Rediscovered Families

Family Connection Mission – Turn Off the Camera

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Phtot by Mr-Script on Flickr

Cameras Everywhere

At the beginning of September my partner and I went to the Alberta Badlands for the weekend. The scenery is spectacular and we went to a number of sites including the Hoodoos trail near Drumheller. This place is a natural playground for children. The strange rock formations and mini caves are perfect for scrambling and climbing. We saw many families out enjoying the day.

However, I couldn’t help but notice how many parents had a camera in their hand. They were in an amazing place that seemed divinely designed for imaginative play. Instead of enjoying it with their children these parents were following them around snapping pictures. Often the children were posed climbing on the rocks, so that mom or dad could get a good shot.

I want to assure you that I enjoy my camera and really like taking pictures. In fact I  don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with taking pictures. It is the perfect way to record a moment in time and it is lovely to look back on those pictures.

Finding a Balance

Still there needs to be a balance between recording memories and enjoying the precious time with our children as it unfolds. It is perhaps the difference between observing an experience and actually living it. It saddens me when I see the camera continually getting in the way of family fun and family connections. Perhaps in this age of social media we are in danger of loosing the balance.

Josh Mishner a mindfulness researcher, and father of four, recently published The Greatest Picture I Never Took on Huffington.  It is a thoughtful post in which he reflects on our increasing tendency to take pictures of every single moment.

“It seems like the more pervasive social media becomes to my daily routine, the more frequently I seek out “photo ops” with my family and suddenly, our special moments become less about savoring the experience of being together. They become more about capturing the perfect light, the perfect pose, the perfect smile, etc. I have begun to look at life as not a series of moments to be treasured, but as a series of images to be collected, edited and republished for everyone to share.”

In the article Mishner decided to park his phone in his pocket when he went to collect his young son from school. It was the first day of school, so it was ripe with cute photo opportunities. Instead of taking pictures he engaged fully with his child. It is a lovely read. At the end the author poses a good question

“More often than not, before we pull out the phone or camera, we ask ourselves the question, ‘Is this moment priceless enough to me that I should permanently record it?’

Instead, the question may be better posed as, ‘Is this moment priceless enough to my child for me to play an active part in it?”

It is a good question and sometimes the answer isn’t that clear. Still I think we can all benefit from being a little more mindful about how and when we use our cameras. There are times for taking pictures, but there is also a time for simply being with our children.

The trouble is that every time we take out our camera we are distracted. Our focus is usually on getting a good picture and not on our children. It is really hard to make deep connections at that point.

Your Connection Mission

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put away your camera for a few hours. Go and do something fun with your children. Here’s a list of simple suggestions.  Instead of taking pictures simply enjoy your time together. Be mindful of your children’s laughter, the sound of their voices, and the way they play. Take in their sparkling eyes and the feel of their hand in yours. Follow their lead and play with them. Enjoy some conversation. Instead of looking at these moments through a lens, choose to live them and build some true memories that will last for a lifetime.

If you try this mission I would love to hear from you. How did it feel to leave your camera behind? How did this decision impact your time with your children?

 

32 thoughts on “Family Connection Mission – Turn Off the Camera”

  1. Aw, Sharon, you’ve hit on something that I think about A LOT! I love this perspective.

    Though I stopped taking clients a few years ago, I worked for years as a professional photographer. I learned MANY important lessons during that time, but the greatest of those was WHEN to pull out my camera.
    I have gorgeously stunning pictures of my kids playing at the park at sunset. We will choose to go to the park with the camera, with a certain type of light and everything, specifically to get pictures. The trip is defined as a photo shoot, though we spend most of the time being goofy with each other (or letting the kids just play on their own while I document, fly-on-the-wall style).

    At a birthday party, on the other hand, I’ll be lucky if I end up with a single picture on my phone.

    Friends used to ask me why I never had pictures of the important stuff, just everyday stuff.

    And I realized one day, it’s actually because of my photography training. I don’t like taking crappy snapshots (I mean, I do it, but it’s kinda hard for me 😉 ). But even with years of practice, I still have to be completely in “photographer” mode to shoot with my professional equipment. Since I can’t both participate in an event and also photograph it, I’ve always had to make the choice about which kind of event it is.

    It’s also why I don’t have first day of school pictures. I aim for first month, lol. But it never occurs to me to grab my phone to get pictures of the first day of school. I’m too busy being with my kids to even think of it!

    On the other hand, I have some real stunners from the other night when we went out for pizza…. 😉

    1. It sounds as if you have found a good balance for your family. You have gorgeous pictures of your children as they grow up, but you get to participate fully in all those special moments. Honestly I don’t think it matters if you don’t have photographs from those events. You will still have your memories and so will your children 🙂

  2. I am so guilty of this! The only difference is, I want to take photos of everything because I know these times are so fleeting. But the end result is the same – I can’t fully participate in a moment when I’m behind a camera. I’ll be taking you up on this challenge!

