capturing details

  • the importance of light when photographing details

capturing details

I am a detail oriented person by nature, and motherhood has done little to change that. I have a habit of studying my children in snippets—as in, I’ll take an extra moment to notice how my 3-year-old’s eyebrow arches just like mine, instead of noticing the entire expression on his face at once. Part of me feels like if I focus on one thing intently for a few extra seconds, without distraction, I’ll always be able to remember it exactly that way.

photographing the details of life by Parikha Mehta

Capturing your kids in full portraits is absolutely important. But their faces don’t always tell the story that you’re seeing. You may not be focused on their spaced-out expression while watching a cartoon, but rather, the way the light catches their hair to reveal it to be the exact color of their dad’s.  Or, as you tidy up after them, you notice the way they arrange their dolls just so, every time.

Taking time to capture those details in your images is a way to remind yourself of how YOU saw your children at that moment in time. It’s how you immortalize the little things you know may change tomorrow, and want to be able to freeze forever.

Here are a few tips for distilling those details down into images you will cherish:

•    Leave your child out of the frame. Do they have a favorite lovey? A habit of precisely lining up their little cars on the windowsill? Then find a way to shoot that, on its own. This is the easiest kind of detail to capture, because your subject stays where you put it. Don’t feel guilty about not being able to capture a scene at the exact moment it happens (as in the case of a doll arrangement, for example), and having to reconstruct it for the photo later. The image will still be meaningful, even if it is a “do-over”.

photographing the details of your childrens toys

•    Don’t fear the head chop.  Sometimes a child’s body language is all you need to capture in order to convey what’s going on, and excluding their faces helps keep the focus on that.

taking a portrait without a face

•    Composition is still important. Although lifestyle detail shots usually feel more spontaneous than fully staged ones, it’s still important to clear (or crop) clutter and frame your subject thoughtfully.

composition in detail photography

•    Light is also still important. Take the image of my son’s “fauxhawked” hair, for instance. I tried shooting from a few different angles, most of which resulted in flat lighting and obscured the silkiness and fineness of his little strands, the exact features I was trying to capture. I still had to find the light, even for a tiny subject.

the importance of light when photographing details

So the next time you walk by your child’s room after he’s left for school and you notice that, yet again, the bed is disheveled and there are books strewn everywhere, go grab your camera before you head in to clean up—years from now, the bed will be much bigger and the books may be gone, and you’ll be glad you can look back on it exactly as you saw it today.

About the Author:

Parikha Mehta is a part-time photographer and a full-time engineer working in intellectual property. Her lifestyle approach includes using mostly natural light and striving for a photojournalistic, fly-on-the-wall view of things. Her favorite subjects are her two sweet boys, who grow far too quickly. She's a vegetarian with lofty aspirations to go vegan, and loves cooking nearly as much as eating, especially when it involves dessert or sriracha. Visit Parikha Mehta online.
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33 Comments

  1. Michelle Jan 09 2013 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Great suggestions! Thanks Parikha!

  2. Heidi G Jan 09 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Love these ideas!

  3. Melinda T Jan 09 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Great post and tips! TFS!

  4. Ariana Falerni Jan 09 2013 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the reminder to capture those precious details! These images are so sweet and the processing just lovely!

  5. Lexe Jan 09 2013 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Love these ideas and the images that go with them 🙂

  6. Jess Cadena Jan 09 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    What a great blog post! Details are easy to look over but ones that I treasure the most <3

  7. celeste pavlik Jan 09 2013 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Oh my Parikha, this was so inspiring to read and your photos are lovely! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!! <3

  8. Kristen Russo Jan 09 2013 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Great post, great reminders for us!

  9. celestejones Jan 09 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    love this. omg..that last paragraph got me. i love that.

  10. Adele Humphries Jan 09 2013 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Beautiful work and gorgeous details Parikha! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Kelly R Jan 09 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Awesome read! Thanks for this Parikha!

  12. jennifer Jan 09 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Parikha wonderful article, I especially love that last paragraph – so true. Gorgeous images too! <3

  13. Melissa Stottmann Jan 09 2013 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Great post Parikha <3 Really love taking a shot of the toys WITHOUT the kids…

  14. niki Jan 09 2013 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    LOVE this. I pay particular attention to detail too but don’t always shoot and capture that detail. Thank you… I will now:)

  15. Jen Jentz Jan 09 2013 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I loved reading this, Parikha! <3 That last paragraph got to me too – as photographer's we always want to clear the frame but sometimes we need to remember things just as they are. What a beautiful sentiment!! <3

  16. KatrinaB Jan 09 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Love this article, Parikha! I’m a detail-oriented person as well, and really appreciate your practical advice and examples. Beautiful images too, as always!

  17. Melissa Jan 09 2013 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Great post, Parikha!! A lot of good thoughts for me to keep in mind. 🙂

  18. Jodi Arego Jan 09 2013 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Perfect reminder, Parikha, that those little details are what make up our days and definitely are worth documenting beautifully! Thanks for sharing these tips here!

  19. Kim Jan 09 2013 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    OMGosh! The last picture is PERFECT! Great blog post, it’s a reminder to slow down and capture the moments!

  20. Cassidy Jan 09 2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Love this, thanks for the suggestions and the beautiful photos!

  21. christina Jan 09 2013 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Parikha! This was wonderful, thank you for such great (and beautiful) reminders 🙂

  22. Erica F. Jan 09 2013 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Oh, Loved this! Beautiful images too!

  23. Allison Jacobs Jan 09 2013 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Love this! Love all those little moments & the reminder to capture them ALL!

  24. Sabrina Jan 09 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    So true! I needed this reminder today to go look for what my son has been in to 🙂

  25. Julie Anders Jan 10 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Great article Parikha…love the baby feet shot! And and great reminder to remember those special everyday details.

  26. Carol Shrader Jan 11 2013 at 12:38 am - Reply

    Wonderful suggestions! I can not wait to try some of these!!

  27. Mikki Jan 12 2013 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Lovely post Parikha! A great reminder on many fronts.

  28. Andrea Jan 13 2013 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post, truly inspiring and lovely images!

  29. kelly garvey Jan 14 2013 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Omg I love this! I feel inspired 🙂

  30. Mara Vaughan Jan 14 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Lovely article and images! I really love your post-processing!

  31. Jennifer Tait Jan 25 2013 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Great article. I so needed this. Thank you.

  32. Michelle Baker Feb 04 2013 at 10:58 am - Reply

    So true Parikha. Thanks for reminding us to take time to look at all the details!

  33. Jeanie Shea Feb 04 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    A new perspective is very refreshing. Thank you.

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