Family at play – they could be the most important photographs you have ever taken

While we all strive for photographic excellence in our work and in the choice of our subjects, it is very easy to lose out on photographing our own family.  

We put a lot of effort and time in shooting for our clients or for our portfolios but when we photograph those close to us we act as if it was not as important as other assignments. I believe this is a mistake. In fact, the images of those we love may one day become the most important work we have ever done.   

Therefore, whenever Kasia and I have the opportunity to photograph our family we always take it very seriously. One such occasion occurred recently when my sister called me and said that she was taking her sons mushroom picking.

What a great opportunity to do some photography! I knew we would be in deep forest so I would need fast glass. I grabbed the Fuji X-Pro1 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 lens.

When we entered the forest, I immediately noticed favourable shooting conditions with a nice, even light without the harsh sunlight rays. Worrying about light is one thing, but directing two very lively boys is another issue. As they entered the “free for all” zone they were constantly running and moving. So my approach was to play with them and lead them into spots where I could get a great shot.

I was looking for a place that would be both visually appealing and have a little more light. I would run/climb/crawl with the boys toward those spots. Then I would say something like “Can you climb this?” or “How about showing me your strength” – anything to get them into the scene I envisioned.

Once they got there I would observe and sometimes challenge them in conversation for the right pose. It was always in the form of play. They thought they were playing a game so they never ‘posed’ for a photograph. At other times I would just watch them playing. Some moments came together just naturally.

Here is how I set up my Fuji X-Pro1: Jpeg, ISO Auto, WB Auto, NR 0, DR100, Sharpening +1, film simulation – Astia (S) and shutter speed 1/125. The boys had very bright clothes against the dark background so I usually had to scale back the exposure -1EV.

All the images are JPEGs straight from the camera. In a few instances I have done very minor white balance (WB) adjustments in Lightroom. Take a look at rich greens and the skin tones – simply stunning.



















© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

23 thoughts on “Family at play – they could be the most important photographs you have ever taken

  1. Nice shots 😉 I’m a new xe2 owner but i hadn’t controlled my camera yet…when i take picture of my nieces i just cant follow his gesture….all image came out blur blur and blur. Could you give me some advice when i want to shoot the subject that too fast ? ( sorry for my poor English, looking forward to you ).

  2. Once time I go thru your blog and it influenced me. I bought X-T1 right away. But I would like to take picture with Green color like picture No.9. Can you please give some trick how to set up to get beautiful green colour like that.

  3. Hi,
    Stumbled on your site when trying to find out settings for x-e2. I too love to shoot jpeg as I am really bad at post processing. Do you usually use this setting for your kids at play pics? I have a 1.5 yr old

    1. Hello,

      Great to have you here. For kids:

      NR 0
      STD (indoor)
      S (outdoor)
      H-Tone -1
      S-Tone -1
      Color 0
      Sharp +1
      ISO AUTO
      Min Shutter Speed: 1/250

      All the best,


  4. Olaf,

    No technical questions from me, just a huge Thank You for posting these beautiful photos of the boys. I love them. There is something very special about capturing family, and especially kids. I love the photos, the setting they were taken in, and of course, the Fuji X system. I too have the 35 f/1.4 and the XE-1 camera body, love it. Thank you again for the beautiful photos, and Happy Holidays.

  5. These are wondeful shots, they will mean much more to most than a perfect landscape.

    May I ask if you find the focusing OK when shooting kiddies? Trying to decide between X-E1 and X-E2.

    1. Kip,

      I never had problems with the Fuji X-Pro1 when shooting kids. However, this could be the way I plan and anticipate. Having said that, some people may find X-E1 a little bit slow. If you can, get -E2 – it is much, much faster camera.

      Thank you for visiting.


    1. Simon,

      I was shooting JPEG + RAW, just in case I would need RAW files (it turned out I didn’t). The Auto DR setup would underexpose my RAW files. However, if I shoot JPEGs only I would turn Auto DR on. Hope it helps.

      Thank you for visiting.


  6. It’s impossible not to love these photographs.

    Thanks for sharing your settings. Fuji jpegs really are very good.

  7. Great post and “real” photos. Can I ask what focusing method (or trick) you used to capture your wiggling kids? I find that to be challenging sometimes with my family and the X-E1.

    1. Tyler,

      I wish I have some kind of trick to share with you but I don’t. Most of the time I just rely on autofocus. However, the way I work with kids I usually pick a spot/place/scene and lead them there to capture the moment. Very often I pre-focus and just wait for the right expression. I think the key is to have your camera at your eye level all the time.

      We were in the forest for 2 hours and I was shooting entire two hours. Hard work but it paid off.

      Thank you for your visit.


      P.S. If you find some great method to focus please share it with us.

  8. I really enjoyed this post, especially with the upcoming holiday season this is a great reminder. I am new X-E1 owner and still getting used to shooting this vs. my Nikon DSLR, but it’s the first camera that allows me to capture colors as I see them. I’m excited to get out and shoot with the family soon.

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