It is inside and all around you.

With the popularity of Instagram and the competition to find the most exotic photographic location, many photographers feel the need to spend a fortune to capture popular destinations. In the meantime, many don’t realize that the most amazing photographic subject may well be just around you.

Photography is the art of connecting and seeing in your own way! Seeing is specific to the person’s feelings, experiences and visual sensitiveness. The starting point of “seeing” is always a connection. There should be some kind of emotional, intellectual, visual or even physical connection to a place, situation or person to warrant being the subject of a photograph.

X-Pro1, XF 35mm F1.4

Not only do you have a strong connection with your family but you know their lives inside out. Witnessing your “subjects” daily allows you to capture those fleeing moments of joy, sadness, beauty and misery of daily existence. When photographing people you don’t know, you usually experience one dimension – after all, we all want to show our best side when being photographed. Unfortunately, this posturing is a serious barrier to overcome. When photographing your family, this barrier is usually down, allowing you to produce important photographic work.

X-T1, XF 56mm F1.2

No, you don’t need to get fancy when photographing your family. You are not there to test your flash system or your fancy telephoto. You must focus on them. The moments when your newborn looks into your wife’s eyes and they lock together or when your son drives a car with you for the first time. It could be the moments of joy when your parents kiss at their anniversary and hold hands.


However, it is not only about them. It is how you feel that makes the difference. Family moments often shake up our emotions and awake something in us, which allows us to see what we usually miss in the rush of our daily lives.

And don’t think that only joyful occasions deserve to be documented. In many cultures, photographing events like funerals is quite common. After all, when someone dies, many families come together. Ironically, a sad occasion like this often brings out the best in people as they realize how fragile life can be. Many years ago, I was asked to photograph the funeral of a young girl. I have never seen so many emotions, family reunions, beautiful moments of love, compassion and just human interactions as those I witnessed during this celebration of life. In fact, I was so taken that my viewfinder got quite foggy.

There was a time in the photographic world when sharing family photos was thought to be an amateur thing to do. Fortunately, not any longer. This is in part thanks to the personal work of fellow X-series photographers such as Kevin Mullins and Jonas Rask, and many others. Make sure to check out their websites as they share a lot of family photography – including tips on how to do it.

Just recently Paul Vincent, a very talented photographer, just shared with us his article “Man in the Mirror” triggered by the piece I wrote in the July edition of FujiLove Magazine. Paul is talking about his journey as a photographer and shares his love of family photography. It’s a truly great, honest piece about self-discovery as a human being and photographer (make sure to check out his superb street and personal work!)

In the meantime, don’t look too far to find your seeing. Look around you and feel – this may well be the best thing you ever do for your photography.

Yours truly.




2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “It is inside and all around you.

  1. This is a fabulous piece. I truly believe that your writing is at its best when you write about personal things: photographing family, your health history, your articles on refugees, etc. These writings feel so much different than your other work and resonant on a completely different level to me.

    I must admit that I disagree with the sweeping statement that there was a time when sharing family photos was thought to be an amateur thing to do. I’m sure individuals have had those insecurities, but every generation has produced artists who share beautiful personal work… including images of their family members. This is as it should be, there really is no subject matter more important.

    More articles like this please.



    1. And the word in the first paragraph should of course be resonate, as opposed to resonant. Auto-correct screws me again. 🙂

    2. Ian,

      It is great to hear from you. I really appreciate your kind and honest opinion.

      Indeed, I cover all sorts of topics from personal to highly controversial. When I started this blog I promised myself that I would write exactly what is on my mind and I am well aware that sometimes my audience may disagree. However, I take this risk because I would not be where I am today if it was not for a few brave people who gave me hard time for a very good reason; my photography and seeing sucked! They thought me the value of constructive criticism and honesty in photography.

      Most importantly, I truly enjoy being with creatives who are not afraid to disagree (sometimes strongly). This stimulates my visual innovations and seeing. Recently, I was shooting a movie with a guy who had a very strong opinion on many topics and he told me that he liked working with me because I was not afraid to state that some of his visual ideas were substandard. Most importantly, I reasoned why! He then opened up himself and found the courage to state his opinion. As a result the quality of our frames improved dramatically.

      Why am I writing this? Because I want you to know that I value a difference of opinion. Having said that, I think we are well overdue for a coffee, some gear talk and a healthy dose of highly opinionated discussion 🙂



      “Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees” – Paul Strand

  2. Some years ago I had a discussion with one member of one of the photography groups when he felt jealous that I posted so many nice macros. He said it must have been nice to have so much time on my hands to shoot. I explained to him that all these shots were taken either in my own back yard or during family walks and outings. All it took was taking a camera with me and photographing all the little things that were right there in front of all of us. It didn’t require special preparations all it took was just seeing. Family photography is like that. All we have to do is actually look and see what’s in front of us. Perhaps some of us need time to stop taking for granted that which should be the most important thing in our lives? As I’ve been saying for years: beauty is everywhere all we have to do is stop and look…

    1. Kasia,

      Everyone should read your note! “Perhaps some of us need time to stop taking for granted that which should be the most important thing in our lives?” — YES, YES, YES!!!

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.


  3. Very true and very touching. I think a lot of very fine photographers started their true seeing when they looked at the family shot that reached their heart and realized it was ME that did this! Suddenly whole worlds were open to their seeing and waiting for their captures.

    Plus how wonderful to see your beautiful Kasia in this post.


    1. Bob,

      Thank you so much for your note. Just yesterday, Kasia and I were talking about you both. It is incredible how photography can help us make friends for life. Cannot wait to see you both.

      All the best to You and Elaine,


  4. This article resonates with me. I struggled for a while to figure out where and who I wanted to photograph. I realized that with two small children, it was my purpose to photograph them and their childhood. I’ve learned more about myself and my way of seeing the world once I decided to focus on that. Very nicely written!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I miss the time when my son was young and we spent so much time together. There is nothing more rewarding than capturing daily lives of those whom we love so much.

      All the best,


      1. I fully have to agree! The birth of my daughter back in December 2013 made me pick up a camera and photograph her ever since. This event triggered my love to photography and capturing her and my family and this is a truly intensive experience. However, I hesitate to share my family pictures online.

        Photographing the streets is great, I really love it. But in the end, these are photographs of strangers. What really matters are photographs from your loved ones.


      2. Kevin,

        You have such a great point. I remember when my son was very young I could photograph him all day long. Today as he grew up, he is much more independent. Each time he sees me with my camera, he fires back sarcastically “really Dad!?!?” 🙂

        Thank you for sharing your story,


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