How to Get Candid Family Photos that Make you Feel | Tips from a Rochester NY Family Photographer

As a family photographer in Rochester NY, I pay close attention to which photos are my client favorites so I can deliver what you love most. The ones you decide to print, include on your holiday cards, hang on your walls, and post to social media. I can tell you it’s almost never the formal, posed photos where everyone’s smiling at the camera. It’s usually the photos that catch an in-between, candid moment that almost always rise to the top of my client favorites.

I understand that formal, posed family portraits have their rightful place in any family album. If you’ve been to a session with me, you know these posed photos are the photos I call “the ones for the grandparents.” We make time for these during every session but if you want to skip them altogether, I’m fine with that, too! 

Candid Family Photos Show Authenticity

To me, posed photos rarely, if ever, show the authentic side of you and your family. The side of your family that I’m witnessing during the moments that your guard is down and you’re fully present with your people. The quirks, the silliness, and the tenderness that comes through when you’re not looking at the camera is really what I’m here for. 

Those fully candid family photos are the ones that surprise you with goosebumps when you see them because 1) you can yourself in a completely unscripted, beautifully candid moment and 2) because you probably didn’t even realize I was taking a picture at the exact moment. 

And secretly, that’s my #1 goal for every session: to make you forget that I’m even there with my camera. To hold space for you to show up as your true self. 

Of course I love creative use of light, good composition, interesting framing, and pretty styling, too. YES TO ALL OF THAT. These creative tools are the difference between a professional photograph and your DIY iphone pic. But family photos that are technically “perfect” can still lack feeling.  Just because a photo is beautiful doesn’t make it meaningful.  

So how do you get those beautiful candid family photos?

It has a lot to do with authenticity and connection, which happens when your guard is down and you’re lost in a moment. A skilled and intuitive professional photographer is key, but there are some things you can do on your end to help you get more candid photos during your family photo session. 

7 Tips to Get Candid Family Photos During your Next Session

  1. Work with your family photographer to plan your session around an activity you enjoy. Having something you’re actively doing during photo sessions cuts through anxiety and awkwardness we all feel while getting our pictures taken. I created a photo session planning guide to help with this process! Click here to get my free Photo Session Planning Guide
  2. Choose a comfortable location: Select a location in or around Rochester that you feel comfortable and relaxed in. This will help you feel more at ease and make the photo shoot more enjoyable. Do you feel more comfortable at home, in your own surroundings? Let’s have your session there! Are you an outdoor person and your anxiety melts away when you’re out in nature? That’s probably the best place to have your session. Wherever you feel most in your element is the place that will help you to let your guard down and feel like yourself.
  3. Breathe: Don’t rush and don’t be afraid to take breaks. Honestly, some of those in-between moments, when you’re not thinking about being photographed, turn out to be some of the most beautiful candid moments. Try to relax and have a good time. The more present you are during your photo session, the more natural and comfortable you’ll look in your photos. 
  4. Choose a photographer you trust: It’s not just important to find a photographer whose style you connect with, you also need to choose a photographer who you trust and feel comfortable being around. You’d be surprised how much better photos turn out when you feel at ease with the person who is taking your picture! It really is a vibe.  
  5. Remember that you don’t have to smile! Many people feel more comfortable having their picture taken when they’re not smiling, so if you’re not a fan of smiling for the camera, don’t feel like you have to. Just be yourself and let your personality shine through in the photo.
  6. Wear clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable. This will help you feel more at ease and allow you to focus on enjoying the photo shoot instead of worrying about clothing mishaps. This applies to footwear, too! One rule of thumb is to wear shoes that you could easily walk a 1/2 mile in. 
  7. Consider booking a “Day in Your Life” family photo session. These sessions look different from your typical family photo session. They are purely documentary, which takes the pressure off feeling like you have to perform for the camera! To learn more about my Day in Your Life photo sessions, click here to get more information. 

Forget appearance and focus on the experience   

To put it simply, it’s not always about the most beautiful location or the perfect light. Even technically perfect photos can fall flat when emotion, connection, and authenticity aren’t there. In fact, the photos that get printed and posted to social media most often are simple black-and-white photos that caught a beautiful, in-between moment that you didn’t realize were taking place. 

To me, that’s the art of connection and the true value in hiring a professional lifestyle photographer that specializes in candid and documentary storytelling. But true magic happens when you let your photographer IN – as in, let them see you and document your real story. 

While we’re on the subject of experiences over appearances, check out my blog post with ton of ideas for activities that will help you kiss boring and basic photos goodbye → 50 Photo Session Ideas in Rochester that are Actually Fun! 

If you want to schedule a call to talk about ideas for your next family photography session in Rochester (or anywhere in the Finger Lakes), get in touch. I’d love to hear from you and chat about documenting your story. Use my contact form to get in touch!

Capturing Candid Moments with a Rochester NY Family Photographer

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