THE BLOG
12/15/2014 12:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Taking Pictures of My Kids Taught Me About Love (and the Perfect Photo)

Damon Dahlen

As a dad and a professional photographer, I have done three things right in my life: marrying my wife, having our two children, and picking up a camera (although they didn't happen in that order).

The other day, as I was helping my wife fix a problem with her computer, I saw that she had made some of the best images of our kids and our family into her screensaver. I'd never realized until that point how lucky I'd been in getting some great shots of my family. Looking at those images, I hoped that someday my children would see them and understand the depth of my love, from the devotion I put into making these photos. Not that these images would take the place of my being present in their lives -- but that they'd mean something in their own right, my very personal gifts to the family I love so much.

I also realized these children have become my muses, extraordinary models whose movements, actions and emotions are both my subject and my inspiration. I have been so blessed to see them in action and to dissect their development in the most mundane moments as well as the most exciting. Their intricately nuanced facial reactions and movements, however fleeting to the eye, are what make up the little beings that I call Sebastian and Alyssandra. Their little personalities translate through these human forms they inhabit, their physical actions signaling what's going on inside their souls. As they grow and become more and more intriguing, I'm using my camera to capture their real personalities, through the eyes of their dad.

DAMON DAHLEN
Aly, reacting to me telling her she had to get down from there! (Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post)


The photos illustrate a change in me, too.

I was always told I would and could not really understand love until I had a child of my own. It seems like such a simple statement, and quite easy to understand, but I must admit I was jealous when people told me that; they acted as if I was somehow less of a person because I had not experienced this kind of relationship. It almost seemed like they were explaining it to me out of pity.

I realize now that they were right: my mind could not have ever comprehended this kind of emotion before. I was foolhardy in my belief that because I had loved my mother, father and sisters, I knew what the deepest kind of love could feel like. How wrong I was!

I am mortified and amazed by this love. I have never worried incessantly about the most mundane things that are not in my control, the way I do now. Will they get hurt, will they die, will it be something I could stop from happening? Will I know so I can stop it ahead of time? Your mind just runs and runs with these hypotheticals, and as far as I can see there is no way to get off this crazy train.

I digress; I'm still no closer to explaining how much I love my kids -- which I suppose proves my original point: there are no words that can adequately explain what I can better show you in a photograph.

I have been blessed to see this world both as a parent and as a photographer, and in the latter capacity, to study people and their behavior in detail. My favorite type of photography is photojournalism, and within this field we study people's movements, emotions and body language as we photograph them to convey the stories we are telling. We incorporate the person along with the surrounding elements, and hopefully, if we are good enough, we can use intricacies of the subject's face to convey emotion in the shot.

With a lot of patience and a lot of shooting time, I have been lucky enough to get the images below. But please know that anyone can take photos like this -- and you can start doing it immediately. All you need is a camera, some patience and a willingness to study and then capture these tiny souls. Just remember: watch and photograph. Do not interfere, and you will get some amazing images. Most of all, enjoy studying them, as they truly are a wonder and a gift.

Here are 21 photos of my family, with advice on how you can use my favorite techniques to take great photos of your own kids.

PHOTO GALLERY
Love Through Photography

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