Babies, being something I've never had, aren't really something I 'get'.
But knowing people who were once babies, and having been one myself, I have a distinct appreciation for the value of baby photos. Creating good photos of my new niece is important to me, and I appreciate being able to do it. This was also the easiest time I've had with taking family photos, and a few things have changed that made that possible – aside from the fact that she's the cutest baby ever.
Technology has changed in profound ways. It used to be that I would take photos at a family event, go home, process them and send out a gallery link a week (or more) later. No problem. Then ubiquitous social media came along, and I might as well have been developing film – everyone else's photos would have made the rounds before I'd even gotten home. I don't post personal photos where others can see them, which made my photos mostly irrelevant, so I mostly stopped.
Now I have an iPad, and on this visit I had time to develop a practical on-the-go workflow.
It's the traditional wisdom for those with a newborn: when the baby's awake, you're awake; when the baby's asleep, you're post-processing photos. I'd download batches of jpegs and use the iOS Photos app to quickly edit the highlights. I marked the edits as favourites, and then the most important part happened. I'd hand the iPad to everyone else in the room. The family got to see the work in progress, understand what I was shooting, and could unmark any image that they didn't want shared more broadly in a family-only gallery. Rather than 'social media', this made the photography itself more social and more participatory.
Electronic shutters are awesome.
Being able to photograph in complete silence made a huge difference to my stress level, and probably made my photographing less obtrusive overall. While I was never trying to be 'sneaky', there's no need to be more obtrusive than necessary.
Silence is excellent, especially since I take a lot of photos if I'm going to take any at all – almost fourteen hundred over the space of a few days. Some of the best sleeping-baby photos were done with the wide lens, far further into people's personal space than I would ever otherwise go. Even the little snick of a leaf shutter would be intrusive in that sort of situation; the thundering roar of the God Nikon's mirror slap doesn't even bear thinking about.
Finally, of course, I've changed. For the past couple of years I've been studying photography which teaches using the camera as a way of expressing connection with the world. While I wasn't calling on its techniques specifically, it still broadens my approach. In previous family events – as elsewhere in my life – I've used the camera as a wall instead of a bridge. There was less of that this time.
I'm still not particularly more comfortable photographing people, but I've been working on being okay with being uncertain and uncomfortable. The good news is that I'll have plenty of opportunities to continue these efforts for quite some time.