This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Baby Dove. All opinions, advice and the most adorable baby are 100% my own.
Raise your hand if you are the designated photographer in your family – voluntary or otherwise.
If you are a mom, chances are high that you are responsible for documenting your family’s story.
Now, look through your camera roll, and tell me what you find. There is likely a massive collection of birthdays, holidays and special milestones. Am I right? How many photos in your collection feature the daily surroundings where your family’s story takes place? How many capture your children’s personalities, favorite activities, lovable quirks and other details that – unless captured on camera – will likely be long-forgotten in a year or two?
Like many moms, I feel the pressure to document Mila’s life in great detail. But more than that, with the insane rise in social media usage, I feel the pressure to document it in a certain way – in a perfect, “I’ve-got-my-life-together” sort of way.
You too? I’ve brought up this topic many times on Instagram and noticed that others, too, are struggling with capturing in-the-moment, real life on camera as it’s happening.
If you, too, are missing this real-life aspect from your photos, you’ll find today’s post especially helpful. Through conscious effort, I’ve gotten much better at capturing those elusive, in-between moments – the mundane, everyday life. Today I’ve partnered with Baby Dove to share my tips for intentional documenting, lots of technical tricks, and a massive list of those mundane, everyday moments to get you inspired to celebrate the real daily life.
Everyday Moments to Photograph
I am completely obsessed with the fact that the minute Mila spots her two favorite bunnies, she runs towards them with open arms, squealing with delight, and then proceeds to hug them really-really tight for no less than two minutes. Sometimes she even smothers them in kisses; it’s so stinking cute. Ironically, I’ve yet to capture this sweet moment on camera (probably because I’m far too busy going, “Ahhhh….” when it happens), but it’s sweet details like this that give us a glimpse into our children’s personalities and inner worlds. I want to remember such moments forever, which is why I photograph them. When she’s all grown-up, I want her to be able to look back on the photos I took and remember her favorite stuffed animal, that tutu she insisted on wearing every day for a week, the excitement in her eyes when her dad’s car pulled up in the driveway every evening. It’s her history and ours as a family, and I want to record as much of it as I can.
No one knows those special details of your child’s life quite like you do. But if you’re looking for inspiration, try photographing the following details:
- Morning routines: Start by capturing your child’s messy hair and sleepy smiles when they first wake up. Envision your typical morning: brushing teeth, putting on clothes, doing their hair, etc. Are there any funny little quirks your child does? For example, Mila loves brushing her teeth. The minute I say “zubki” (meaning teeth in Russian), she’s chomping them up and down and reaching up towards the bathroom vanity with a huge smile on her face. She especially loves when we do it together. Even at such a young age, she already wants to be just like mama – and that’s a sweet, little detail I want to remember forever.
- Meal prep: Does your toddler like to play with the pots and pans while you’re busy making breakfast in the kitchen? Does she stand next to the fridge, repeating “nom-nom-nom” over and over again until you finally give in and hand her Cheerios (even though a home-cooked meal is a mere 5 minutes away from being served)? Does your toddler force you to be a spatula-in-one-hand, baby-in-another type of cook? Meal prep is often a messy but fun part of the day that lends many photo opportunities. Now, the actual sitting-down-and-eating part is a whole different animal (think dirty faces, practicing using utensils, favorite sippy cups and the oh-so-fun game of let’s see how many times I can throw that sippy cup off the table). Those details may annoy you now, but one day you’ll look back at them with fondness.
- Daily chores: Cleaning, sorting, washing and folding that never-ending laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming (or in Mila’s case, turning the robotic vacuum on and off), grocery shopping, “working from home” with a toddler, etc. – how does your little one like to help with daily chores?
- Playtime: Independent play, reading books, favorite toys and favorite places to play, play dates at the park, pretend-play, fort-building, arts and crafts, princess dresses, pillow-tossing, puzzles, dancing, getting messy outside – what does playtime look like at your house?
- Nap time: Nursing, rocking, pretending to be asleep so your toddler also falls asleep – what measures do you have to go to for that daily nap?
