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When it comes to creating family photo albums, there can be a tendency to create a book filled with your family’s “greatest hits”, the best moments of the year, if you will. Of course, those special moments like birthdays, vacations, and that one perfect Christmas card photo are important to include, but for most of us, they really don’t do a good job of capturing the little moments that make up the majority of our lives.
The other day, I was looking through a photo album with my four-year-old daughter Lizzy. As usual she skipped right past all the formal photos of her and her sister, and went right to a candid snapshot of her crying on the floor when she was about two. She’s heard the story of why I took that photo a number of times, but she always asks to hear it again, and so I told her;
“You were crying because I made us blackberry cobbler with whipped cream for breakfast one morning, can you believe that? I thought it would be a special treat, but you just wanted cereal like you had every day, and you were so mad at me that I’d made you something else!”
We both sat on the couch long after that laughing, talking, and telling stories about what Lizzy was like when she was two. To her, those are the important pictures – not the sunset sessions, not the formal portraits of her and her sister, not the perfectly composed family photos (which carefully observe the rule of thirds). To her, the little day-to-day moments really are the big things in life. They are the things that she remembers, and the more I think about it, the more I have realized that they really do belong in our family photo albums, perhaps more than anything else.
So, without further ado, here are my top three tips to help you capture the moments of beauty in the everyday:
Look through the camera with the goal of capturing what’s happening in your life right at this moment. Maybe it’s the way your girls are sitting together, heads touching, reading a book. Maybe it’s the collection of coffee mugs on your table that speak to late nights at work. Maybe it’s the dirty feet of your kiddos hanging off the swings that speak to summers spent playing in the backyard.
Maybe it’s the collection of bottles drying on the counter that you really wish would hurry up and dry so that you could put them away and not look at them again until tomorrow. I’ve been there. Trust me when I tell you to take a picture of them before you put them away today. Because in a few years, when your kids are older and bottles are the last thing on your mind, you’ll look back on that photo and instantly be transported back to what life was really like with a young baby, counter full of bottles and all.
It can be easy to overlook people, places, and things that you see every day, but there’s still beauty there if you take some time to look for it. Last fall, I was commissioned by a client to take some photos of the town that we live in. At first, I had a very difficult time thinking of any place that I’d want to photograph, because everything just felt ordinary to me. I wanted to do something unique and special, and had a difficult time thinking of how to make that happen. It took a few weeks of walking around town while holding my camera, shooting nothing, and sighing heavily before I started to be able to look at things with fresh eyes. I began to see color texture, and character, even in the old wooden house that I drive by all the time. It may be a normal and everyday thing for me, but that doesn’t mean there’s no beauty in it.
Is your dinner preparation particularly colorful? That can be beautiful. Are your kids holding hands on the couch one morning? That can be beautiful too. Is that homemade vanilla ice cream slowly dripping down a waffle cone? There’s beauty there. Those weeds outside that really need to be mowed, but in the meantime have grown into tall, prickly, textured creatures? I think they can be pretty beautiful as well.
One of the best ways to make sure that your family photos truly capture your family’s personality is to make sure that you include many candid photos. But of course, capturing true candid shots can be easier said than done, especially with children around! My best tip is to spend a lot of time sitting, watching, and holding your camera. It may not happen the first time you bring out your camera (or even the second!), but as your family realizes that you’re not going to be saying “Look right here and say cheese!” over and over, they’ll start to relax and do their own thing, and that’s when the real magic happens. Quietly pick up your camera and start shooting. You’ll start to see their real smiles and expressions, and when it comes to photos of your family and friends, those genuine smiles are always the best ones!
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