Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Using Multi-Layered Content in Your Family Photojournalism

All too often, I get satisfied with capturing 'single themed photographs' where there is one major piece of content in the photo. For example, let's say my child is digging for worms in the back yard and the light is perfect. I quickly raise my camera, position my little guy in the frame where I want them...and SNAP....I have a decent photo.

But does this photo tell a story?

One thing I try to accomplish when attempting family photojournalism is to tell a story with an image. As I analyze my own work, I'm finding that singular themed photographs (while nice in many cases) just are not that deep and do not always tell the whole story.

More and more I am attempting to focus on having at least two pieces of content in my photographs. I'm finding that the more I concentrate on this, the 'deeper' my photos are becoming.

Take the photo below as an example. I came home from work and went on the back deck to find my wife feeding our youngest child on the table while my two other children circled her like wild banshees. I was first drawn to my wife feeding our child in his new seat (first time he was in it) but I literally told myself, "eh, thats boring, the light is dull, and I have TONS of photos of my children eating." But there was more there. My other children were riding scooters, so I began to think about how to incorporate them into the scene. I knew that my primary piece of content was my wife feeding my child, but I needed a second piece. I grabbed my camera (1ds2 + 24L) and sat down against the rails of my deck and I waited for my children to pass by the frame. When my middle child entered the frame, he looked at me, I pressed the shutter. Think just how different this photo would be if it was just my wife feeding my child WITHOUT my son looking into the camera, riding a scooter, WEARING A SCUBA MASK!:

As another example, the photo below illustrates how multiple layers of content can add to the strength of an image. My wife was snuggling with our youngest on the couch. I even took photos of them...just her and him...on the couch...boring! But when I stepped back from the scene, there was SO MUCH MORE THERE. My other children were playing the most bizarre game of go fish and were really enjoying themselves. The 1ds2 + 24L was the weapon of choice again. My primary piece of content is my wife and newborn with my secondary piece of content being my older children playing cards. I used a center composition with my older children framing my primary piece of content:

Finally, the image below is really special to our family. My wife was just a few days away from delivering our third child (the little guy pictured above). Our house was a wreck, yet there was still so much to do. My wife worked tirelessly to make sure our little guy came home to a place conducive to raising a child! This was the end of a very long day for all of us. The older children were snuggled up watching a movie, but my wife was busy folding laundry. Think how different this scene would be if I just photographed my wife, or just the kids. Camera was the 5d2 + 24L:

So, my challenge to you all would be to wait before you press that shutter. Look around, try to find something else that is going on so that you can add some depth to your photographs! But be patient, it ain't easy!



  1. I really enjoyed this. I'll be thinking about it when I start to shoot our new arrival.

  2. Love your site. Can you tell me more about the frames above your family room couch? What frames did you use, etc. This is exactly what I want to do in my house. Are the pics also printed in BW or are they in color?

  3. Daniel!

    Thanks for the comment! I did a write up on "displaying your family photojournalism" that answers your question. You can read about it here:

    The Reeds, Good luck! Its a wild ride...we are just there to photograph it!


  4. This was great to read! Its something so obvious, yet so hard to do when in-camera! I'm going to practice this now, and make it part of my style. Thanks!