Lesson 8: Make your camera more invisible by being more present

Imagine that someone is following you around during your day but trying to be a “fly on the wall,” pretending that they’re not there. 

It would be creepy, right?! 

I took this photo at summer camp pick-up while asking Jack all about his day. He was excited to show me his new reversible head screwdriver!

I took this photo at summer camp pick-up while asking Jack all about his day. He was excited to show me his new reversible head screwdriver!

At the very least, it would be unnatural and you would feel self-conscious.

That’s not to say that a “fly on the wall” approach to photographing your kids is a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great strategy when your kids are engrossed in something that they love and not really aware of your presence anyway.

But what you really want in order to better capture your moment is for your camera to be invisible - this doesn’t mean that you have to be as well. 

In fact, especially as your kids get older, but even with very small kids, one way to make your camera invisible is to be more present. 

And while this may sound counterintuitive, this actually makes a lot of sense when you think about the scenario I described at the beginning of this lesson. Instead of picturing a fly on the wall, imagine someone who is engaging and interacting with you like a normal person, but they just happen to have a camera and are taking photos. The more present they are with you, and the more they interact with you as though they weren’t photographing you, the more comfortable and less aware of the camera you will feel. 

In this series of "first day of school" photos you can see Liam's expressions come to life as I engage with him to ask him what he is most excited about for second grade (yes, these are DSLR photos but the same principle applies with smartphone photos).

In this series of "first day of school" photos you can see Liam's expressions come to life as I engage with him to ask him what he is most excited about for second grade (yes, these are DSLR photos but the same principle applies with smartphone photos).

I have found that this strategy works really well for photographing adults in very posed situations, such as for headshots. It doesn’t get less natural than that!  What I’ve found is that by talking and engaging with them as though we were just hanging out, they relax and become more comfortable and I can get more natural smiles and eye contact (and by the way, I still don’t ask them to smile, although obviously in this kind of situation it is implied).  
 
The same is true for kids. The more you act as you would without your camera, the more present you are, the more comfortable, natural and less self-aware they will be, and the better an experience everyone will have. 
 
Case in point: my son Liam is the one loudly declaring during group family photos that he hates having his photo taken. Tens of thousands in my personal photo collection indicate otherwise!  
 
When you are engaged with your kids, your camera will become invisible, and you’ll be better able to capture the moment while using your camera to be more present and connect with your kids,  

Put this into action:

Try being more present as you photograph your kids and see what happens. Wait for a time when they are not engrossed in something that they love and seem to be wanting your attention anyway.  

Liam is always talking. If I talk to him, I can be two feet away from him and he either won't notice or won't mind the camera.

Liam is always talking. If I talk to him, I can be two feet away from him and he either won't notice or won't mind the camera.

Lavish them with attention. Enjoy doing it. And keep doing it while you take photos. Talk to them through the camera, above it, around it. Ask them questions. Make jokes.  
 
And go with the flow. If your kids start posing, you might get some fun shots anyway, or put away your camera and try again another time. If they get annoyed with you taking photos, give it a break. Follow their lead - you know your kid. 
 
Today’s photo prompt: Make your camera more invisible by being more present
Up next: Anticipate the moment so you can stop missing it

Note: I'll be giving you daily photo prompts to help you in your photo-a-day project but they are completely optional. Ultimately you should choose the photo for your project that best reflects what you most want to remember about the day.

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