The family photographer

First day of school–When I worked at the newspaper, every fall at the start of the new school year, I could always count on being sent to illustrate/document this. Just how big a deal is this day, I can’t say for you. I was lucky to be able to be there for my son’s 1st day in Kindergarten.

Previously I mentioned when you took on the title family documentarian or family photographer, you will have to sacrifice a little for your art.

What? You think your spouse is going to let it slide when she could have bought herself an expensive pair of shoes, some shiny rocks or designer purse, instead of letting you have that digital SLR?

How about if you very cunningly introduce her to photography as well?

But that can easily backfire depending on how competitive she is and how bad a photographer you are.

All kidding aside, once you get a handle on your camera, you will be up to the challenge.

That’s when the fun begins and you’ll enjoy being there for life’s special moments.

But to get to the point where you know if you’re there with your camera, you have it covered takes quite a bit of doing.

Some people can crack open a book, read it and learn how to operate the camera.

But operating a camera and controlling it are two very different things.

Controlling a camera involves more than turning it on and snapping some pictures.

Milestones–There will be milestones in your child’s life like a graduation from pre-school and so on. It’s nice to not have to worry about taking pictures at times. That’s when you try to get a good point-and-shoot camera. Those cameras have come a long way. The picture above was taken with a Nikon D-1. It was one of the earliest digital SLRs which actually looked like a film camera body. The RAW file was a whopping 2.7 Megapixel!

Important questions to ask

There is thinking involved. You have to consciously ask yourself a myriad of questions when looking into the viewfinder. Some common ones are:

What’s the subject?

What should be in focus?

Relative to the direction light, where should my subject be placed?

What’s in the background? Is it adding to my subject?

So more ambitious folks will want to learn how to control their camera.

The most surest way is to practice shooting in manual mode.

When you learn to use a camera in manual mode, it’s like learning to drive a stick shift car or standard transmission.

When someone hands you any camera, you will be able to operate it confidently.

On a personal level, I often wish I could be 2 places at once–behind my camera and also just being a spectator at times.

Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

It’s exactly moments like that when I use my point-and-shoot camera.

If you’re using a point-and-shoot camera, set as many of the options manually as you can.

That usually cuts down the lag time between when you squeeze the shutter and when it actually clicks.

When you press on the shutter button on these cameras, 3 things need to take place. The camera needs to:

  1. determine White Balance
  2. acquire focus
  3. determine exposure

Setting the White Balance and exposure beforehand, will speed the camera up at times because it then only needs to acquire focus.

That excuse worked for me. You should have no problem selling your spouse that you need a point-and-shoot as well. Good luck.

Something to keep in mind is this.

No patron of the arts will indefinitely fund your passion if you don’t produce. 😉

You need to make some enlargements of her favorite pictures and frame them.

Being there–In my previous life, I photographed events as they happened. The key was to be unobtrusive and blend in. No flash and a fast lens. Cameras these days have great low-light and low noise capabilities to make this possible. I would have liked to be in this picture, wouldn’t you?

6 thoughts on “The family photographer”

  1. Yes, Peter, my Dad and uncle Nobuyuki had the camera historian angle covered in our family. Most of the photos taken by Uncle Sam documented the faces of kids that are now approaching 70 years old, and Uncle Nob was Dad’s replacement when Jim and I had our marriage reception 2 years after his passing. All my cousins were in awe of their talent and now that the job of historian has been passed to the new “Dads” and Aunts and Uncles in our multigenerational family, we all now tote the point and shoot and SLR to each event.
    Thanks for this timely post.

  2. Shane,
    You’re being way too modest. Big words that no one understands often get in the way of communication, especially if simple ones work.

    Conscientious parents cherish their kids in spite of the heartaches. I especially salute those like Jo who do so much with their limited resources for children with special needs.

  3. “Peccadilloes” I am 42 years old and have not ever heard of or read this word in print. Yes, I Googled it! I learn something new everytime I come here.

    Great post by the way.

  4. Jo,
    Regarding my children… What I’m about to say isn’t news but…there is a reason the Almighty makes children cute and adorable.

    If they weren’t, who would put up with their peccadilloes?

    I’m pretty sure we did the same to our parents, so let’s just pray, no one is keeping score.

  5. Oh, what a great post! I love that last photo, Peter. Just look at those expressions: anticipation, pride, pure love . . .

    I also love the practical advice: No patron of the arts will indefinitely fund your passion if you don’t produce. 😉

    You need to make some enlargements of her favorite pictures and frame them.

    Thanks, as usual!

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