So you’ve decided to take on the responsibility of documenting your family get-together with your camera. Well, that decision can really get in the way of your own enjoyment. If you’re like me, you usually show up with a predetermined ‘shot list’ that you absolutely have to get. And I’ve sometimes had to remind myself to be more mindful of the moment and actually pay attention to ‘experiencing’ my family affair as opposed to ‘covering’ it.
To do that, I feel it usually comes down to staying emotionally connected to the action.
Here are three ways to help ensure that happens:
1. Snap Your Shots Early
I find the longer you wait to begin taking photos, the less likely it is that you’ll get the shots you really want, and you’ll quickly begin to stress. So whenever you see a natural moment, you’ve got to go for it. You just can’t wait and hope that another opportunity will magically appear later on.
I used to feel that the appropriate time to ask folks to say “cheese,” or gather everyone together for a group family photo was towards the end of the party.
While that may make sense from a social etiquette perspective, you may find any number of variables that foil your plan. Some people may have already left. Others may be tired and a little cranky. And if you do actually get to take the shot, it had better be perfect with nobody’s eye mid-blink, because there will be no second chances for you.
(If you orchestrate the shot earlier, then there’s still time for a second attempt later on.)
2. Take Lots of Group Selfies
You’ve got to pick the right moment, because suggesting that a ‘conversation pod’ suddenly join you for a group selfie will likely halt things. But once you’ve successfully sold the idea, it can be a really fun group activity, especially if you’ve got to jam a bunch of people into the shot. Yes, it will be entirely imperfect, but the often absurd attempt to squeeze everyone together to fit in the frame is usually a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend trying it, and the resulting goofy shots will pleasantly surprise you.
3. Set a Time Limit
This is where you draw your own line in the sand to ensure that you also get to fully participate in the event. I like to spend 20-30 minutes or so walking about the room to get the shots I want. I quickly review what I’ve got, and then I put my camera or iPhone away.
If another photo opportunity spontaneously self generates, yes, of course you can still snap it. But the important point is you’re not putting any more pressure on yourself to continue on as the family photographer after your self-imposed time limit.
It’s a Balancing Act
Where’s the value in documenting your family event if you don’t really experience it yourself? Sure, you may be contributing to the greater good, but at what cost?
So, go get the photos you want, and don’t forget to add to the life of the party.
Find your balance and enjoy!