Hello and Welcome!

Documenting our children’s lives is something we all do, every day. We all have phones attached to our hip, and I guarantee your camera roll is full of 100s, no 1000s, of images of your kids. Let me preface this entire post by saying, there is no wrong way to take a photograph of your children. Nope, there is not. But, I can help you take more intentional, emotion provoking images of your kids to put in those albums at the end of the year.

While I can’t be there for you now to capture these moments in person, I wanted to give you some tips on how I capture my own children in hopes you can use them in your own life to capture this unique and (hopefully) once in a lifetime period we are in. These tips are processes I use everyday when I document my boys, and I hope they are helpful for you! Wherever possible, I will include examples to help visualize each topic.

Don’t fret! I will be here, your friendly neighborhood photographer, waiting for you when this is all over! 

*NOTE: I will be speaking to some terms or techniques that are specific to a DSLR camera vs. phone, but the concepts and thought processes are ideas to keep in mind no matter what you are shooting on. The important part is that you are DOCUMENTING your children, no matter what, no matter how. Photographs are our way to tell our stories for years to come. In the end, you’ll always have the memory, the image just helps enhance it.

In no particular order…here we go!

1. Get Down to their Level.

(If I had to prioritize, which I didn't, this would be number 1… hands down, just sayin'...). I want you to close your eyes and imagine the ocean, from above, or from your eye level if you are standing on a beach. Of course, it is beautiful, vast, and something to capture. But, now I want you to imagine it as if you were under the water, in the middle of the action. What do you see? Do you see the bright colors of the fish, the coral reef passing you by? Maybe you come across a pod of Dolphins, or the most beautiful shell you’ve ever seen? It is immersive isn't it? You are literally a part of the ocean, it is moving around you and you are able to take all the details in, slowly, one-by-one. (Okay… moving on…my TV screensaver may happen to be sea life as I am writing this.) 

Now, imagine your kids playing right beside you, maybe they are doing something cute that you totally want to remember. So, you pick up your camera, take a step closer, and snap. You probably got a pretty good image, you captured them playing, maybe pretending to be a firefighter, a princess, or maybe they are acting like Dinosaurs and stomping their way around creation. It’s a memory that will last a lifetime, right? BUT, what if you were to crouch down, get on the floor, and capture everything around them. What would you see? Would you see the 10’s of firetrucks spread across the room helping play towards the scene? Would you capture the castle and fort, or dolls in the background joining in on the princess tea party? Would you help them remember their endless collection of Dinosaurs, that at this very moment are more important to them than anything else in this world? Take a second and think, would these things be left out of the image from your initial perspective?

Almost always when I take images of my own children, whether we are in public or at home, I get down to their level. I don’t care who is around us, I want to capture the world from their perspective. I want to see what they see, and how they see it. I don't want to capture just the 3 square foot area around them, as most likely that is carpet, or dirt, or sidewalk, etc. Most definitely there are other ways to capture these moments, and I’ll get into a few as you continue reading, but getting down to their level can have one of the biggest impacts right away on photographing your children, and the memories captured. 

If anything, consider it your leg workout for the day. 😂

The sunset and the sheer scale of the world around Archie would be missed if I hadn't crouched down in this image.

So, this one is just funny. I love the perspective here. Our upper loft area, as Archie is watching Dad and Emmett play below.

It's easier to lay down on the ground at home than it is in public, so here I was complete belly down on the kitchen floor and it was SO worth it.

If I was standing here, i'd be missing out on the details of the boys searching for rocks. Here, I get the texture of the ground, plus their details and the world around them.

Again, here you get scale. You can understand how high we are on the hill, and the height of the boys on the bench. (plus a little mirror trick to add some reflection)

Fun in the freezer, from boys perspectives.

If I was standing for this shot, I would be missing out on this most amazing sunset. I also get the scale of the size of the playground compared to the boys.

Here, i'd be missing out on those adorable tippy-toes trying his hardest to make the basket (he can finally do it on his own!!).

