• Abish Tatum

Capturing candid memories

How to Capture Candid Photos of Your Family and Still Live in the Moment

Children who feel a strong connection to their family activities and traditions are more self-confident and likely to succeed. Additionally, having a repository of happy memories from childhood has been proven to have positive psychological benefits such as decreased loneliness, a more generous attitude and less occurrence of depression. Families go to great lengths to enjoy time together to make these positive memories.

Reliving the special moments together through pictures is a favorite pastime for many families. Parents love to look back on photos of times they enjoyed with their children. Because of this, we spend a significant amount of our time documenting our days through photography. However, there is growing concern that perhaps the benefits of family time and reminiscing are being compromised by the distraction of the camera. The following are ways to capture the memories without compromising the moment:

My daughter Lily, last year on our trip to Mexico

Make photo time fun

If mom gets grumpy every time she gets the camera out, the kids are not going to have positive associations with photo time and they likely won’t look happy either. Try to make the time you spend taking photos a fun and happy time together. Try not to cue with “cheese” or ask for specific poses. Give children a chance to use the camera how they want to and comply with their requests to be in photos of their choosing. The pictures of your children that you’ll enjoy looking back on the most will be the ones of them acting like their natural selves. If you make the environment playful, they will respond with natural happiness. Remember to continue playing after you take the photo, so they don’t learn to think that your interactions with them are contrived to get the shot.


Be sneaky

There are several reasons to take your family photos on the sly. Some children either clam up or get extra goofy when they see the camera come out, so if you want truly candid photos of your children acting naturally, you can’t let them know when you’re documenting. Another important reason to use covert tactics is to increase the amount of interaction and engagement you’re able to have with your family in the moment. Use the following tips to make your photo taking less noticeable:

If you’re using a phone camera, make sure the sound is off so no one is alerted to your clicking.

Set your camera to record video and leave it somewhere, such as on a table or in the corner. Afterward, you can go through and choose frames you like.

Use a remote clicker or a smart watch connected to your phone to take photos from a distance or on a delay.

By using the ideas above and other similar strategies, you can intentionally engage in what’s happening around you without letting picture taking be a distraction.


My daughters didn't notice me taking their photo.

Plan ahead

Start with the end in mind. What are you going to do with your photos? Are you going to dedicate four spreads of your yearbook album to this trip to the zoo? Just one? Or just a couple photos on a page that represents the whole week? One post on Instagram? Two minutes of your monthly video?

Most people don’t plan ahead and so mindlessly fill their phones and cameras with much more than they will ever want or need. In addition to missing out on family time because of the pressure to capture it all, there is also the burden of having to go through all of the photos afterward. Or maybe you enjoy that process. There is no right or wrong answer, but being mindful beforehand about what you want is the key to avoiding the regret of missed moments.

Another way to plan ahead for photography is to be mindful of the story you want to tell. A picture of Suzy standing in front of the entrance to the zoo will tell you that you went to the zoo. But what is it that you want to remember five or ten years from now? Perhaps it’s the way she looked as she made faces at the monkeys, or how gently she held her finger out for a butterfly to land on it. Thinking ahead about what types of moments it is you want to remember will help you to avoid spending time taking unnecessary shots.


My nephew on our visit to Jardin Edward James in Mexico

Set limits

Remember, the purpose of taking photos is to enjoy the memories that are brought back when you look at them. You won’t have anything to remember if you were so caught up in taking the photos that you missed out on the moment. Consider choosing certain times or places that are off limits for documenting. Once you’ve grabbed the shot you had planned for, put the camera away and enjoy your family.

Having photos is part of the joy of making memories. Photographs allow us to travel back in time and feel what it was that made a moment special. But how often are we experiencing our children’s lives from behind the screen of a camera? We must remember not to let the recording of family memories rob us of the memories themselves. When we are mindful of the way we document we can make photos a meaningful part of our family legacies.


My mom and my daughter having fun at the pool

Text by Dani Martin

Photos and captions by Abish Tatum


Las Vegas newborn and family photographer

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