It never fails, during any family function, I am that guy who has a camera in hand and is asked to take the family photography and send them out to everyone. My cameras have always taken the abuse of opening and closing the shutter… especially when I had my Canon Rebel DLSR.
I’ve been through several camera bodies, my first being a fixed lens Fuji camera that I had in college. I remember taking it out and getting pictures of the quad at the Fort Hays State University after a snow storm. When we found out we were pregnant, my wife gifted me with a Canon Rebel XSi to start documenting our family. Several years later I upgraded to the Canon Rebel T7i to continue documenting whatever it was our family was doing.
I needed more out of my family photography
It wasn’t too long after the purchase of that Canon that I knew I needed something better. I realized that the specs I was looking for my little prosumer camera didn’t have. I needed something with higher frames per second, I tend to shoot with the high-speed boost so that I can get the “perfect” shot because our kid’s expressions can change almost instantaneously, to me that is what is important out of my family photography. I needed something with a slightly smaller form factor that gave me the ability to carry it with me where ever our adventures took us. I needed something that I could easily switch between taking photos and videos.
Figuring all of this out, I did my research. I asked questions of fellow photographers. And most importantly I looked at the cost of a new camera body and the lenses. It was then that I made the switch to what I believe is the family photography set-up that I can’t live without in 2022.
Fuji X-T4 (Added the Fuji X-T20 several months later)
About a year later, I thought it would be nice to have a camera that we keep on hand for whatever moments present themselves while at home. My X-T4 sat in a bag ready to travel most of the time and it became a hassle to pull it out while getting it packed. I purchased a used Fuji X-T20 that was significantly smaller and since it was used and I was able to get it dirt cheap, I didn’t have problems letting the kids pick it up and shoot away with it.
A Set of Prime Lenses
Once I started to use prime lenses, I was hooked. Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses that can typically get a lower f-stop than your zoom lenses. Meaning, you can get some dreamy out-of-focus backgrounds… called bokeh. I love these lenses for that and for the fact that they are much smaller than my zoom lenses. They are much less conspicuous when I’m out walking around with the kids.
Because I don’t have to worry about doing any zooming, I pretty much point and shoot which is my style of shooting pictures when I’m gathering photos of my kids and whatever antics we are up to. With very active kids, and the inability to zoom, I have to zoom with my feet.
The downside to putting on a prime lens is that you are stuck to whatever focal length you have on your camera. My go-to lens is a 35mm, it is a lens that is wide enough that I can get some of the background while not being so tight that I have to be in the face of my subject… typically my kids.
My kids will sometimes freak out when I pull the camera so I also like to throw on a lens that is a bit longer at 50mm. This allows me to keep my distance without being sus… did I just use my 11-year-olds slang in a blog post… I think I did.
While primes are great when your kids are just out playing in the yard or driveway or while you are out enjoying a nice walk as a family, there are times when a zoom lens can be helpful. I’ve come to love my 16-80mm when I’m shooting videos of my family or during my kid’s birthdays so that I don’t have to be in front of everyone at the party to get the pictures.
This particular lens is a lot wider than my prime lenses allowing me to get much more into the scene should I need it but also zooming in tight enough to get the facial expressions of my kids as they open up those special Christmas presents.
The downside to most (not all) zoom lenses is that the f-stop is larger, not allowing as much light into your scene and your backgrounds won’t be as dreamy as they would with a prime lens.
This telephoto lens is probably the least used lens that I own, but when I need it, I am happy to have it. I remember our Myrtle Beach vacation, I was able to stick it on my X-T4 and stay out of the water while getting those close-up shots of my kids playing in the ocean for the first time. I also use this lens at my son’s baseball games… because I don’t want to be that dad out on the field getting photos. This lens allows me to just sit just on the edge of the dugout and get some great action shots of my kids playing the game that they love.
The sacrifice that I make with this lens is that my subject… my kids, can not be too close to the camera or else this lens is basically impractical to use. It is also an f-stop larger than my 16-80mm meaning that sometimes those late baseball games will have pictures that turn out slightly darker than I would like.
I can hear you telling yourself, that sounds like an expensive camera kit to invest in. However, my thought is that the best camera you can have is the one that is always with you. That may mean that your phone camera is all that you can have. There are lens attachments you can put on your phone’s camera, like Moment lenses, to help improve your family photography game. But again, that’s an investment you might not be willing to make.
What matters is that you are out capturing those moments with your family and helping to remember those stories that you will tell your kids… over and over again.
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