Everyone loves a well-posed portrait. These photos sit for generations on someone’s bookshelf, someone’s mantle, adored and admired by all who pass by. And the highlight of the holiday season is when grandparents unwrap an updated family portrait of their grown kids and grand kids. I mean, look at these gorgeous smiles!

In between the posed shots, there lies magical yet real moments that, in my opinion, are the truest images in family photography. Within these moments, children are freely acting as themselves, as are the nervous parents who wrangling the little ones for one more posed shot. My shutter keeps firing because this is pure gold. We are actually playing now, and the family dynamic is truly on display. Parents know how to make anything into a game. Most of these situations turn into a lighthearted, fun and dynamic display. I love these photos. They speak.

But. Big disclaimer here. I love a posed portrait. I mean, if you can get two frazzled parents of active, squirmy young children looking at the camera, that’s magic, too, right? That being said, let me give you five reasons to not worry about looking at the camera during a family photography session.

You’re Busy Playing

Is there anything more natural than for a child to play? For her to find something so mundane as sand, let it run through her hands and hear that giggle as it tickles the insides of her forearms. Or for him to so quickly find collect all the driftwood on the beach (how did he manage to find it all so quickly any way?).  See your child’s eyes and you’ll be busy playing — too busy laughing — than worrying about the end result of your photo session.

mother daughter beach photography

You’re Busy Enjoying Your Location

Photographs tell stories. There are people in these stories and that’s your family. But there is one more character that you may not have been aware of, but you’ve intentionally chosen. It is your location! Pick a location that means something to you. And enjoy it. Look around and soak in your environment while the camera is looking at you.

children playing on beach, family photography, los angeles

Because Smiling Can Be Tiring

Gosh, those cheeks need a rest! Be yourself. I’ll prompt you with a variety of activities and questions for you to explore your relationships in front of the camera.

Because We’re Here to Document Something Unseen

Ok, I said it once I’ll say it again – yes, I still do love a great posed portrait. But those shots taken between our scripted moments are the real ones that make a photograph three dimensional. Connection. Emotion. Love. The things that are unseen but can still be captured in a photograph.

So, look away. Look around and by all means, yes, look at the camera now and then with your eyes and say, “I’m happy to be here.”

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