Tips for Documenting Family Events | Mobile Alabama Photographer | Personal Projects

This summer will mark 10 years since I took my first photography class in college. Ten years. Say what?!

One month after that first photography class, my dad's whole extended family traveled to Callaway Gardens to celebrate my grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary. My dad and I documented the whole weekend in both film and digital formats. We had the old Canon AE-1 and his new Nikon Coolpix to capture all the events. My dad had been into photography as a hobby for years, but I was still figuring everything out, trying to wrap my brain around f-stop and shutter speed. Even though I struggled with the technical side of photography, I knew one thing...I loved photographing family events.

All these years later, it is still something I love to do. I love preserving those memories for myself and for the rest of the family. I can honestly say I cannot remember a more family event-filled May than this one. Between a First Communion, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, graduations and two family weddings my calendar is looking crazy and my memory cards are filled to the max.

The crazy May schedule kicked off on Sunday with my cousin Matthew's First Communion. I can't believe this guy is already in the second grade! He looked so grown up in his suit. I'm so glad I got to grab this portrait of him on the lawn outside the church after the Mass was over.

Next up, is the first of the two family weddings. It is shocking that it was almost seven months ago that I did these engagement pictures for my cousin, Amber, and her fiance, Luke (pictured below in a photo taken at another family event last month). At the time we did their engagement session, the wedding seemed so far off and now wedding week is upon us! So exciting!!!

Amber-Luke-Mobile-Alabama-Engagement-Photography.jpg

All these upcoming family events got me thinking about my approach to documenting these milestones, so I thought I'd share some tips for documenting family events. These are tips that anyone can use, no matter what type of camera you have. Leave me a comment and let me know if you find them helpful! Enjoy!

6 Tips for Documenting Family Events

  1. Be Prepared
    • Fully charge your camera (or cell phone) and make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card(s). Nothing is worse than trying to photograph an event on low battery power and you never want to run out of storage space right at the climax of the event.
  2. Turn Your Camera On When You Arrive at the Event
    • You want to be ready to shoot when the action starts. Make sure your camera is out of your bag/pocket, turned on and set to the appropriate settings. Waiting until after the event starts to do this could mean missing out on photo opportunities.
  3. Anticipate Where the Action Will Be & Take Some Test Shots
    • If you're at a graduation, you pretty much know where all the action will take place. Take a few test shots of the stage and see if you need to adjust your camera settings.
  4. Be Observant of Your Surroundings
    • I absolutely love capturing the in-between moments at a family event, the moments that follow what is considered the main action. Being observant lets you capture things that most people might overlook, but will help you really tell the story of the event in your photos.
  5. Watch the Light and the Crowds
    • If you're wanting a formal shot of a family member at an event (ex: a graduate holding their diploma), watch where the crowd is migrating before setting up your shot. If almost everyone at the event gravitates toward the same area to take photos, then go in the opposite direction. Seek out open shade, instead of full sun, or dappled light and look for areas that don't have busy backgrounds.
  6. Be Respectful
    • If photography is limited at the event (common in dance recitals, weddings and other church related events), be respectful of the no-photography policy and turn your flash off, or put your camera away. Look for opportunities to capture photos outside of the venue. For example, for the First Communion photo above, we were not allowed to take photographs in the church. I found an uncrowded spot on the lawn opposite the church, which was perfect for some family photos and a quick solo portrait of my cousin.