2. Photograph them in their Element.

While we all love the ‘looking at the camera and smiling photos’, many times I find myself gravitating towards the in the moment shots. The ones where they are doing what they do best, playing. I want to remember how they played together, how they interacted, what toys they enjoyed most, and how they experience the world around them. I don’t want every photo being of me interrupting their experience just to get them to smile at the camera.

If they are making a mess, every now and then, let them make the mess. Let them tear the cushions off the couch for the tenth time that day, let them take the bucket of balls and throw it in the air… let, them, play. It just gives you more time to take the photos, right?

Let them wander in nature (being safe of course). Follow them, let them lead the way… it’s amazing what they discover on their own prior to our interaction and direction.


And yes, take those smiling at the camera shots!! Just not every time.

Mid-play in the teepee.

Exploring in Nature.

Searching for worms in the garden.

Yes, this is a normal occurrence in our house.

3. Get Directly Above Your Subject.

Don’t call me contradictory… please, give me a minute to explain myself! Okay, so I just went on a ramble in #1 about getting down to their level, and now I’m telling you to get above them… stick with me here. There are most definitely times you want to get directly above your children, OR to photograph them from your person’s perspective (i.e. standing). Let’s say they are working on an art project, and you want to get those details. What are they working on? A painting? Maybe some found art? You want to be able to see their creation, along with them CREATING it… so why not get above them and capture it all? Getting above them will give you that birds eye view, the central hub for their creativity. 

Moving on to taking an image from your person’s perspective. Let’s say, its day 1,098 of quarantine - your house and your life are pretty much a total disaster (happens to the best of us, amiright?!) and your kids are hugging… OMG they are HUGGING!! (Not stealing each others toys, pushing each other down, or screaming at each other!!) You want to remember this moment (but you don’t want to remember the clutter that is your life). This is where taking the image from your standing perspective is KEY. You will exclude 95% of that unwanted mess from your image, and only capture that sweet, sweet moment between your children. (Or if you are in the habit of wanting to capture the truth… go ahead, get that leg workout in and get down there to take it ALL IN!)

I wanted to focus on this moment between the two of them, totally unprompted (no, really!!) not on the chaos that was around them at this point in time.

Here I wanted to capture the connection between the three of them while looking at this picture book.

For some reason my kids love reading books with Dad more than myself. Which is fine, they will from time to time with me, but its different with Dad.

Getting all the messy details in this shot of painting rocks.

I could have crouched down for this shot, but I stood at my normal stance for this one as I wanted to get the scale of the train set compared to the boys. And if I would have been lower, I would have missed all those details.

4. Think Documentary.

Don’t forget about the details, and how life is right now. Maybe your kids made an epic, never-want-to-forget-this-mess, mess. Or, maybe they lined up their Firetruck collection JUST so, and told you NOT to touch it when they went down for their nap. Maybe they built a tower that was SO BIG they wanted to keep it, but you knew it couldn’t last forever… Capture those things. Your images don’t always need a person in them. The human touch is still there. The act of making the mess. The thoughtfulness of lining up the fire trucks, and the creativity and fine motor skills it took to build that mega tower. These are the things you can talk about with your child as they grow older, you can talk about the stories and how you remember them, even when they don’t. (Forgive me as a cry while I’m writing this bullet point).

Maybe they had their first big owie… have you ever thought to take a photo of that moment? (Of course, tend to your child, and make sure they are okay!) But, could that be a point of conversation later down the road. How did they handle that situation, were they brave? Did they get up, dust it off and try again?

Do they do something as a habit that you want to remember? Maybe they twirl their hair to put themselves to sleep, or play with the taggies on their favorite puppy? 

Document a process, and try to do it in new and creative ways. Maybe you are baking cookies together, let them help, or heck let them do it all! And document it! Every step of the way, help them keep these memories as they grow.

He's had scrapes before, but this was a bad one. He did so well for the rest of our walk, but when we got home he needed lots of snuggles. Which we all graciously provided.

Since the moment he could hold on to things, he has LOVED this taggie puppy. "Buddy" his name is, but we just call him Puppy. He goes everywhere with Emmett.

And this guy, since the day he found his hair, he has twirled it when he is tired and to put himself to sleep. It is THE cutest thing.

