Shoot family photos like a photojournalist

My son thought it would be fun to spray his sister with the water hose when they were outside playing in their younger days. Have that camera ready!

There have been times I’ve been sent on photo assignments by a newspaper to capture someone going about their job or daily life, but when I get there the first thing they say is the dreaded, “what do you want me/us to do.” Ugh!

Or I’ve been at a school, maybe photographing some kids working on an art project or science experiment and a well-meaning teacher or mom says, “Look at the camera and smile.”

Noooooooooo, I just spent 20 minutes working to get the kids get used to me being there so they would ignore me and do their thing!

Thirteen-year-old Adam Saunder lays next to Delilah, a foster puppy and future seeing eye dog at Pioneer Middle School in Plymouth, Michigan. School counselor Pat Butzin brings the 11-month-old Golden Retriever to school with her everyday to help socialize the dog.

As a photojournalist or newspaper photographer unless I am shooting a portrait the goal is to capture people doing what they do despite the camera being there. To tell a story, their story, or help show the story to the readers. Sure just having a camera pointed at people can often change their behavior, but it usually doesn’t take long for them to mostly forget about the camera and just do their thing.

My son skips rocks in a small cove along Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I have never, or very few times, told my kids to smile at the camera when photographing them. Just shooting as they do what they are doing. Its something I recommend you give a try. Your photos will have more life to them, more emotion and hopefully more meaning while telling “your” story. Sure posed, looking at the camera photos have their place, but those can get old and boring. Plus you have the advantage of access and being with your kids all the time. They will ignore the camera fast and while I could get some real nice candid photos of your kids you are there for almost ALL the moments. Get a shot of those candid moments and you won’t be disappointed.

A kindergartner gets a hug from a high school student helper during a kindergarten graduation.
My wife and daughter sit outside a sea cave along Lake Superior soaking in the late afternoon sun.
Students from Webster Elementary School in Livonia ham it up for TV cameras as they arrive on a bus at Taylor Elementary February 25, 2008 for their first day back to school after a fire closed Webster last week. The Livonia school district is using the vacant Taylor school building temporarily and calling it Webster at Taylor.
My wife and kids check out a view along the road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park while striking the same pose.
Emalie Brookbanks, 3, of Warren, goofs around in the back of a Ford Fusion at the North American International Auto Show Saturday January 22, 2011 at Cobo Center in Detroit.
One of my all time favorite photos of my daughter. And her face isn’t even in the photo! I was working on photos while she napped and when I checkout on her I saw her reaching through the slats of her crib for a book. I quickly grabbed my camera and got off 2 frames before she saw me and was ready to get up.
We do posed family photos too but try to keep them fun and show the environment we are in. This is at Badlands National Park.