- Out and about: I find it harder to photograph Mila when we’re out and about. I get into this high-efficiency mode of just wanting to get things done and go home. However, by taking our time and not rushing, I capture the sweetest moments of her, like when she brings me her shoes as we’re getting dressed to go out. Or us sitting on the floor of the mudroom, putting on those shoes – a process in and of itself. Think about those day-to-day motions you go through without really thinking about it – and capture them on camera. Those ordinary moments are your life.
- Evening routines: Think dinner, bath time, reading books, those 30 minutes of wild energy right before bedtime – all these scenarios offer so many fun photo opportunities.
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- Tell a compelling story. There’s this misconception that photography is about perfectly matching outfits, carefully arranged poses and all subjects looking straight at the camera. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that approach, it’s not very natural or authentic – which is the style we’re going for here. Instead, try thinking of yourself as a storyteller, and frame your photos in such a way that truly allows you to feel the moment, immerse yourself in the scenario and visualize what happened just before or directly after that split-second of when the photo was captured.
- Focus on the details. Pay attention to details like hands, eyes and items laying around. What’s immediately outside your frame? Be intentional in what you exclude or include. Ask yourself, does this particular detail add to or detracts from the story you are trying to tell? Change positions, move around and look at the scene from different angles. Look for scenes that include details that highlight your current season of life. Although piles of laundry, epic tantrums at the playground and Cheerios for dinner aren’t typically included in Instagram’s top trending photos, they’re realities that many moms face on a daily basis. (Or is it just me?) Find ways to capture these little details; one day, your children will love looking back at them.
- Embrace your child’s routines and schedules. Instead of focusing on photographing littles in a certain way, capture them in their natural element as you go about your day. By giving them space, you’re setting yourself up for more natural and authentic moments to take place.
- Give yourself a limit. Because I’m a perfectionist, I tend to overanalyze everything – including every photo I take. The light, the composition, the facial expression, so on and so forth has to be just so in order for me to feel satisfied with the shot. But, chances are, not every element will fall into perfect place – and that’s alright. That’s life, really. Sometimes it’s blurry and messy and out-of-focus, but that’s what makes it real. So, I try to limit myself to no more than 3-4 photos of a particular moment. Otherwise, I end up with 50 photos of the same scene with only the slightest variations. If you didn’t capture the moment in the first 3 or 4 photos, put down the camera and move on to something else. There’ll be plenty of opportunity throughout the day, week or month to try again. If you must over-shoot a particular moment, limit yourself in how many photos you actually transfer to your computer or external hard drive for safekeeping. Choose a favorite or two, maybe three – choose photos that truly move you – and delete the rest.
- Pace yourself. Similar to the previous tip, don’t feel like you need to take an entire day to photograph your child; “a day in the life” sort of approach is exhausting and rarely allows you to capture those special moments as they naturally happen. I’ll usually set a goal of 1 or 2 “in-the-moment” photos per day, or a handful per week – that way I’m not walking around with a camera in my hand all day or beating myself up for missing a particular moment.
- Get in the frame. I came across a quote some time ago, and it’s completely shifted my view on photography. Maybe you’ve seen it, too. The gist of it is that there will come a time when all your children will have left of you is photos. Make sure you are in them. It doesn’t matter what your hair looks like, your makeup, or your body. They won’t care about any of that. They’ll just want to see their mom.
- Stay present and engaged in your child’s life, even if it results in less photos. As a blogger, I am always seeking the balance between documenting my family’s every day life — and actually experiencing it. The beautiful thing about taking an intentional approach to documenting your child’s life is that the more you do it, the more you train yourself to anticipate those special moments. So, instead of spending all day analyzing their every move in wait of that picture-perfect shot, you’ll be able to recognize as it’s happening, quickly capture it and move on to more important things, like actually living the moment. As important as it is to document life, what is by far more important is to truly live that life.
- Keep your camera ready. I have backup camera batteries that I make sure to charge regularly, and my DSLR is always within reach. I never know when a photo opportunity may present itself, and the last thing I want to be doing is go looking for my camera only to realize the battery is dead. By keeping your camera charged, nearby (and preferably set to settings that are ideal for indoor photography), you’re more likely to capture those elusive details at a moment’s notice. If you’re not a regular DSLR user, don’t stress about using a smartphone, especially considering how far smartphone technology has come these days. I’ve found that the best camera is the one that’s on you, because it’s able to quickly capture a special moment.
