My Superpower is Observation #photography

Paying Attention and Learning:

The photo-guy with Leslie and Scott

The focus of today’s post is different. I want to talk a little bit about photography; and, yes, I do have permission from the family featured in these images.

I am not officially a “professional” photographer, but I am a professional observer and a committed documenter of life. My role as a writer is to pay attention, to keep my eyes open, to stay awake, to listen – both with my ears and my heart – and to do my best to communicate the deeper truths held within what I witness and learn.

Photography is essentially the same idea. Photography is telling a story using pictures, it is telling the truth without using words. Consequently, people sometimes ask me to bring along my camera and to use my gift of observation to capture some of the images they want to remember but don’t quite know how to grab a hold of.

It’s all about the message:


If you read this blog much then you already know that I enjoy photography and that pictures work well in this format to help get across whatever message I have in mind.

You may remember the wedding I shot a few weeks ago. I would certainly never volunteer to do something like that, but stepped in at the last minute to help out some friends in a pinch (click here). It turned out to be a great experience.

Well, this time the request was family photos the day after Thanksgiving. “Everyone is together and we don’t know when the stars will align and something like this will happen again,” they said. “Derek, would you be willing to take some photographs?

Well it just so happens I love these particular people. So, “I’ll do it,” I said. “But you have to have a list ready of all the groupings you want so all I have to do is point and shoot.”

It’s not about posing it’s about seeing:

1-DSC_0719I’m pleased with the results, and I’m sharing a few today in the slide-show below. I picked these twenty-two (out of the more than a hundred I gave my friends) because I think they represent what I’m looking to achieve in a family photograph.

I don’t “pose” people, and I don’t look through the camera searching for perfection (the right angle, the most idyllic smile, the correct aesthetic…). I’m not trying to show people without wrinkles, or present profiles with perfectly highlighted figures, or capture the most flattering hair placement etc. etc. I do not and I will not “photo-shop”.

But what I am doing is looking through my lens trying to click on authenticity, on love, on honesty, on passion, on communication, and on real life. That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to document.

These Photos:

1-DSC_0731Fortunately this particular family all happen to be beautiful people, at ease with the camera, and at ease with one another. That made my job easy.

Enjoy the photographs, and – in your heart – thank the family for allowing me to feature them here. But also, when you consider how you want your next family photo-session to go, plan to be relaxed and natural – and most importantly love one-another more intentionally and eloquently between now and then. I guarantee it will make all the difference when you stop and smile for the camera.

When you consider how you want your next family photo-session to go… love one-another more intentionally and eloquently between now and then. I guarantee it will make all the difference when you stop and smile for the camera.

Peace and love – DEREK

  • ps: the three similar photos of the two babies together are funny because the hands disappear and then reappear so quickly 🙂






culture life photogrpahy relationships

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at, and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

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