Why You Should Avoid the 'Family Photographer' Moniker

By Roger (28 June 2015)

Back in March, I extolled on the joys of family photography and how to simple it can be to make family shots (link). As I said then, family members are my favorite photo subjects. Family photography documents the passage of time and can create priceless heirlooms for the entire family. You should practice it at every opportunity.

One of my favorites

One of my favorites

Then, there is the other side of the job. There are always, at least, two sides.

What could be wrong with being labeled the official family photographer? You might be surprised. Here are some things you need to be prepared to endure if they stick that moniker on you.

People expect you to bring a camera for every event. You're the photographer, after all. So, during the parties and get-togethers, you get to schlep your camera gear around, taking their photos. They will explain that, since you are the photographer, they don't need to bother with their cameras anymore. And they won't carry your gear, either. In Germany, we used to do 10 and 20 kilometer volksmarches, with my daughter on my back, and two cameras, lenses, and rolls of film around my neck. But, my wife wouldn't carry my gear.

On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

You don't get to play with them. You quickly realize that your new role is to photograph them having fun. You will discover a distinct lack of you in your photo database. If you were to join them, you couldn't make the photos they all want. Besides, who would watch your gear?

Pony rides are for kids

Pony rides are for kids

Looks like a fun slide

Looks like a fun slide

They don't cooperate during photo sessions they requested. Everybody wants to have group photos made for their desks and walls, but nobody wants to help make it happen. You have to think things out ahead of the session and be quick, or you'll lose your chance. This is especially true when the subjects are the “adults.”

You two better behave!

You two better behave!

Their mother might make them behave, so you can complete the photo, but you will know the suffering it took to get the photo. They only cooperated because she threatened to put sticks and leaves in their stockings.

Finally, cooperation

Finally, cooperation

They, even, taught the youngest family member to make goofy faces when I point the camera in his direction. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

The youngest scofflaw of the family

The youngest scofflaw of the family

They will tell you what and how to shoot. You might think you've got this photography thing figured out. I mean you've been doing it for decades now. If you're a serious portrait photographer, you'll find that your ideas are wrong. That 1970's retro-look is back in for school photos. (I talked about making this daylight flash photo, here.)

Retro school photo

Retro school photo

Your back may be going from decades of heavy camera bags, but you need to get on your belly to capture that shot of the baby playing in the leaves. (Everybody knows babies and leaves are a killer photo combination.)

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Finally, they have no patience when you take too long to post-process. “Aren't those photos ready, yet? We need to give them away to everyone we know.” You will toil away at Lightroom and Photoshop to make the photos the best they can be. If you're doing well, they won't see any obvious traces of the work you've done. Therefore, it must be easy. They don't understand why it takes you so long to erase the aunt holding the kid on the dog or erase the vulgar graffiti on the background wall. “Didn't you pay attention at Photoshop World? Are you just hiding in your office, when we should all be out here together? Come on out here. Oh, and bring your camera!”

Walking the dog

Walking the dog

piggyback46108

Ready to sign up for this job as family photographer? There is no money in the budget, but you can use the photos in your portfolio. Except that all your photography buddies will tell you family photos have no place in a serious portfolio.

Seriously, the bold points are true, and you should re-consider applying for this job if they would bother you. The rest of the blog is over the top because I don't believe the bold points matter a bit when I'm making photos of my family and friends. Nothing gives me more pleasure than my family, and I will make photos of them until they bury me. No doubt, with my camera gear – I'm telling you, none of them will carry my bags for me. ;-)

Go out and make some family photos. For extra fun, make sure to keep all the goofy shots, just to get back at them.

Egg-cited

Egg-cited

Very Upper Arm

By Roger (13 Mar 2014)

While you're thinking of putting emotion and feeling into your photos, don't forget the stepchild of artistic attitudes – humor. As “serious” artists, we prefer to concentrate on “deeper and more meaningful” topics. OK, I'll buy that, but we don't have to confine ourselves to only those serious subjects. Photos that make you smile can, also, have deep and meaningful effects. How else can you explain all the inane kitten and puppy photos that clog the interwebs?

Humor can be a hard topic because there are so many interpretations of what is funny, and these vary from person to person and place to place. There are no guaranteed formulas to evoke laughter or even a chuckle. I've seen this in my own family. I consider myself to be riotously funny, but my children frequently just roll their eyes at my antics and jokes. I'm not sure why they are so challenged, but I'm pretty sure it's my wife's fault.

Animal photos are, indeed, very popular, but, really, are you laughing at the photo or the “witty” comments someone has appended to the photo? Maybe both? I don't find the photos that humorous, but that may be because I'm not a pet owner. I have taken an occasional photo of my children's pets in cute situations, but I'm not sure they qualify as humor. Would you consider this as funny?

One of the very few times this dog sat still during the entire Christmas holiday!

One of the very few times this dog sat still during the entire Christmas holiday!

Speaking of fuzzy, little animals, children are a great subject for humorous photos. They draw your viewer in with the cute factor and provoke a smile with some silly behavior. Usually, the child doesn't even know they're doing something funny; they're just being themselves. Those are my favorite shots to get.

She has no idea what she's doing, but she's watched her dad wander the beach with this thing.

She has no idea what she's doing, but she's watched her dad wander the beach with this thing.

He's not sure why everyone is so excited about this wedding ceremony.

He's not sure why everyone is so excited about this wedding ceremony.

Props can help you create a humorous shot. The props can be staged locations, as in the egg photo. There are probably a million similar shots to that one – heck, everybody in the county put a kid inside the egg and took a snapshot. But you don't care if that child belongs to your family. (And she does – you can tell that by how cute she is.)

The props might be perfectly natural to the scene you are shooting, but help to tell the humorous story, like the empty raft. Part of humor is timing, and I was really happy with the timing here.  I had made many shots at this small waterfall during the day, and I knew I could count on several people being dumped here.

Nantahala River, NC

Nantahala River, NC

Comparing this to that can be humorous. The man on the right is shorter than some, but certainly not tiny. However, he is standing next to Kevin McBride, who was a professional boxer (he knocked out Mike Tyson) and is a BIG man.

Harvard campus, Boston, MA

Harvard campus, Boston, MA

Look for things out of synch with the scene. Incongruity is always a winner.  This is a Texan, defending the Alamo. How in the world did they lose if they had that technology? Sam Houston must have missed that text.

At the Alamo, San Antonio, TX

At the Alamo, San Antonio, TX

I think it's harder for me to find humorous shots without people in them, but this one almost qualifies. When I was in the old historic section of Krakow, Poland, it was nigh impossible to find a parking spot. When I walked around the corner, I saw an open spot near a cathedral. As I looked up at the cathedral, I saw this image. The angels and saint, directly above the open spot. I laughed and took the shot.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland

Unless you're creating situations on purpose, you may have to look around to find humorous photographs; however, rest assured, they are out there. Be alert and look for them. They may not be the next masterpiece you print big, on canvas, and hang on your wall, but they keep the fun in photography. That's why I do this stuff.

*** If you're still trying to figure out the strange title of this blog, go to Google, and look up the name of the bone in your upper arm. ;-)