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From breakfast to bedtime, raising kids is chaos. But there are hundreds of beautiful moments along the way if you train your heart and eyes to see them. Right in the heart of the chaos, you can beautifully capture mundane everyday moments of family life in photographs.
In order to capture your everyday family life in photos, there are four areas you will want to cover:
“Photographers, like few other kinds of artists I can imagine, have an insanely personal relationship with their gear.” – David DuChemin
I will begin with gear because you will dramatically increase your chances of great photos throughout the day when you are well prepared.
I’m a fan of using minimal gear for anything that I’m photographing, including my own family life. You might find that constantly worrying about upgrading your camera or using too many different lenses will actually distract you from the little moments that are happening all around you.
Settle on a camera and then forget about all the new options that come along. Pretty soon you’ll discover which lens is your favorite. Use that lens often, but try a different one every now and then to expand your creative abilities.
“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” – Chase Jarvis
Many families invest in a DSLR camera such as the Canon Rebel, but then it’s too difficult for them to use. So they often find themselves using their phone instead.
Don’t feel bad about using your smartphone to take pictures. Though the technology may differ, any camera is better than no camera. The principles of creative photography are the same no matter what camera you’re using.
Because it’s so easy to carry, your phone is normally the camera that you are ready to take a picture with any given moment.
Whatever camera you’re using, make sure that it’s normally within arms reach. When you see a great moment happening you can reach for your camera and turn it on as you’re lifting it to your eye. I also leave my lens cap off at all times. I’ve never damaged a lens and don’t want to fumble over lens caps while a great moment passes me by.
How many times have you seen a family member miss a great photo because their camera battery died? I see this happen during every single special occasion just as the best moments are happening!
You should always have a spare battery and have it charged and ready. I don’t wait for my first battery to be drained before I charge it. As soon as it begins to drain I switch them.
How many times have you quickly picked up your camera to take a few pictures only to discover that the settings were totally wrong? Perhaps you used your camera in manual mode outdoors in the bright light and then forgot to set it before capturing a quick moment indoors.
The indoor photo will be underexposed or completely dark. To avoid this I always leave my camera set on aperture priority. I do this because I don’t want to forget to adjust the settings if it was left in manual mode.
I recommend that everyone own a 50mm lens. They are wonderful for achieving bokeh and perform well in low light.
But no matter what lens you are using, make sure to keep it clean! The easiest way to improve photo quality is to keep the lens clean from fingerprints and dust.
With minimal gear, charged batteries and a clean lens the question then becomes, “What should I photograph?” The answer is literally, anything.
Capture the obvious moments that are important to you. Maybe first steps, first foods, siblings playing, day trips to the beach. But begin to consider the less obvious moments as well.
“I look around the edges for those little askew moments — kind of like what makes up our lives – those slightly awkward, lovely moments.” – Keith Carter
“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.” – Shauna Niquist
Especially when photographing outdoor adventures, consider taking enough photos to tell a story.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
“The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.” – Michael Pollan
“The real tools of our craft are not the camera and lens: they are mood and composition and the visual language of the photograph. Spend more time learning those and no matter what camera you use, you’ll make compelling photographs.” – David DuChemin
In order to capture all these moments, you need to master some essential skills. We’ll discuss creativity, basic camera settings, patience, and editing.
Choosing different camera angles will instantly make your photos more exciting and add variety to the hundreds of moments you’ll be capturing.
Try angles such as bird’s eye view, face to face and low angle.
Backgrounds are good for two things; telling a story or getting in the way.
If the background does not help add anything to your photo then try to make it disappear. In all the photos in this article, I tried to eliminate the background as much as possible, or use it to create a context in the photo. Look back and decide which one you think I chose.
If your background is beautiful or adds to the story of your photo then be careful to make the background a strong part of your photo. Allow me to illustrate with Lego!
When you are in low light situations and you’re using a new camera you should raise your ISO as high as possible (3200 or 6400). A higher ISO will help your camera to absorb more of the dim light and help your photo to be brighter.
True, a higher ISO may introduce some grain or digital noise into your photo, but isn’t a grainy photo better than a blurry photo or no photo at all?
If you’re in low light and using a lens with a large aperture (f/1.8) and a high ISO (3200 or 6400) then the last thing to consider is your shutter speed. If your shutter speed is too slow your photos might become blurry for two reasons. Perhaps your subject moved. This happens all the time with kids! Or perhaps you moved the camera, even slightly, as you took the photo.
You need to steady yourself as much as possible while you take the photo and wait for the moment (however brief it may be) when your subject is still.
You could also embrace the creative side of a slow shutter speed!
Look for inspiration among street, food and portrait photographers. Anything you can learn from different photographers will help you to photograph your everyday family life better.
I cannot over-stress the absolute importance of patience as you photograph your everyday family life (especially with toddlers). So many possible moments and photos will be ruined if you refuse to be patient.
Perhaps you have a photo in mind but the kids aren’t cooperating. Losing your patience will only lead to anger on your part and frustration from the kids. Your kids will learn that picture time is no fun and cringe every time you bring out your camera.
Finally, you need to prepare your photos for print. Consider adding your favorite photos to a photo book or making larger prints for your home. Do not skip the printing stage, this is what gives your photos a real life of their own rather than just existing on a hard drive.
As you sift through your photos over the years, you may notice that patterns begin to emerge.
Many people start photography projects from scratch, but you can also create photography projects based on photos you have already taken.
I had taken a number of photos of my kids playing near our living room window. When I put them together, I realized I had been working on a series without even realizing it! After that I began to think of that window as a canvas, waiting to see what would happen on it.
Your life and family are unique. Whatever gets you excited to grab your camera, do it. Whatever will keep you up late at night sorting and editing. What will get you printing your images? Those are the things worth photographing.
Whatever chaos your family produces around you is an opportunity to create beauty with your camera.
I would like to know which tip has been most helpful to you and I’d love to see some of your prized family life photos in the comments below.