As photographers we’re typically seeking those big beautiful moments. Fields full of flowers and sandy beaches are wonderful, but our everyday moments can be just as beautiful! You just have to push yourself to see them. I know, everyday moments, that sounds so boring and uninspiring BUT keep reading. Trust me, you’re going to want these memories one day. Do we want those picturesque images of our children running on the beach? Of course we do! But we also want to capture those little moments in our everyday. Those little details that make your child unique and who they are… those are the moments you’re going to want to hold onto forever.
I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips for documenting authentic everyday moments.
First, let’s talk about clothes, the dreaded clothes of kids. Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, kids love to have independence. One way they express their independence is through their clothes. My 20 month old loves to pick out her clothes. Now, do they always match? Nope. Do I try to give her choices of things that I like? Yes! But she doesn’t always go for that. If I try to pick something she doesn’t like, more times than not, I find her running around in her diaper and she’s ditched the outfit. So, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to fight the outfit choices. Let them be independent and let them express themselves through their clothing! Just let them be, “them.”
Whether you realize it or not, when you look back on these photos, you’ll have a glimpse of their personality in that moment. For example, my 5 year old son recently went through a Spider-Man phase. He had a red Spider-Man hat and every morning, he’d wake up, put on his Spider-Man hat, and come downstairs ready for the day. I have several pictures of him during this phase with his hat on. There were times I wanted him to take the hat off because it would “look better” for my picture. But instead, I let him wear it.
Fast forward to now, just a couple months later, and he doesn’t wear it as much anymore. This afternoon, I found it laying on my living room floor while I was cleaning up and I immediately thought back to a couple weeks ago when he would not have been caught without it. It brought up so many emotions about how fast he’s growing. So, let them wear the bright neon green shirts or the rain boots with their dresses. Because it’s just a phase and one day that phase will be just a memory (and you’ll be thankful you captured it).
This is an area that I always struggle with… our environment, specifically at home. I’d love to say that my house is always nice and tidy but I’d be lying. I’m lucky if one room in our house is clean during this phase of motherhood. Do I sometimes push the mess to the side to tidy up the frame? Well of course I do! And there’s no shame in that! If you scroll my Instagram feed lately, you’ll see a combination of shots where I’ve shoved the mess out of the frame and others that included the mess. But I’d like to point out (and make a mental note for yourself too) they both tell a story.
We all love the clean tidy captures because they look aesthetically pleasing to our eyes. However, whether you realize it or not, that huge “mess” in your child’s room represents them in this distinct moment. Their favorite toy, the books they read, and the things they are interested in. Your messy table full of snacks and crafts tells a story about a morning well spent. When documenting authentic everyday moments, don’t be afraid to show your mess! It’s a beautiful story just waiting to be told. Embrace it and capture it, because one day you’ll want to look back on how their bed was always full of toys when they slept. That picture will instantly take you back to that moment.
You’re also not just limited to documenting those moments at home. I document anywhere I go, including the park, the pool, hiking, the botanical gardens and more. Anywhere you can go, your camera can go too (well most places anyways).
The easiest way I’ve found to be able to quickly document our everyday moments is by having my camera in an easily accessible area. We spend a lot of time either in our kitchen or living room at home. I try to keep my camera in one of those two locations, which allows me to quickly grab it the moment I see something I want to capture. Ask yourself, “where do you spent the most time”? Keep your camera in that room because that’s the room you’re probably going to catch some adorable memories. Also, take it with you! I used to never take my camera with me outside of the house because I was worried I’d break it. Now it comes everywhere.
My favorite memories to capture happen at the park, on hikes, and even in the car. I have a backpack that I carry my camera in that also doubles as a diaper bag for our outings. Find a bag you’re comfortable carrying on your outdoor outings to allow you to be able to capture those moments outside the home too.
Now that you have your camera in a prime location for action, it’s all about just waiting for those moments to arise. The beauty about documentary photography is that you don’t have to plan it. You just wait for that special moment. These moments are going to look different for everyone because they are moments that are personal to you. I’d recommend starting a list of moments you want to capture. You can keep a hand written list, a list on your phone or even on your computer.
I keep my running list on my iPhone. Some of those fleeting moments that I’d love to document are my son playing with slime (it’s been his new favorite quiet time activity), my oldest daughter taking care of her babies (she’s been obsessed with them since her littler brother was born), my youngest daughter dancing (she loves to dance while I’m cooking dinner), and my baby boy smiling (he just started last week and I have yet to capture it on my camera). These moments can be big moments, such as birthdays or holidays. They can also be little details like their little feet. These are the things that you want to remember forever. Remember, the goal of this is to document the moments that matter most to you, regardless of everything else. These are your memories and what you’ll one day look back on to reminisce.
An easy way to spruce up a mundane moment is by trying a different perspective or composition. If you’re feeling rather uninspired by documenting an activity (the 100th time they’ve climbed up your swing set), try a fun perspective you normally wouldn’t. Get up above them or get below them and see how it changes the image. Also, try playing with composition as well. It can make something they do everyday a little more fun and interesting. For example, my son loves climbing. I always try to change up both my composition and perspective on his images, this way it’s not just another image shot straight on of him climbing something.
I hope these tips for documenting authentic everyday moments are helpful for you and that you can take something away from this and apply it to your work. I encourage you, actually, I challenge you to let go of the idea of “perfection” and document authentic moments. Your story is beautiful and it is worthy of being told.
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