After starting and failing at a daily photo project for two years in a row, something finally clicked for me on the third try. Almost five years later (and still going) I can tell you — without question — what made the difference: I stopped waiting for things to be perfect. I realized that if I didn’t pick up my camera until my kids did something charming or adorable, I might never pick it up at all.

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During this last one thousand six hundred and fifty days of documenting my daily life I’ve photographed my boys as they engaged in a wide variety of activities. I have pictures of them playing, dancing, reading, swimming, biking, bathing, sleeping, playing piano/guitar/recorder, eating, running, building, crying, laughing, being generally silly and all too often for my taste: using screens. I’m not proud of it — my kids love their tablets, computers, video games etc. In a perfect world, I think I might unplug us all. But we don’t live in a perfect world. My world is messy, chaotic, disorganized and beautiful, and I document it all.

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Screens. Yep. Love them or hate them, for many of us they’ve infiltrated our daily lives. So if you’re documenting your days with pictures and your kids use screens, don’t leave out this piece of their story just because it might not be as pretty as when they’re playing with those lovely wooden blocks. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help turn these less charming moments into images worth saving.

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Engagement.

An engaged subject is a compelling subject. Whether directly with the camera or with a friend or, yes, even a video game, if your subject is truly interested in what they’re doing, your photos will be that much more interesting. I’m not talking about the glazed-over passive stare — wait for a moment when your child is really excited about what’s happening.

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Light.

Even the light emitted from the screen can be beautiful. White balance can be a little tricky when your only light source is a screen, so whenever possible, set a custom white balance or place something neutral in the scene to measure off.

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Setting.

My littlest loves to build and hide in forts. He does everything from read and picnic to nap and play video games in them. Peek in and snap a shot.

Togetherness.

My boys are over nine years apart in age. At their current ages (eight and seventeen) they don’t have too much crossover in their interests. Enter: Minecraft. (I have more of these photos than I care to admit.)

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The bottom line for me is that if I’m truly documenting and not just looking to make pretty pictures, there will be moments that are pretty mundane — but that doesn’t mean the photos have to be.

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