Shooting From the Hip - How to take Great Family Photos

Shooting From the Hip – How to take Great Family Photos

Shooting From the Hip – How to take Great Family Photos


“Photography is like a moment, an instant. You need a half-second to get the photo. So it’s good to capture people when they are themselves.”Patrick Demarchelier

Have you ever gone through your grandmother’s photo album and noticed that every single image is staged? Those images may bring back wonderful memories but for most of us they also bring back frustrating memories of having to behave for the camera and the photographer.

In defense of the photographer and the way we took photos, we kind of had to do it because we didn’t have the technology to play around and experiment with our cameras. Not only did we have to wait a week for the film to be developed and hope they turned out okay, but it was also expensive so we had to make sure we took good photos the first time.

Now we don’t have to. Digital cameras have enabled us to take dozens (or hundreds) of photos of the same event at little to no cost and instantly delete the ones we don’t like. Even though digital cameras have been around for about 20 years, some people still find it difficult to break out of the old habit of posing for photos.

The following are some tips to help you get the most out of your camera and enable you to capture golden family memories to treasure for generations to come.

Get to know how your camera works

Digital cameras are a bit like mobile phones where they all basically do the same thing but each has a slightly different set of functions and features. When it comes to your digital camera, even the cheapest device will probably have a ton of features you aren’t aware of. Take some time out to go through your user guide to see what else you can do with your camera.

Keep your camera with you

How many times have you witnessed a precious moment and it’s gone forever because you don’t have your camera with you? Some of the best family images are taken on the spur of the moment when everyone least expects it. By far the best way to capture those moments is to keep your camera nearby and use it often.

Take tons of photos

Remember back in the day when we had to use up a whole roll of film and then take the roll to get it developed at the local Kodak shop? Remember waiting nearly a week before getting our treasured images back only to find half of them were duds? Not to mention how expensive it was to have a film developed.

Then digital cameras came along and we could click away with abandon. Oh the joy, the freedom of being able to take hundreds of photos without worrying how they turned out because you could just delete the bad ones and continue. But alas, some of us have held onto the old habits of making sure we take a perfect photo on the first click.

Well, it’s never too late to shed those habits so go ahead and take many photos because there’s a hidden gem in every situation.

Sneaky staging

While you may have the idea of trying to capture life’s candid moments with your family, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of staging for your photography. All you need to do is set up some props and lighting and encourage your family over to that area. Then just let them do their thing while you happily click away. This is a great technique to use for children and pets.


Try off centre focus

This is especially good if you have an interesting background. While some photos look great when the focus is centred, capturing an off-centred scene brings in a different and interesting perspective.

Don’t pose

This tip is arguably the most widely mentioned pieces of advice among professional photographers. Gone are the days where everyone is made to stand still and say ‘cheese’ for the camera and as a parent, I say brilliant. Not only do posed photographs look fake, our photo albums are chock full of bad images where there is always someone is ‘misbehaving’.

Instead, try allowing your family to do their own thing while you are taking photos. You will have more chance of capturing the real emotions of the moment than you would if you made everyone stop and focus on your camera.

If you do need to spice things up you could try introducing some interesting activity or even goofing off to make your children laugh. The moment your family forgets about the camera being there is when you will capture your fondest memories.

Close up shots

Whenever your child is engrossed in some activity or observing nature in the back yard, try zooming right in to capture their instinctive curiosity for the world around them.


Filter it

Once the wonders of Photoshop were only for professional photographers, now it is really easy to play around with colour grading, filters and simple effects.  No we don’t mean the sort of things magazines do to make celebrities look completely different, but using an Instagram filter, or try an App such as PicLab can add that touch of professional flair to your shots.  Play around with layering filters (save the first to your camera roll, then re-open in Instagram to add another filter), lens flares, some cute hipster graphics and titles.  This is especially fun when sharing those great family shots digitally.

Once you get to know your camera and realize you can take many photos of the same event without any cost, you can then begin to play and experiment with your creativity and produce some real gems.


Get to know how your camera works –

Try off centre focus –

Close up shots –

Sneaky staging –

Don’t Pose –