When I had my first daughter almost four years ago, I was the typical, exhausted first time mom who wanted to capture every moment.
As a photographer, I felt added pressure to take great photos, photos that weren’t just cute, but told a story and showed emotion – award winning photos!
Putting that kind of pressure on myself, it was no wonder I quickly stopped picking up my camera at home. My house wasn’t always picture ready, my daughter wasn’t always cooperative (especially as she got older) and I certainly wasn’t in any condition to appear in photos on a regular basis.
Nothing was good enough.
Over time, I reevaluated. I gave up control and realized it’s the memories that matter most. I don’t need to shoot every day, all day, like it’s a job. I just need to live in the moment and use my camera to preserve the memories that mean the most.
Here are some tips that helped me to relax and find the beauty in my home life:
1. Capture everyday moments – not just special occasions
We tend to remember to take photos on the big occasions – birthdays, holidays, vacations – and neglect the daily moments, the small chores that take up most of our time with our children.
Start taking your camera out to document the little daily tasks that don’t seem so important now. Photograph bath time and mealtime, drawing pictures, playing with dolls, snuggling in bed – moments in your day that might seem mundane now, but that you will want to remember as your kids grow and change.
2. Keep your camera out at home
If my camera is tucked away in its bag in the back of a closet, I’m not getting it out. Whatever moment I want to capture will likely have passed by the time I dig it out, and all that effort will have been wasted. So I leave my camera out wherever is most convenient, toting it from room to room throughout the day. It is often as convenient to access as my phone camera.
I know that a camera is a big investment and it might feel like it’s safest to keep it in its padded case, but the real investment is in the moments it captures. So leave it out.
3. Know your camera and shoot in manual
I know you have heard this advice before. Maybe you thought you could get away without learning to shoot in manual? But I promise you that the number one thing that will improve the images that you are able to capture is selecting all of your camera’s settings: aperture, shutter speed, ISO.
Set your camera to manual and if you are shooting every day in your home, before long, it will be second nature. Without even thinking about it, you’ll be turning the dials, snapping them to the correct settings. There are lots of articles that get into the nitty gritty of why manual is superior. I encourage you to give it a try so your images match the beauty that you see in your home.
4. Change your perspective
When you’re shooting in your home on a regular basis, you come to know every room inside and out. When I’m photographing my little ones, I try to choose the angle that best captures the story that’s unfolding.
That could mean standing above and shooting down or getting down on my kids’ level. It could mean including the entire room in the shot, or focusing just on my baby’s hands. Think about the most important elements in the moment that you’re trying to capture and shoot to highlight those aspects.
5. Add depth to your images
I love to add interest to an image by shooting through objects and using the foreground to frame my subject.
I’ll stand back outside of the doorway to capture my daughter quietly playing without disturbing her or I’ll capture activity happening in the foreground and background simultaneously. Shooting through stair rails, plants and windows are all great options. Get creative and play with all the space that your home has to offer to help keep your images fresh and unique.
6. Use whatever light you have to capture the moment
I wish that every room in my home was perfectly lit with beautiful natural light all day, every day. Of course that is unrealistic.
We all have to work within the parameters of the light that our house has to offer, and sometimes that light is not ideal. So instead of fighting it, learn how to use what you have.
If I have the time and ability to improve the lighting before snapping a photo, I will. I’ll open a shade or turn off a light. But if that isn’t possible or if I only have a short window of time to capture the moment, I don’t worry about it. I snap the photo anyway. Some of my favorite moments of my family were captured in less than ideal lighting conditions. They are meaningful to me and that is what matters most.
7. Embrace the chaos
I wish my home were cleaner. With two young kids and two dogs, that is true 100% of the time. But if I only took photos in my home when it was spotless, I wouldn’t take any.
So, I’ve learned how to minimize the chaos or to use it it to better tell the story. If I’m trying to document a moment and the mess is a distraction, I will take a tighter shot, or change my angle to eliminate anything that distracts. But sometimes, the disorder is part of the story! In those instances, don’t be afraid to put the chaos on display in your images.
8. Get in the photos
In my house, I am the parent who takes the photos. Since I want to be in front of the camera with my kids and not just behind it, I make the extra effort to put myself in the frame.
There are high tech options to make this easier. Many cameras have WiFi capabilities that allow you to use your smart phone as a remote. If your camera does not have WiFi, there are relatively inexpensive devices that you can purchase to make your camera’s shutter operate by wireless remote. I simply use my camera’s timer. It makes the photos that you’re capturing a little less predictable, but there is fun in that.
Hiring a professional photographer to document a bit of your daily life is the best option for getting in the frame. Plan a session to feature a fun family activity that you’d love to remember forever. It could be as simple as making breakfast together on a weekend morning, your weekly family game night or even capturing your nightly bedtime routine.
9. Real moments are more important than technical perfection
Even when you are experienced at working with your camera, sometimes you don’t get it quite right. Your framing might be off or you might miss the focus. Remember that a great image is more about the moment than the technical details.
10. Share and print your photos
Find a community where you can share your photos. Post your images in the Clickin Moms forum for feedback, on Facebook, on a personal blog, or send them to family. Sharing the excitement of a photograph you love is a great way to stay motivated to keep taking them.
Print your photos! Even with all of the backup options available now, digital files are impermanent. Having prints to hold in your hand, to pass down to your children, that is what photography is all about. So make prints for yourself and family, make annual photo albums, and find ways to frame and display your favorites in your home.
It’s easy to see all of the beautiful photos online and feel discouraged. But remember that an image doesn’t have to be perfect to perfectly capture a moment. Your house and family are worth capturing, just as they are.