    1. I totally understand wanting to take those pictures. It’s figuring out the balance between preserving memories and enjoying the moments that can be tough at times. I’m thrilled you will be taking me up on this challenge 🙂

  3. Sharon, your question is an illuminating invitation, “Is this moment priceless enough to my child for me to play an active part in it?” Love it.

    Blissings,

    ~ Dena

  4. Sarah from Creating Contentment

    I’m not a fan of taking pictures. I am just not a camera person. As my social media presence has grown I’ve had to change this and become someone that take pictures of things. Yet, it is an effort. I often feel sad that we don’t take photos to remember an event, especially as our children are still so young and are likely to not have an memory of it. Still, it is nicer to be in the moment and enjoying it rather than attempting to capture it perfectly on film.

    1. I understand the sadness at not having a picture to remember an event, but those memories are priceless too. Finding the right balance can be tricky at times.

  5. Dannielle @ Zamamabakes

    This is a great post and I know if my husband was standing behind me reading he would be nodding his head agreeing with your every word. You have certainly given me a mission to run with. I’m thinking I will leave both the camera and the phone behind on our next adventure and really soak up some quality time! Have a great day!

  6. Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy

    Oh I hear you Sharon! I am a big one for enjoying the moment and being in it with Elliott, but my mother on the other hand is terrible! At every family gathering or time when we’re together with Elliott she drives me crazy with wanting to constantly take photographs. The best memories I have are the photos that are permanently etched in my memory. x

    1. I had a suspicion that you might enjoy this post Eva 🙂 I love reading about the special connections you have with Elliott. He will remember those even without the pictures!

  7. This is so very true. The temptation of capturing the moment is always there. I know I need to work on being in the moment more with my kids – this is a good starting point for me. Thanks for the reality check x

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kirsty. We live in a distracted age, so I think many of us are working on mindful living (I know I am). I am encouraged by the number of parents who are starting to talk about being in the moment with their kids. It’s going to make a huge difference in the quality of family relationships.

  8. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    This is very interesting. I almost always have my phone in my hand, just in case a photo op comes along, or we’re doing an activity that I could blog about… But, I have found recently that I am taking fewer photos, even when I have a post in mind, I just take a few at the start and the end, but then I focus more on actually doing the activity. After all, how can I write about how much we enjoyed something if I haven’t really engaged in it? I’m more interested in finding out what my kids are thinking, enjoying, imagining… ultimately that’s what I want to remember. #letkidsbekids

    1. It’s all about finding the balance isn’t it. I love the idea of taking a few pictures at the start and end of an activity. That seems like a good way to go.

  9. A great post. When you have a camera you are missing on great moments. This is like me before. Now we try to balance. My husband will give time to take photographs after we walk and experience the place. Great too so that I know what to take when its my me time =) #letkidsbekids

  10. You are so right! I am definitely guilty of doing this… especially because I am loving trying to learn how to use a real camera (which means I’m more focused on the camera than what’s actually going on!). Great reminder to live in the moment. xx

    1. Oh a new camera would definitely make it harder! Hopefully you will find a balance once you become accustomed to your camera.

  11. I find taking photos when out is the beginning of the end for me. I take a pic, then upload it, and before you know it, I’ve wasted ten minutes on social media.
    The best days are the ones we have no photographic evidence for. 🙂

  12. This is a really good point and something I often think about. Photo taking is less of a novelty now, it has become so easy to just whip out your camera and though I don’t think this is a bad thing it can certainly become a little intrusive, instead of a moment in time being a ‘oh I wish I had had a camera’ it becomes a ‘wait, stay there, I need to get my camera out, do that again, no like you did before’ moment. I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself. That said, I rarely do posed photos of my son, he doesn’t really like having his photo taken, if he does pose he pulls some crazy face or the pictures just look fake. I much prefer to just take pics of him as he is, doing what he wants to do and in a discreet way.

    1. Your comment made me smile Debra. I see so many parents going through the same thing. I’ve found that quite a few children don’t really like having their picture taken. Perhaps we can learn from them!

  13. You are right, I think most of us are guilty of this to some extent. It has made me think.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsbeKids

  14. I am finding that i use less and less the camera. But i do have days when I take my camera on purpose to take memories of my girls.
    thank you for sharing with the #pinitparty

  15. I like your post – it makes me feel old. LOL. I often joke with my husband that we are the type of couple that goes out for the day as a family and *ZOMG* fails to take a single photo. I don’t have a smartphone, and my partner has only had one for the last 6 months through work, so it’s never become a habit for us.

    1. I love the fact that you go out and enjoy the day with your family! Just think of all the time you save not having to organize all those pictures 😉

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