustworthy so you can avoid this:

Remember…this is about memories, not perfect composition and exposure. Put away your “professional pride” for once….

JUST TAKE THE PICTURE!   (I know that your spouse/partner has said something to that effect at least once)

There’s an ugly tree in the side of the frame? So what?
Everyone isn’t lined up short to tall to short? Who cares?
Kids aren’t all smiling? Of course they aren’t!

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Would you pay a photographer for a family group photo like this? I sure hope not! But it is what it is…a quick family picture in front of the Christmas tree!

Capture these special moments, but be INCLUDED in the moments.
Your children (and hopefully grandchildren) will appreciate it years from now.

Noel Chenier

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Photographer and teacher
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