There's a Secret to Snagging Perfect Family Photos- and it's Not Perfection

When you try to capture the perfect family portrait, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment

Why Imperfect Family Photos are Best |

Photography has changed a lot since we were kids. Long gone are the days of snapping photos on a camera that didn't double as a phone, stowing the photos away in a dusty photo album hidden in the basement. As technology has advanced, innovations — like the cloud — have made it easier than ever to store photographs and preserve those family memories for years to come.

But with all this innovation, we may have lost something. If you're on Instagram and you have a kid, you probably have shot after shot of your child right next to those pictures of the amazing sushi you had last week. In 2014 alone, over 880 billion photos were taken. In other words, people are documenting every facet of their children's lives now more than ever before.

Chronicling our lives in such a rapid world has allowed families to archive memories like never before, creating a touching narrative along the way. However, odds are that you have a perfect, or near-perfect, photo from every birthday, every Christmas morning, every summer vacation -- all because you took so many shots. One is bound to be a keeper. Yet, with the sheer number of jpeg files cluttering up your cloud storage, what makes an extra special family photo extra special?

Surprisingly, it isn't about perfection, after all. You may be willing give your arm for just one back-to-school portrait without a goofy face, but according to Sophie Howarth, author of Family Photography, the magic is in just the opposite.

She writes:

"We wanted to tackle the emotional rollercoaster of family life with the honesty it deserves, cutting through the glut of smiling snapshots and tightly choreographed nuclear units to show how much more photography can be than just a tool for advertising domestic bliss."

Think of the photos that you or your friends have 'grammed in the past few months. Which ones come to mind? A shot of your 12 year-old nephew with a shock of shaggy, uncombed hair falling in his face — but definitely not occluding the mischief in his eye? Or maybe one of your friend's toddler, who isn't even facing the camera, but whose crooked pigtails and chubby, outstretched hand somehow show her spirit?

When you think about it, the real value of digital and smartphone cameras isn't their ability to capture perfection. It's the possibility for candid imperfection, the slice-of-life snapshot that best mimics our memories of a real life, lived fully. Embrace the grass-stained knees, the messy backgrounds, and faces caught in shadow. There's no better memory than one that's real.

 RELATED: 5 Online Resources to Improve Your Digital Photography


Julia is an avid foodie, a fitness freak, and a lover of terrible puns.