Baking cookies, with a little help from Mom.

The dough setting up in the fridge so they are NICE and chewy!

We were here.

5. Find The Light.

Light, light, LIGHT! Please, give me allllll the light. Light can be used in so many different ways to enhance your photographs. Direct light, backlight, side light, low light… they are all beautiful in their own way.

When I started photography, I was focused on even-light… everything needed to be perfect, no hard shadows, no harsh midday sun, everything even. Little did I know how much I was missing...shadows give such depth to images, and such storytelling in ways a flat light image just doesn’t. (And I am not saying one is better than the other…). Consider your light as part of the story, not just a passenger along for the ride.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have really started loving the film look on my images. I prefer subtle highlights, and deep shadows. If you are shooting in direct, or harsh light, one way to enhance your images is to expose for the highlights and let the light direct the viewer's eye where to go. I have some examples from my son’s bedroom in Winter I’ll share below. It gets the most amazing directional light in the mid afternoon. I have noticed, as we start to move towards longer days, that same light is now while he is napping, and I miss it so much!

Even if you aren’t shooting on a DSLR camera, you can still adjust some settings on your phone to compensate for bright light. On iPhones you can touch and hold to adjust the exposure before you take the photo. So, look into how your phone works, and play around with different types of light!

Golden hours, and getting down to your kids level can be some of the most AMAZING images to capture. Below is a perfect example of what you could miss if you don’t take a quick second to think about your perspective before shooting. (If I would have taken this shot of Archie from standing, it would have been his face, the sidewalk and grass…. SOOO not emotion provoking… I mean other than his adorable face!) Take that squat down, and be sure to capture the gorgeous background - it is something you most definitely don’t want to miss!

Playing with shadows, and direct light. Here I exposed for the highlights and waited for something fun to happen in that pocket of light in Emmett's bedroom. (I have a LOT of fun shots in here).

Almost home from a walk! And it was a perfect night. Post spring thunderstorm, and an absolute gorgeous sunset. (#1 pointer here... could you imagine missing this if I took it standing up?!?)

On a bright sunny day, we get this little pocket of sun in the kitchen (otherwise it is dark where we do a lot of our crafts). He just happen to be coloring RIGHT there. So, we've got great light AND shooting from above. Double whammy!

Direct light.... something I never would have done when I first started my photography journey. I love the crispness of this shot, and how blue the sky was this day. I wouldn't have been able to keep that if I was shooting into the light. My background would be over exposed, and I would have lost all that detail.

6. Get Creative.

Is there a way you can get underneath your kids, while not distracting them? What is another angle or perspective you can capture the same moment? Can you shoot through things, to create depth and intrigue? I like to move myself around my kids as they are playing, and grab the moment from a few different angles to remember the whole scene.

This was shot through a long tube he was putting his cars down. Great negative space and an interesting composition.

I love using mirrors to create reflections that otherwise wouldn't be there. I held the mirror under my lens to create that additional effect at the bottom.

I was hiding under the swing-set, trying to get some fun detail shots.

I will never forget the belly laughs that ensued when he saw me climbing underneath the swing. He LOVED it!

Shoot through things around you to provide an unexpected twist.

Don't all kids love blowing on the windows? That's what you see here, two Archie's... can the world even function with two?!

Watch for interesting compositions, balancing or contradictory.

Use creative tools, and keep them in your bag, or pockets if the setting may provide you an opportunity to break one out. Here, I knew we would be out for a walk when the sun was setting, so I brought my copper pipe along which allowed me to get this gorgeous framing flare.

7. Capture The 'Everyday'.

I feel like it is important to take photos of what may just seem like routine activities. The breakfast table, brushing their teeth, bath time, etc. These are all things that are part of your routine, and maybe you want to remember that? I know that in the mornings, we pretty much do the exact same thing EVERYDAY, and that is totally okay! But the other day I thought, I want to remember what these days were like. What was it like when Archie was not yet 2, and Emmett was getting closer to 4. What did we do in the mornings? How did we eat breakfast? What was it like… Not every image needs to be playful, or an ‘event’. It can just be, the everyday. And that can be just as beautiful.

