My children are 16, almost 13, and 7.

It wasn’t until about 4 ½ years ago that I became a passionate photographer. I had a camera that I didn’t know how to use. I wanted to take better pictures like the ones I saw online when I scoured photography blogs.

My kids were 11, 8, and 2 at the time. I had guilt because I would take so many more of my daughter, then 2, than I would of my two boys. I needed to figure out how I could take pictures of my older kids that would accurately tell who they were at these particular stages in life.

Naturally, we put the camera down as the kids get older. When they are little, we focus on those firsts, the rapid changes they go through, and capturing the cuteness that everybody wants to see. As they get older, they get more awkward, spend more time in their rooms, and don’t love the camera in their face.

I was determined to continue to capture my boys as they got older, and I still do. I think it is so important to capture it all. But how? How can you make an interesting photo with teenagers, especially boys?

1. Explore places and things they enjoy

One thing I’ve learned with teenagers is that you do have to pry them out of the house sometimes, but once you’re out, they are agreeable to go places, especially if it involves beaches, water, climbing, hiking, eating, exploring, traveling, etc. I love to capture my older kids doing things they love. I absolutely love shooting with a wide angle lens for these types of shots to capture the entire scene.

photo of two boys on a rock looking at water by Amy Nowak

picture of boy taking a photo on an iPhone by Amy Nowak

2. Don’t push them to look

I never tell them to look at me. They know the camera is there. They know I’ll be taking their pictures, but they also know that if they allow me to do it, I will share some pretty cool shots with them once I have them uploaded and edited. I’ve had them come into my office and ask to see the pictures I have taken of them.

pic of family at the Apple store by Amy Nowak

3. Take adventures in new places

My kids love to see cool and unique places, so when we can, we try to explore and take adventures as much as possible. One of the coolest things we’ve done was this summer in Michigan. We hiked up a huge sand dune, and on the other side was a beautiful lake nestled in the middle of all of the dunes. They ran directly into the water from the dunes. They described it as “EPIC” and actually asked me to take their pictures running down the dunes.

photo of kids running down a sand hill by Amy Nowak

picture of kids running up a sand hill by Amy Nowak

4. Capture their quiet moments

Don’t put your camera away when your older kids are doing quiet activities. You may not think it is exciting and you may not think others will either, but remember, you are documenting their lives for you and for them. Often times, it is these photos that you come back to in a few years. Even if it is just a shot of one of my boys on his bed listening to music or quietly sitting at his desk doing homework. If you don’t take the shots, you will never remember them at this stage.

black and white picture of boy sitting in a desk chair by Amy Nowak

5. Use the light

I always look for light to make my photo extra ordinary. When your subject is in beautiful light, no matter how old they are, the picture becomes something more than just a picture – it becomes a beautiful photograph.

pic of teen with a remote control airplane by Amy Nowak

6. Capture the connections

Having a connection is huge. When I am photographing my boys together, I am usually photographing them interacting or doing something together. Most of the time, you really have to just wait for the shot. They may be talking to one another and I can capture facial expressions. Or my older son may be making my younger son laugh. I also like to photograph my older kids interacting with younger kids. I absolutely love capturing my boys with their little sister and younger cousins. These are the photographs that tell such a story.

Related: Meeting them on their terms: photographing older kids

photo of teen boy pulling young boy in the water by Amy Nowak

7. Your perspective matters

Lastly, try shooting different angles, silhouettes, and a personal favorite of mine – reflections. Changing up how you shoot can make for an interesting picture. If your teens do not want to be photographed, you can tell so much by capturing the details and not even include their faces.

reflection of boy in a water by Amy Nowak

photo of boys with a Christmas tree by Amy Nowak

The older they get, I feel it is so important to capture them. I like to think of it as documenting them becoming men.

I will admit that it is harder to capture them at this age. Of course, it is easier to photograph babies and young kids in their cuteness but, when I struggle to make a good photograph with one of them, or I am feeling like they are boring shots of typical teenagers, that is often when I get a shot that when I look back on it, I am so happy I have it. Remember, you don’t get do-overs; these times are fleeting!