Be Your Own Family Photographer

Published on: April 13, 2022

In this series, photographer Ian Taylor will be laying out the steps to becoming an accomplished natural-light candid photographer and snap some moments of your kids. 

By Ian Taylor

There seems to be an unspoken rule that you must hire a professional photographer to get timeless images of your kids. Not true! Anyone with a kid and a camera can be a kids’ photographer. You don’t need to be a pro to get great shots any more than you need to be a trained chef to whip up a decent meal.

Growing up is one big photo opportunity. The important childhood milestones need documenting: the first wobbly steps, the birthdays, losing the first tooth, the holidays, the recitals, and sports events. Those moments are here, then gone forever; there are no reshoots in real life.

Many parents hire a pro once a year and then spend the next 364 days taking shots of varying quality on their phones. Those phone photos may not be around in ten years time, let alone when your kids are parents and grandparents themselves.

When I was a kid, our parents had film cameras. At birthday parties, they might have snapped ten shots. They splurged with an entire roll of 36 exposures during a major holiday. Those photos were all printed, and the best shots made it into photo albums. 

35mm lens, f2.5

Over the past few years, I have developed a simple but complete plan of action for parents to learn the basics of candid kids’ photography. Like learning to drive a car or play the piano, it’s a step-by-step process—and possibly even easier than learning to play the piano!

You will need to follow these necessary steps: understanding your gear, reading the light, and hunting for compositions. With kids, you also need to make the whole process fun. ‘Fun’ is the not-so-secret secret to getting timeless natural photos of kids.

It’s common for people to become obsessed with, or intimidated by, photography equipment. Ultimately, the gear isn’t that important. The ‘eureka moment’ that turned my photography around was realizing that “photography is about seeing.” As food is about tasting and music is about listening, photography is indeed about seeing: seeing the light, seeing the composition, and seeing the moment. It’s that simple.

There are a few important numbers you will need to know, which I will post on most images. In no time, they will be easy to understand. Once you learn the basics, all types of photography will open up to you. Travel shots, landscapes, pets; everything will improve once you realize that all photography, regardless of the equipment, revolves around the same concepts. 

While phone cameras are excellent, I believe that even a lower-end ‘real’ camera is better suited to working with active kids. With a traditional camera you have more control over freezing action with shallow ‘depth-of-field’; that distinctive out-of-focus backdrop you see in so much pro photography. With more control, you’ll have fewer below-average images.

135mm lens, f2.2

By cutting down the number of images, you have a better chance of selecting, editing, storing, and printing the absolute best ones. This will allow you the possibility of keeping more, better photos because without an archiving strategy, in the future, trillions of family photos will be trapped on dead old phones. 

Ideally, at least one of your kids will also catch the ‘photo bug’ and become a photographer; then, you will have two generations of family photos sorted out. And as kids can learn much quicker than we grown-ups, they might end up teaching you!

Photos courtesy of Ian Taylor Photography. 

About the Author

Thailand-based Ian Taylor has been a roving family photographer since 2006. His e-book, ‘Never Say Cheese: How to Take Great Natural Photos of Your Kids’ is available at iantaylor.ca. For questions and comments, contact Ian via his website or on FB: @IanTaylorPhotography


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