Monday, September 26, 2016

Capturing and Documenting Your Children // Photography

Its no secret that I love photos.  I love capturing my girls and trying to document them in each of their quickly changing phases.  If you follow us on Instagram, you know that I am quite the mamarazzi.  I love standing back and capturing the girls just being the girls.  I want to remember all of the silly things they did and how sweet they are together.  People ask me almost daily on Instagram for photography advice.  This always surprises me because I am NOT a photographer, but I'll do my best to give you guys some of my tips and tricks!  I'll also put it out there that I use my iPhone more than my camera!  I think that with a little editing, you can make iPhone photos look really great!

I take photos using my iPhone (I have the iPhone 7 and I think the camera is the best iPhone camera yet) or my DSLR camera.  Eric bought me a Nikon D3200 when Sloan was about six months old.  It's a very basic "beginner" DSLR camera in my opinion.  I was so excited to finally have a nice camera, but I had absolutely no idea how to use it.  I shot in auto mode for about eight months and was so disappointed that I wasn't getting good photos.  I honestly assumed by having a nice camera, I would automatically get great photos.  

My friend Sara also had a DSLR and I noticed she took amazing photos.  I asked her if she could teach me how to use my camera in manual mode.  We met at the park and she taught me how to use my camera while we chased our toddlers around (her son is exactly three weeks younger than Sloan). At first my photos were blurry, overexposed, underexposed, you name it-they were pretty bad.  I started taking my camera out with us and practicing all the time.  Over time I started to better understand my camera and my photos kept getting better and better.

Like I said, I am not a trained photographer.  I would actually be really embarrassed if a trained photographer read this because they would probably roll their eyes!  I really am an amateur, but I love practicing.  If you want to learn how to use a DSLR, I suggest signing up for a class or begging a friend to meet you at the park and teach you!  If you don't want to learn how to use a DSLR (they can be complex and pricey-no shame in saying no thanks!), I recommend getting a good quality point and shoot digital camera.  I don't have one myself (although I would love one because they're so convenient!), but I've heard that the Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera is a great option.  From what I've heard, this camera takes awesome photos and you don't need a lot of technical knowledge.  

If you're using your camera for personal use, you really don't need to spend a fortune on a camera.  These are some simple tricks that I use to get better photos and they're so simple-anyone can do them (even with your phone)!

Five Simple Tips/Tricks

1. Look around you, not just at your subject.
A lot of times, I'm quickly trying to snap photos of the girls doing cute things.  I can't always get exactly what I want in the background, but I try to position the girls so that there is a simple background behind them.  I also try to snap a photo when there aren't other people in the background or walking by (I can't stand random strangers in my photos!).  Obviously this isn't always possible, like at Disneyland or somewhere busy.  This goes for "stuff" in the background too.  I try to position myself at an angle where I don't catch any clutter in my shot.  I also love me some rule of thirds (read more about that here-you need to know this!).

Some examples of using the rule of thirds:

Some examples of trying to simplify the background so that my subject stands out:

2.  Camera angle.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when taking photos of their kids is taking the photo at a weird angle.  I see people all the time standing above their kids (because obviously adults are taller) and angling their camera or phone down.  If you're taking a photo looking directly at your child, bend down and take the photo at their level.  

When thinking about your camera angle, think about what you want to be the focus of your shot.  For example, when I took Sloan's first day of preschool photos I wanted to to focus on the chalkboard she was holding.  I was looking directly at her so I bent down to her level and made sure I was directly in front of her and focused on the chalkboard.  

When Phayre was teeny tiny and couldn't even sit up, I would lay her down and take the photo from directly above her.  I also do this if I'm taking a photo of the girls sleeping.

Here are a few examples of when I bent down to be at the girls' level:

Here I wanted to focus on the girls' feet, so I actually laid on the floor so that I was at the same level as their feet:

Photo taken from directly above:

3. Lighting.
I didn't know this before I started really loving photography and practicing, but photography completely revolves around light.  You need a decent amount of natural to get a good photo (this is why your iPhone takes better pictures when you're outside).  If I'm inside, I usually try to photograph the girls near a window.

