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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding the balance between family time and camera time

One of the hardest things as a photographer is family vacations. If you've got kids then you'll know what I mean straight away. If you've got a partner who doesn't love their photography as much as you do then you'll be nodding your head in agreement. If you have neither then you're probably not sure what the fuss is all about.

The fuss starts when you start to get shutter button withdrawal symptoms. Mine start usually about two or three days after not having a camera in my hand and creating some images. But you're torn. You want to go off by yourself for a few hours and capture the local architecture at twilight but that impinges on getting the kids fed and to bed, or breaks up the booking at that romantic little local diner down the road.

In other words you have to abandon your family or siginificant other if you want to create anything more than 'been there, done that' snapshots. So here's what I do. I don't know if it's the best way to do things and if other people have suggestions I'm all ears. So far this seems to work for me.

The most important thing I find is to include your family in your photography as much as possible. But it's not enough just to have them stand with their hands held out looking like they're holding the Eiffel Tower in their palm. If you don't put as much effort and creativity into pictures of your family as you do your other 'more important' pictures then they're going to feel pretty left out.

Make it fun. Show them what a blast photography can be. The photo above is me and my youngest son going down a slippery slide at Takino Park, on the outskirts of Sapporo. In order to bribe my way into a little bit of 'me time' photographing the birch trees in the forest I kept him entertained with multiple (multiple, multiple, multiple!) turns down the slide. All the time with me holding a camera and a wide-angle lens above my head and shooting as we went down.

Killing two birds with one stone. Well three really. My son had a blast both sliding and looking at the photos afterwards (let's try that again with a different lens Daddy!). I got some really fun pictures of stuff that I don't usually photograph, and created some great memories to boot. And my wife (at the bottom of the picture) got a break from looking after the kids. Everybody wins.

So whenever I go away on a trip with my family I always try to fit them in to my photography as much as possible. When they can see images that far outshine the point-and-shoot efforts that most family albums contain, and when they can have a blast taking part in the shoot then they're much more inclined to let me go off on my own and do 'work photography' as my boys call it.

One more hint as to what not to do: never try to hold your family up while you wait for the best light, the perfect opportunity, the search for a better angle. If they're not actively involved they'll be bored and no matter how exciting the resulting pictures, all they'll remember is how boring it was for them and you'll be in the doghouse again. Keep them involved, keep them excited, create exciting pictures for them to remember your holiday by and she'll be apples (Australian for you'll be doing well!)

If you'd like to see how I balanced family and "work photography' on this particular day you can take a look at the Takino Park, Sapporo images on my website.

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