Creating A Story With Candid Family Photos

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and family photographs are no exception to this saying. Ideally, candid family photos should tell a story.

Creating a Story with Candid Family Photos

After all, the purpose of taking photographs is to look back and be able to piece together the memories.

If you want your family photographs to truly be able to tell a story, there are some tips you should bear in mind. This guide contains all the advice you need for creating a story with candid family photos!

1. Plan Ahead (To An Extent)

When you’re trying to take candid photographs, you will want to avoid a lot of staging and posing in front of the camera.

We’ll go into more detail regarding this later, but for now, know that one of the best ways you can capture candid photos that tell a story without a lot of staging is by planning ahead.

You wouldn’t write a story without first thinking about where you want the plot to go and the message you’re trying to convey. The same is true for telling a story with candid family photographs.

Before you get out your camera and start snapping, think about what kinds of moments you want to capture.

Why is the family gathered together, and where will you be? Who do you want to take pictures of, and doing what? What kinds of key moments do you want to be ready to photograph?

Knowing all of these things ahead of time will mean you are more prepared to take quick, candid photographs of genuine moments.

At the same time, be careful of over-planning. You don’t want to end up with such a rigid vision in mind that you micromanage everyone in the frame and get upset when images don’t turn out the way you want.

2. Try To Shoot Manual

Shooting manual basically means that you adjust the settings on the camera yourself, rather than using predetermined settings.

This might seem counterintuitive when you want to take candid pictures quickly and capture special moments before they elapse.

However, the problem with using the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed that your camera decides for you is that these settings will not always necessarily align with your vision for your photographs.

By adjusting the settings yourself, you can be sure that you’ll capture the best possible images. For example, if there are people moving around in the frame, you can adjust the shutter speed to make sure nobody is too blurry.

While we’re on this subject, turn off the automatic flash. A flashing camera can distract the subjects in the photograph and make the picture seem less authentic, and it can also wash out your images.

3. No Staging Or Posing

A story, whether told through words or pictures, should convey genuine interactions and emotions.

This is difficult to do if all your pictures are staged and involve family members sitting perfectly still, smiling awkwardly at the camera.

By planning ahead of time, as we discussed earlier, you should be able to be ready with your camera when the right moment comes. This means that you won’t have to give too much direction.

With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with giving small directions here and there as long as it doesn’t interfere with the overall authenticity of the photographs.

Telling everyone to look at the camera and smile is not a recipe for candid photography, but telling someone to stand a little to the left if there’s shadow covering their face, for example, is totally fine.

4. Photograph Small Moments

When you’re trying to tell a story through candid family photos, it’s tempting to seek out the biggest and most ‘important’ moments on any given event.

However, if you want your story to really be a story as opposed to a few images, you should try to photograph the smaller moments, too.

For example, if you’re photographing the family on someone’s birthday, you’re obviously going to want to get a photo of that family member blowing out the candles.

However, you should also try to capture more ‘every day’ moments, such as the family making breakfast that morning, or laughing as they blow up balloons.

In many cases, it is these small moments that turn a few images of a birthday into a real story.

5. Capture Emotion

One of the reasons why we prefer to avoid staging and posing family photographs for the purposes of telling a story is that it’s important to capture emotion.

Posed expressions where everyone is focused on the camera removes a lot of emotion from family photographs.

For instance, if you’re at someone’s graduation, you will probably be taking a few posed photographs of the graduate and the whole family.

However, you should also do your best to get the real emotion on camera, including the smiles, happy tears, and spontaneous gestures of affection.

6. Take As Many Pictures As Possible

How do you capture the big moments and the small moments, with as much emotion as possible, and make sure you get plenty of good pictures? Well, the first step is simply to take as many images as possible.

The more pictures you take, the more pictures you’ll capture that are actually worth keeping.

Since your goal here is to tell a story, it also makes sense to maximize the number of images you take to fill in the gaps and add more substance to the story you’re telling.

7. Strive For Variety

This point ties into the idea of taking as many pictures as possible. Ideally, you should aim to get as much variety as you can from your photographs.

What do we mean by this? Well, quite simply, you don’t want a lot of photographs of exactly the same thing.

Once again, imagine you’re writing a story with words rather than photographs. You wouldn’t write the same sentence or chapter over and over. Your reader would get bored.

So, using the example of a birthday again, avoid taking 25 different pictures of the cake and candles. Instead, as we mentioned earlier, look to capture as many different moments as possible.

Making breakfast in the morning, icing the cake, family members arriving, opening presents, and playing games are all things you can photograph to tell a story.

8. Focus On The Main Character

Every story has a main character, and this often tends to be the case with family photographs as well.

Of course, not every family event centers around one person, so this doesn’t have to be a rule for every single photograph.

However, if it’s somebody’s birthday, wedding, anniversary, or graduation, make sure most of the focus is on that person.

That’s not to say you should exclude other family members from the photographs (they wouldn’t be family photos in that case), but try to take pictures where the ‘main character’ is animated, central, or in the foreground of the image where possible.

9. Don’t Leave Anyone Out

Many families tend to have one person who is the designated photographer and doesn’t often feature in family pictures.

This is frequently necessary, because in order to avoid staged pictures, you don’t want to have to rely on a timer.

However, it can also mean that you never see that one particular family member in pictures, which can be a problem when it comes to the art of storytelling through images (you’d be confused if you were reading a story and one character occasionally just appeared out of nowhere, only to never feature again).

To avoid this, try to change up the person taking the photographs every now and then. This means everyone gets a chance to be a part of the story.

10. Stop Stressing About Imperfections

Probably the most important part about creating a story with candid family photos (see also: The Importance Of Candid Family Photos)is to stop getting hung up on imperfections in your images.

Occasionally, someone will be a little blurry in an image, for example. If you’re taking pictures at a birthday party, you might accidentally capture someone with their mouth full of cake.

Try to see these imperfect images as conveyors of emotion and everyday moments, as opposed to bad pictures (Also check out What Makes A Bad Photograph).

The more you focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with the images you take, the more likely you are to overlook images that capture the reality of family life and celebration, just because they don’t look like staged images from a catalog.

Final Thoughts

If you’d like to tell a story with candid family photos, (see also: The Best Settings For Capturing Candid Family Photos)the first step is to plan ahead, so you know where and when you’ll need to have your camera ready.

Then, adjust your settings manually, and focus on capturing big and small moments throughout the day that convey real emotion and focus on the main subject of the event, if there is one.

Try to get as much variety as possible, swap up the photographer, so everyone can be included, and don’t get hung up on imperfections.

Once you have all your images, create a digital or physical album, and title or caption the photographs to add context to your story!

Laura McNeill
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