Lesson 7: What to look for to get the best photos

The low light of this early morning capture means this photo is very grainy - not technically good, but this is outweighed by the emotional meaning of capturing my not-so-little guy sleeping. For me this photo is about the last few remnants of babyhood in my soon-to-be kindergartener.

The low light of this early morning capture means this photo is very grainy - not technically good, but this is outweighed by the emotional meaning of capturing my not-so-little guy sleeping. For me this photo is about the last few remnants of babyhood in my soon-to-be kindergartener.

I often get asked what to look for to find the best photos.  

And my answer is: don’t look for the best photos, look for the best moments. 
 
Seriously. This is revolutionary.

Because when you’re thinking about what the photo is going to look like, you’re taking yourself out of the present moment. 
 
Instead, focus on how it feels, not how it looks and the best photos will follow.

When you focus on how it feels, not how it looks, the best photos become those that are emotionally “good” rather than technically “good” - these are the photos that will be most meaningful to you as a parent, and to your family and friends in years to come.

This is not even a flattering photo of me, and it was a low point of the "now I have to carry my resistant four year old to camp" variety. But somehow I love this photo anyway because it captures the intensity that parenthood often brings with it.

This is not even a flattering photo of me, and it was a low point of the "now I have to carry my resistant four year old to camp" variety. But somehow I love this photo anyway because it captures the intensity that parenthood often brings with it.

Now, I know that you also want to take photos that are “technically good,” and we’ll get to that. But we start with emotions first, because a technically good photo that is empty emotionally is really just not worth that much to anyone. 

So, as a parent, here is the important thing to ask yourself when defining what a “good photo” is:

Is it emotionally good? Does it make you laugh, smile or get teary? Does it capture a moment you want to remember? Do you look at the photo and think “I love my kid! I love being a parent!” 
 
If a photo does one or more of these things, if a photo evokes an emotion for you, it’s a winner!

Put this into action:

Look at your recent favorite photos and think about which ones are emotionally good whether or not they are technically good. In which photos did you focus on how it feels, not how it looks?   
 
Now, as you go about your day, look for good moments, not good photos. Respond to emotions - yours as well as your child’s. Capture how it feels.

Not all your photos have to be of your kids. More and more I have been enjoying photographing my own emotions - in other words, my own moments when I am not with them. Even though they are primarily my subjects of choice, and I wouldn't have it any other way, it is very rewarding to give voice to my own identity outside of motherhood. It feels like a very nourishing form of self-care. I took this photo on our camping trip when Keith and the kids had gone to bed and I stayed up by the fire - a moment I deeply cherish.

Not all your photos have to be of your kids. More and more I have been enjoying photographing my own emotions - in other words, my own moments when I am not with them. Even though they are primarily my subjects of choice, and I wouldn't have it any other way, it is very rewarding to give voice to my own identity outside of motherhood. It feels like a very nourishing form of self-care. I took this photo on our camping trip when Keith and the kids had gone to bed and I stayed up by the fire - a moment I deeply cherish.

Today’s photo prompt: Capture a strong emotion - yours or your child’s
Up next: Make your camera more invisible by being more present

Note: I'll be giving you daily photo prompts to help you in your photo-a-day project but they are completely optional. Ultimately you should choose the photo for your project that best reflects what you most want to remember about the day.

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