Do you remember that show, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” Perhaps I am dating myself, but the premise was that people were taped with concealed cameras as they were being confronted with unusual situations, sometimes involving trick props. When the joke was revealed, victims would be told the show’s catch phrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.” I am not suggesting you set up pranks for your family so you can photograph how they react. But I am rather telling you that it is truly amazing to quietly watch your family from a detached position, like a concealed camera, almost as if you were a fly on the wall.

Most people photograph the big events- birthday parties, first days of school and beach vacations. But what about daily rituals such as sharing a family dinner, or your children playing with legos? It recently occurred to me that my mom takes my kids for dinner every single Tuesday (we call it Tuesdays with Grandma) and I have never photographed that! If you are using digital cameras there is just no reason not to shoot, shoot, shoot.

As you photograph these every day moments, try to resist the urge to draw attention to yourself and say, “Smile for the camera! Look this way so I can take your photo.” As soon as you do that, the moment is lost. My family is so used to me photographing them that they generally tune me out. Let me give you an example. On a warm evening last May my oldest was at a sleepover so I was home with just the boys. We had no plans except for the usual. So I quietly documented it for the record. As you can see on the photo on the left, when I initially took out my camera Roman’s instinct was to turn to look at me and smile. That is fine. But as I keep on photographing and continue to just be with them, they return to their play- WORMS!!!

Before you know it we are just hanging and I am shooting quite a few images. I will only end up printing my favorites, so why not spend some time doing this?

Then I just wandered around the yard to create a record of the night. The other two important players would be our animals. Here is a photo of Eve dozing. She just died a few of months ago so I am especially thankful that I have many photos of her.

And then we have Kika, who was my first baby. She is getting up in years, too. But doesn’t she look nice by that hydrangea?

Then the boys finished playing with their worms and came over to their improvised drum set. Wish you could have heard the song that accompanied the drumming. This is when audio would have been good, too! As you can see they are just being themselves. I generally walk in a circle around to see which angle ends up working best.

Then the monkey dogs, as I affectionately call them, scrambled up a tree while I lay in the hammock. They eventually came back down and joined me in the hammock in the photo on the right. This is foreshadowing of tip 8!

So, in review, a great way to improve the photographs you take of your family is to do them in a more documentary style. Take your time and attempt to record a story with photos rather than directing the action. These moments pass by so quickly and before you know it these kids are headed off to college so grab your camera while you can. Please let me know if you have any questions! This is the fifth in an eight part series about how to better photograph your family. Any other suggestions or ideas for photo stories may be sent to kpophoto@chapelboro.com. Thanks for reading!