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Looking back at my childhood pictures, my parents occasionally took us to get the professional cookie-cutter shots at the local department store studio. They were against a trendy (at the time) backdrop with cheesy smiles. Are those pictures of my sister and I indicative of our personalities at the time? No, they were not. The snapshots that my mother, my grandmothers, and my aunts took were the truths of our characters. They showed our joy, our goofiness, and occasionally, our tantrums. They showed our childhood.
Children and family photography today has evolved to a blend of professional portraiture and candid moments. This is the style that moves me to take pictures. Studio photography has it’s place and most people want at least one of those shots on their wall. We have them ourselves. However, I love environmental photography of real moments. It adds a story and a depth to the photograph. It leaves the viewer asking themselves, “where are they”, “what are they doing” and “what are they thinking”.
When I take pictures of my children, I don’t (generally) say “smile”. I say “look at me”, “look at the bird”, “do you see the bunny?”. I try to capture their curiosity, which is the essence of childhood. I don’t need a picture of my children smiling, I want a picture of them, at that moment in time, being a child.
That is what I want to capture and hold in my gnarled hands when I am old and gray. A piece of our little place history…and a piece of our hearts.
Take time to understand what you are trying to capture with your lens. Practice and learn all you can to make those photographs in your mind a reality. However, remember not to delete those “moments” where it may be a little blurry, the light is wrong, it’s underexposed, etc. Remember that capturing this time in your lives is not secondary to perfecting your ability with your camera.