When Sunset photographer Thomas J. Story isn’t shooting stunning A-frame cabins around the West or chasing golden hour at Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area, he points his camera toward his family.

Kid on Hiking Trail
Thomas J. Story

Be Present, But Also Be Prepared

Kodak Printomatic Instant Camera

Courtesy of Kodak

To capture authentic moments you have to live them first. Get familiar with your phone’s quick-draw camera shortcuts and you’ll spend more time engaged with your kids and less time fumbling with the lock screen. For iPhone: hard press on the camera icon on the home screen. For most Android phones: Double-press the home button to launch.

Include the Kids

It’s fun to involve your family and make sure they’re also taking photos. Get the youngsters a kid-friendly point-and-shoot camera (we like Nikon’s CoolPix W150), or even a toy camera, to give them hands-on experience. Create a photo contest or scavenger hunt where they can capture people, places, and things.

Nikon CoolPix W150

Celebrate Mistakes

Snow Jacket

Nelly Aran/Pexels

Pictures aren’t meant to be flawless. If a photo is slightly blurry, or cropped in a weird way, you’re capturing authentic moments with “mistakes” that add a sense of timelessness and emotion. A perfectly exposed and composed image can’t do that.

Help Them Open Up

Talking to camera-shy kids and engaging with them helps a lot—make a game of it, even. Show them the back of the camera and let them “art direct.” Take a photo with your version and their version, then compare the two shots.

Use Burst Mode

Kids in Hotel Swimming Pool

Thomas J. Story

Burst mode on cameras or Live Photos on iPhones is key. Live Photos records a 1.5-second clip before and after you take a picture, so you capture a range of moments and facial expressions. I select my favorite photo from one of the freeze frames.

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