The most important photos you will ever take

I love shooting urban landscapes and cool stuff from well designed interiors and buildings. You see these kinds of pictures here all the time. But these photos pale in comparison to the my most important photos — the ones you’ll never see on my blog.

Consider this. Everything public, these days, has been shot by someone already and probably by many other people. Getting that glorious image of the Golden Gate Bridge might be nice but it’s nothing groundbreaking. That beautiful landscape you captured, merely a trophy like a hunter shooting that prized buck.

You see, my most important photographs are the ones of my family and loved ones. And I’m betting it’s the same with you. Capturing my rapidly growing kids, my gracefully aging parents, my wife and occasionally myself is more important than anything else I shoot.

The family photos, while of limited interest, are intensely important. No one else is going to capture these scenes and preserve memories like you and I. And unlike most things in life, these photographs grow in value as time passes. Last year, I gave my parents a digital picture frame filled with photos of all the kids, the grandkids and even some scans from their wedding. It was their 50th wedding anniversary present. My mom, who tends to be technology adverse, spent 40 minutes transfixed and re-living a world that is long gone. She smiled and laughed, carefully reviewing the slideshow of 100s of moments, frozen in time. All the years of frustration she felt, when my dad constantly snapped family photos, was forgotten that night.

I constantly shoot pictures, especially of the kids. They are old enough now that they resist. But I persist. I like shooting photos of them in the everyday, mundane places. Places most people don’t consider like the inside of a Target or the local supermarket. Sure, having the Disneyland castle as a backdrop is a necessary tourist pic. But I equally love the casual and unscripted photo of the boys clowning around in the freezer aisle. Use a moderate wide-angle lens (like a 28mm) and you get fun leading lines down the shopping aisles, which also nicely frames kids. Simple, easy, unique photos and totally priceless.

If you have a smartphone, use it. They are great for those candid shots. But I aim higher. I want better image quality and maybe you do too. There are no do-overs in life. You shoot with a low-quality camera and you are stuck with those low-quality images for the rest of your life. The mirrorless cameras that I love so much, work great for travel of course, but they work even better for family candids. DSLR quality but small and unobtrusive. I can shoot inside stores and not alarm any overly concerned employees. They are portable enough that I bring my mirrorless camera everywhere, ready to capture the next priceless moment.

Happy shooting!

13 thoughts on “The most important photos you will ever take

  1. You are absolutely right! Capturing growing kids is my main motivation to have got serious about photography. Like you, I like 28 mm and 40 mm equivalent lens. The part of the reason is because it is easy to take a family photo with environment, so that I can capture my dearest family as well as surrounding situation. Good article!

  2. Very true Andy, and lots of people (including myself) wrote about that already. The interesting thing about it? Well I have an aunt in Cologne, a younger sister of my mum who passed away already. On a wall in one of that aunt’s rooms, there’s some kind of ‘gallery’ with photos, and some of those (mostly portraits) I really consider as ‘art’. Those old film photographers also knew how to light and pose people, and even if it’s your own family it can be very interesting to see these under the aspect of photography. Plus it challenges of course – the moment you see something like this, you want to do it better, right? 😉

    Spock said: “Live long and prosper”. I would rather make that: “Live long, and take lots of good photos of your family”.

  3. And yet so many discount this opportunity. A lot want to shoot the fashion/glamour stuff. Why not pull out all the stops and give your own mother the Start Treatment? THe real world is not all about leggy fashion models.

  4. Excellent subject to bring up and think about. Seriously, I don’t know what to think about everyone today that use only their cell phones as their only camera. Mostly what they take photos of are friends and family and the places that they visit with their friends and family. The few that actually follow Teepee12’s advice, and actually still have these JPG files in their possession 15 or 20 years from now – I wonder if they are really going to be happy that this is how they chose to capture their lives, and their friends and family…. Maybe they will. I still have dozens of photo albums with 3.5 x 5 inch photos that were processed at Walgreens to remember my past. Even though the photos were taken with Canon AE-1 and later with an A-1 camera, they might not be any better than an 8MP iPhone photo taken today.

    1. Gregg, I was thinking the same thing and I’ll probably post my thoughts on this topic in the future. The smart phones, like most any camera takes great photos in good light but they become marginal in bad light. I’m sure your AE-1 shots are a lot better.

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