taking genuine photos of your kids

a few years ago I shared 5 Tips for Photographing Your Kids which had a great response but was aimed at a more posed, directed image. now in the days where everyone has a camera in their pocket, I wanted to offer more documentary-type photo tips each accompanied by iPhone images so you can't use the excuse "I don't have a fancy camera." honestly the best advice I can give is get out of your head - stop photographing in the way you think you should or the way someone else does. these images are for you and your family. xo

  documenting the little years

1. ask yourself "what story do i want to tell?" are you simply capturing the humorous moment or attempting to preserve those tiny precious toes for years to come? how can you utilize the light to translate the quiet stillness of a winter breakfast or capture movement to convey just how wild and crazy this life stage can feel. the story dictates how you tell it.

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

2. let go of "cheese." we all know childhood isn't all rainbows and unicorns. don't neglect the other 985 expressions your kiddo can make. be sure to document each sassy, frustrated, mom-i'm-so-over-this look they have.

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

3. use the environment to add detail to your story. back up and have fun with the composition.

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

4. find good light. this will make or break your image so when possible, guide your subject to a well-lit area and use natural light only. don't be afraid of high contrast as that often adds to the dreaminess and nostalgia of an image. 

 documenting the little years

let them be kids. instead of giving them a mark and asking them to stay still, remember that their default setting is "wiggle." instead, ask them to jump, run, make the best silly face they can, show you how that skirt twirls when they spin... anything to build confidence in that moment and let their personality shine.

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

5. take a break from directing and be an observer. creep around the hall, peek around the door. try to capture life as it's happening like a fly on the wall, not interrupting their play time. you'll want to remember life exactly as it is -- that includes the mess. 

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

6. if you find it hard to stay motivated or get creative, try a series. is there an activity that your kiddo is currently obsessed with? ruth and I bake at least 2 times a week and it's something that I want us both to remember. her tiny hands rolling dough, sneaking tastes --  "one finger lick, mama?" -- and using every muscle to whisk the batter. play around with different angles but also try to photograph for continuity in a way that's engaging and interesting to view as a group. during every baking session I pop onto the step stool right behind her and snap an image from above. you can see the whole collection #ruthiebakes

  documenting the little years

get on their level. this can be the best way to document their size in relation to their surroundings. a peek into their life and imagination where many objects are the same size or even bigger. bonus : squatting is great for your thighs. 

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

7. don't forget the details. the way the day's first light hits every crazy inch of their bed-head at the breakfast table. their tiny toes dangling above the floor in their highchair. little bitty fingers stretching as high as they can to reach the light switch, your once clean child just after consuming an entire chocolate ice cream cone.

  documenting the little years

8. shoot consistently. this is the surest way to taking better photos (your mama was right, practice does make perfect. or at least perfectly wonderful images). one year i set an alarm on my phone to snap a photo at 2:14pm every day. it was a lovely practice that encouraged me to slow down, notice the beauty in the mundane and be creative for a few minutes and by the end of the year i had a collection of lovely memories. simply google "photo challenge" for an endless list of prompts and ideas.

  documenting the little years

9. photograph when you feeldon't think, just shoot. after all these images are ultimately for you and your family so if something moves you, document it. when your kiddo is particularly tender, touching, funny, or in the midst of one of their most impressive tantrums to date, click away. 

  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years
  documenting the little years

10. and for goodness sake, back up your images. When I hear parents talk about all the images on their iPhones I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that they're going to live there only until said kid drops it in the toilet. Cloud-schmoud. Make sure your images are safe and sound in at least two places (external hard drive, dropbox, icloud), and for the sake of your great grandchildren, MAKE SOME PRINTS. 

all images taken with iPhone in vscocam and edited with vsco or snapseed