Breakfast/alone time before the rest of the family intrudes.

We have arrived, the family joins in the breakfast fun.

I have more bath shots than I can count, but I always try to do something a little different each time. Here, I brought my flash in to give it some oompf!

More important than ever these days...wash, wash, wash those hands!

8. Get in the Frame.

And not just as a selfie. No matter if you are alone with your kids all day, or if you have another set of hands, be sure you find time to get in the frame with your kids. There have been so many points in my parenting life (mind you, I’m only coming up on year 4) where I am looking back at my photo roll and I see myself in every 100th+ image! Where am I!??!? I exist right? I brought these kids into the world?? GET IN THE FRAME MAMAS! We can so easily drift into the background since we are the ones taking the images most of the time, but don’t let that stop you from playing with your kids and capturing that moment.

We hear this message all the time, you don’t have to look perfect, you don't have to be wearing makeup, just get in there with them. They will want those images when you are no longer around, and will cherish them - 4th day hair and all.

To make this easier on you, there are a TON of self timer apps out there that allow you to set up your phone and just let it snap away as you are playing (and it's NOT a selfie!!) - a really easy one to use (and FREE) is Photo Timer+

If you are shooting on a DSLR, invest in an intervalometer (here is the one I have for Nikon - Pholsy Wireless Timer Remote Control), or just use the good old timer on your camera and set it to take more than 1 image at a time. This way, you can get a few takes at it before you have to get up and reset. 

I hope my kids remember me as being fun. If not, i'll be sure to have proof.

Working together on growing our first plants! {We have since become addicted. No, for real, send help.}

Tender moments are so very important as well.

9. Always Have Your Camera/Phone at the Ready.

The key to not missing those moments is to always have your camera ready and within an arm's reach. Yes, we all have our phones which is GREAT(!!), but if you have a camera… blow that dust off, brush up your knowledge and keep it handy. I usually keep mine on the kitchen counter, right in the middle of where we hang out most of the day. And I take it everywhere we go (....I mean, when we can start going places again).

As far as settings, I try to keep it somewhat in a neutral position so if I do need to act fast (which I do .... often), I don't have to worry about my settings being too far off in either direction.

I loved the symmetry here as they sat on the rock together.

"Hey, Emmett, look at that fog - let's go explore!"

I truly hope they look back at these images and say, "Hey! I remember that swingset!!"

Moments that you truly can't curate any better than when they happen in real life.

Get that different perspective.

Even at Hobby Lobby, when there happens to be an aisle full of Pink Flamingos.

See... I told you. Plant addiction.

Gotta get that wide angle on in the car to capture the perfect sun flare! (Did you know most phones these days have WIDE ANGLE!?! Yep, no excuse here guys.)

10. Don't Forget to Participate; Enjoy the Play.

Taking photos is extremely important to me, it is how I grew up. My Mom was always the family photographer, and we still love looking through those albums to this day. It is a very special part of my childhood. But, don’t let it take over and keep you OUT of the moments you want to remember, and I don’t want my kids to remember me as always having a camera in front of my face. There are a lot of holidays and family get-togethers that I don’t bring my camera to; I rely on my phone instead on those occasions. It helps me stay in the here-and-now, and not miss out on the actual memories.

I document my kids a lot. If you follow me on Instagram… you know this. But truth-bomb here, the images you see are only a FRACTION of what I capture and keep for myself. Every image I post there, has at least another 10-15 to go along with it (at least....). I will cherish these images forever. But, there are times I need to remind myself to just be in the moment. When I need to put the camera down and just soak it all in...

If these 10 tips have taught you anything, I hope it helps you be more intentional and thoughtful in capturing your children, especially during these pivotal times in our lives. An exercise I do often when I may feel stuck in a rut, is to think of another way you can document the same moment but in a new and exciting way. Change your perspective, take a step back (literally or figuratively), or take a step in.

I may be biased based on my profession, but other than my family, photographs are my most cherished items. 

If you made it this far, thank you! I hope you enjoyed this read, and please, share with your friends and loved ones by clicking one of those grey social media icons below!

xoxo, Katie