Not that long ago, during my time as a photojournalist, I was surrounded by deadlines and assignments.

It was my job to try and tell a story in one or two photos – with zero to little interaction with my subjects.

These days – I may not be meeting those same deadlines and covering stories like I used to – but many of the tips and tricks that I used during my newspaper days – I still use today – especially while taking photos of our everyday.

You don’t have to be a former photojournalist to incorporate these super simple tips into your shooting to become more of an “observant mama” and photographer.

1. Be prepared

Create a daily routine to be prepared and organized for a day of documenting. You don’t want to miss out on a moment because your gear wasn’t ready to go. Some things I do daily include: charging camera batteries every night, downloading photos from the day before and having extra memory cards ready. Also, keep your camera in a central location. Depending on where you are hanging out/playing/observing, move your camera with you. Don’t get caught having to run to find your camera. I try to keep it in the same room, at arm’s length or with me when we go out and about.

Nikon D810 sitting on a kitchen counter by Allison Gipson

2. Take yourself out of the action, step back and observe

A lot of times, as photographers, we want to make sure we get the shot and sometimes we feel the need to step in and give directions. (Granted, from time to time, I encourage my family members and boys to move slightly, go play in another area and so on – but that is a big sometimes.) For the most part – find a spot where you are out of the way and just observe. It may seem pretty straight forward but fight the urge to step in and give directions – “stand here, look this way, hold still, wait, don’t move!” You are interrupting play, the action and scene – I have done this and been there and it only results in both parties being bummed. You don’t get the shot and your subject is bothered. When you step in and give exact directions, how do your children, family members or subjects react? What are their expressions? Are the photos and images what you were envisioning or trying to achieve?

boy sitting on the floor in the window light by Allison Gipson

3. Slow down

When you slow down, you have time to watch interactions, playtime or whatever you are shooting, unfold. Also, this is a great way to watch for little details. The more observant and detailed your are when documenting, the more your subjects personality will be able to shine through your photos.

photo of dog lying on the floor by Allison Gipson

picture of boy with pink hearts on his face by Allison Gipson

4. After you are done shooting, conduct a little interview

While aiming to tell a story with your photos, it is also great to add a background story to the images taken. It can be as simple as “What are you doing?” or “Why are you doing that?” Maybe you create a list of questions that you visit every few weeks and to compare answers. Conducting mini interviews after shooting can be a great tool when blogging or journaling. It gives your subject a voice and is a wonderful and perfect way to remember some of the cute or funny things that were said.

water being thrown on boy in the street by Allison Gipson

5. Practice and make shooting a natural part of your everyday

The more and more you pull out your camera and practice the art of being observant, the more natural it will feel to you. But even more so, the more natural it will feel to your subjects. On a personal note, my boys hardly notice when I pull out my camera now. It has become second nature for all of us.

boy sticking his tongue out by Allison Gipson

child drawing with sidewalk chalk by Allison Gipson

Have fun slowing down, observing and catching all of your real moments – just as they are.

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