- Pay attention to the light. Unless you’re a total pro, you’ll have far more success shooting away from the source of light rather than towards it. For example, if your child is playing in the middle of the room, position your camera so that the window is behind you (but without blocking the light with your body). By doing that, you avoid backlighting your subject, which is a lot more tricky to photograph. Shooting in natural light will give you the best, most natural results, so resist the urge to turn on the lights. I also highly suggest doing a light study of your home; it’s basically an exercise in analyzing how the light illuminates different rooms of your house at different points of the day and in various seasons during the year. Light is such an important – if not the most important – factor in photography, so study it, analyze it, and practice using it to your advantage.
- Try compiling a shot list. If you’re struggling getting inspired by your surroundings or not sure just what to photograph, take a couple of days to compile a shot list as you go about your days with your little ones. What sort of routines or activities fill your days? Think about how you can frame and capture these details in a natural, compelling way. For example, I keep a running list of our daily activities with Mila – small details, often overlooked, that may seem mundane and ordinary but, in reality, comprise our entire life – or at least this particular season. Just the mere task of sitting down, analyzing and writing out a shot list helps inspire me and shifts my perspective to be more mindful of photo opportunities throughout our day-to-day life.
- Play with your angles. I prefer to shoot straight ahead for a more professional composition rather than a “Hey, I snapped this while walking by” type of photo. Sometimes, however, it’s good to venture out of your comfort zone and shoot either from above your subject – like you would a flatlay – or to get down to your subject’s eye level. Shooting at your child’s eye level allows your photo to be framed from their perspective; this particular angle helps portray that sense of wonder they have about the world. Shooting from above depicts the scene as you see it – from your point of view. Technically speaking, though, you still want to maintain straight horizontal and vertical lines as much as possible, even when shooting from an interesting angle.
- Invest in a tripod and remote. If you want to get in the frame with your littles like I suggested earlier, you’ll need a tripod and remote. I use the Dolica GX600B200 Proline GX Series 60-Inch Aluminum Tripod and the AmazonBasics Wireless Remote Control for Nikon DSLRs, but there are tons of options on the market for both DSLR cameras and smartphones. If I plan to photograph us at home on a particular day, I go ahead and set up the tripod the night before, so that all equipment is ready to go when a photo opportunity presents itself. The next day, I simply move it from room to room as we go about our day.
- Set your DSLR camera to a fast shutter speed. Without overwhelming you with too much technical jargon, the shutter speed refers to the time your camera spends taking a photo. It affects how your image appears. A shutter speed of at least 1/125 second is typically fast enough to capture kids in focus, no matter what they are doing. If you’re lacking natural light in the room, however, a fast shutter speed may amplify that issue, in which case you can try the “Sports” mode. Unfortunately, you’ll have to keep the main action near the middle of your frame, because that’s where most DSLRs have their sensors. But “Sports” mode allows you to photograph a moving subject in less-than-ideal lighting situations without having to manually tweak your settings for each shot.
- Opt for a prime lens. A prime lens, as opposed to a zoom lens, has a fixed focal length. Instead of simply zooming in or out on your camera, you have to physically get up and walk closer or further away from your subject. Basically, a prime lens forces you to be more intentional – making it perfect for documentary-style photography. What’s more, a prime lens enables you to create better and more interesting photos; again, it’s perfect for the style of photography we’re discussing here. Prime lenses produce sharper images, allow you to shoot in low-light conditions and give your photos that dreamy bokeh background. I typically shoot with my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 prime lens, but if you’re using an iPhone, I find the “Portrait” mode is a great alternative.
Well, what do you think? Do you feel better equipped and more inspired to document the real, everyday life with your children? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, below!
If you have any questions about anything I mentioned – technical or otherwise – ask away!
Thank you to Baby Dove for kindly sponsoring this post. All writing and opinions are always my own and never influenced by any type of compensation. I only work with brands that we truly use and love, so thank you for supporting the companies who make FOXYOXIE.com possible!