As a mom, it seems as though I’m always wanting things ‘just so’.

Clean faces, clean rooms, children who are following the rules and not climbing the walls.

However, I’ve found out that breaking the rules will result in fun, happy, and joyful moments for my children as well as for myself. It’s when I’m letting go, being patient and allowing my kids to be themselves that the great images unfold.

Let light be part of your happiness.

With photography, light is a make-it-or-break-it factor in images. It certainly sets the mood for your work and helps to convey a message that could otherwise be lost. That being said, light is the first aspect I search for when documenting our daily life. Once I find that light, I then decide the mood I want to show. Since I’m not a moody person (my husband may disagree with this, but we won’t ask him), I always choose the joyful and fun mood. Depending on what is placed in that new-found light, I can go from silly and whimsical to lonely and quiet. Again, however, I’m one to choose the former.

My Little Ponies sitting on the bathroom sink by Melissa Gibson

Photographing the sink alone would give a completely different feel to this image. Since these ponies are found all over our bathrooms and tubs, adding them to the light makes for a much more fun shot of our daily life.

girl singing in the light by the wall by Melissa Gibson

This image happened when I spotted the light first, then brought my already singing 6 year old over to stand there instead. The light alone is dramatic; however, her placement in the frame, the pink shirt and her expressiveness turn this dramatic light into a fun moment.

smiley face stress ball picture by Melissa Gibson

In this case, again, I noticed the light first. Adding the smiley face ball to the frame makes this shot scream ‘fun’.

Wait for natural moments. Don’t direct.

I can’t stress this one enough. Who likes being bossed around? Now THAT is not fun. Over the years, I have found that saying out loud to my kids, ‘I want you to look happy!’ will completely backfire on me. I already tell them to do so much during the day, ‘brush your teeth, please’, ‘don’t forget the trash’ and ‘remember to feed the dog and do your homework’. I promise you that they DO NOT want me to tell them to ‘be happy’ or tell them how to act for a click of my shutter.

Instead, I let them be. When I see a moment or find that light, the only directing I do is simply calling them over and telling them ‘you can do whatever’. If they want to make a funny face? Go for it. Don’t want to smile? That’s fine! They will usually crack up after 2 minutes anyway so all I have to do is wait for it. As photographers, it seems like we are always looking for the next great shot. We often rush things, thinking that if we just hurry up the good light will be there and the moment will still be happening. I’ve found that just the opposite it true. Stop rushing. Slow down. Waiting 2 minutes may seem like forever, but I pinky promise you that the light WILL still be there and the moment will be even better. The key here is to be patient. Always be patient and let the moment reveal itself to you. That’s when the fun and magic happens.

girls eating ice cream on a bench by Melissa Gibson

Here I noticed the even lighting, balanced frame potential and 2 out of 3 girls already seated on the bench. I called the third child over to sit. I gave NO direction. I simply gave them a minute or two to settle in and then took only one shot. I waited. By not telling them what to do and by waiting for the natural moment to come rather than rushing the fun, I ended up with an image that shows their individual personalities just perfectly. This is one of my most favorite images and I didn’t have to do anything but call a child over and wait.

girl and dog staring at each other by Melissa Gibson

girl hiding in her sisters bedroom by Melissa Gibson

sister spraying sister with a water hose by Melissa Gibson

Let them be kids.

One rule in life seems to be that little kids and elderly people can get away with anything. It’s cute and funny when they’re kids and it’s okay. Also, who’s going to tell a sweet little old lady NOT to do something? This is a rule of life that you can run with. For example, my youngest loves to sit on the counter and it’s okay. Now, if my husband were to try it? Eh… that’s different, but a little one? Go for it! Try loosening up a bit. Let them smear paint on their faces, jump on the bed and eat straight out of the Goldfish box. What’s it going to hurt? They’re kids.

girl blowing bubbles with a hard hat on by Melissa Gibson

girl eating a box of goldfish in the car by Melissa Gibson

girl sitting on the counter playing on iPhone by Melissa Gibson

girls foot propped on the car window by Melissa Gibson

Still life can be happy life, too.

Why do you have those sweet little flowers on your windowsill? Because they make you happy, right? Look around for what makes you happy and shoot that. The fun will appear to you once you start shooting. When photographing non-living subjects I always look for color and light in order to create a fun and playful feeling in the image. Many times I photograph an object alone, but other times I ask my child to show me what she’s holding or working on. Either way, however, I look for color. Color is absolutely always an important element of fun.

Charlie Brown toy by Melissa Gibson

close up photo of Lego toy by Melissa Gibson

girl holding Valentine card by Melissa Gibson

Mr Incredible toy by Melissa Gibson

Ready to review? First off, look for the light and wait for natural moments and epxressions to come along. Let the kids be themselves and NO BOSSING from the photographer. Lastly, color is always an important part of fun images. As a photographer and mom, it seems that I’m often in a rush to get the shot and be a mom at the same time. However, slowing down and letting loose has really paid off over here. I encourage you to do the same in your home. You will be surprised at how much more relaxed you are while ending up with fun and happy images of your little ones.