I have a love/hate relationship with shadows, so I don't usually shoot in direct sunlight.  I usually try to find a shady spot because I don't like shadows on their faces.  BUT every once in awhile, I love the drama a shadow can add.  Play around with that one and see what you like.

4. Make sure your photo is STRAIGHT!
This one is the EASIEST tip that you must follow.  If there are lines in your photo (a curb, a fence, a building, etc).  Make sure you straighten your photo!!  This is super easy to do in the Instagram app.  All you have to do is select the photo, click "next", click "edit", and then "adjust". So easy and your picture will look so much better.



First I straightened the photo so that the lines on the garage door were straight and then I cropped in so that the photo showed a better rule of thirds.

5. Be creative!
It's fun to get ideas and inspiration from other photos, but make sure you put your own spin on the photo.  Figure out how you want your photos to look and practice, practice, practice!  And I promise you, your favorite photos of your kiddos will be the ones where you captured them just being themselves!

Editing Photos

I believe photographers call this post production, but I could also be totally wrong on that one.  We'll just stick with editing photos.  When I take photos with my DSLR, I edit them in iPhoto on my macbook.  This is probably the most basic editing program.  I have dreams of learning how to use photoshop, but haven't found the time yet!

People ask me alllll the time which special editing apps I use on my phone and here's my secret... I don't use any.  I love the editing tools in the Instagram app.  I always go into the editing tools and straighten my photo first in "adjust".  Then I brighten it and usually bump up the contrast a little too.  Sometimes I play with the other editing tools, but those are the three I usually stick with.

Here is an example (of an iPhone pic):



I straightened and cropped the photo and then upped the brightness, the contrast a teeny tiny bit, and the structure (all in the Instagram app).

Sleeping P Pics

Guess what??  Phayre does not sleep in a bright room!!  What do you guys think I am, some kind of monster?  I don't make her sleep in a bright room just so that I can get good photos of her sleeping.  Actually that's totally something I'd do, but I've found a way around it ;).  I get asked most about her sleeping photos, so I thought I'd share!

Ok so when I rock P to sleep, the blinds are closed and her room is pretty dark.  Once she is totally asleep and I lay her down, I crack her blinds just a teeny tiny bit so that there is enough light coming in.  With just enough light, I can get a half decent picture (with my iPhone).  I stand next to her crib and take the photo directly above her.  I tap right on her body so that my phone focuses as much as possible on her.

In the Instagram app, I straighten the photo and brighten it A LOT.  I also turn the "fade" up a bit to soften the photo if it looks grainy.



I hope that you found something helpful here!  I still have so much to learn and hope that I continue getting better at photography!  Just remember to have fun and try to capture your kids just being themselves.  It's better to stand back and capture their joy and the way they are right now than to try to pose them or replicate a photo you've seen.  I have a phone full of blurry snaps of my girls and I treasure all of those photos too!  I can't always get all of the conditions right so I don't always get the "perfect" photo, but every once in awhile I look at my phone or the back of my camera and think, "OH MY GOSH I love this photo!!"

Please comment below if you have any other questions or if there's something that really helps when you're taking photos of your children!




  1. Super helpful! Thank you for sharing. And all this time I thought it was amazing she slept in such a bright room!!!

    1. Everyone thought she slept in a bright room, so funny!!

  2. Love this! So the backgrounds (besides in your house) are just cool places around town? They are always so unique and pretty! I am slowly learning about the rule of thirds :) Thanks for sharing, I'm always looking for photo tip ideas as I stalk my kids haha and am excited to be getting the iPhone 7 soon- basically just to take photos ☺️

    1. Yes I just always have my eye out for cool walls/backgrounds when we're out and about!

  3. I use an AMAZING app called VSCO, and it is simple to use once you play around on a few photos. Based on what you said you use in IG, I think you'd like it. Check it out, please!!!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love all of your photos and I have always been envious on how well you capture such precious moments! I can't wait to try out your tips and tricks. Thank you!!

  5. Those were some great tips!! Enjoyed reading them from your perspective. Thanks!!

  6. So glad I found this page! Thanks for the tips!

    1. You are so welcome, thank you for following along!!

  7. Would love to know what lens you use on your DSLR. Love your pics!!!


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