If I could only suggest one thing that you should do immediately to start not just taking better photos of your kids but having a better experience out of photographing your kids, it would be this.

But first of all, I want to ask you:

  • Do you struggle to "capture the moment" with your kids?
  • Does what you capture in your photos fall disappointingly short of what you saw and experienced in the moment?
  • Do you feel conflicted between wanting to capture the moment, but then feeling like you have to take yourself out of enjoying the moment in order to do so?
  • And do you feel that by the time you decide to capture the moment, it's gone?

Welcome to 7 days to better photos of your kids using just your smartphone! 

This challenge has been designed specifically to address all of these very common frustrations that I hear from parents all the time.

And the ONE thing you should do to take better photos of your kids?

Photosanity Day One Challenge - Capture Natural Moments and Interactions

Capture natural moments and interactions

I'm always surprised at how many parents I suggest this to who don't do this... but immediately recognize that they should!

Love this sibling moment from when Jack was a baby (not to mention that getting a baby and a toddler to pose is just asking for frustration!)

Love this sibling moment from when Jack was a baby (not to mention that getting a baby and a toddler to pose is just asking for frustration!)

Think about it, do you, consciously or subconsciously, think that a photo-worthy moment means that everyone is smiling and looking at the camera?

This is a natural assumption and the default for most. 

But what I've found is that the moments that mean the most to me, and that I enjoy capturing the most, are the ones that happen naturally when I am focusing on how it feels, not how it looks.

All of the moments so beautiful and precious to me that I have photographed over the years would have been ruined if I'd stopped and asked my kids to pose and smile. And the resulting photos would not be as meaningful or true to our daily lives.

More recently on vacation, I could have asked them to pose but that would have ruined this moment of summertime bliss as they headed to the pool.

More recently on vacation, I could have asked them to pose but that would have ruined this moment of summertime bliss as they headed to the pool.

When you focus on how it feels, not how it looks and capture natural emotions and interactions, your concept of the moments worth capturing expands.

Suddenly you notice that you already experience these kinds of moments multiple times a day, even if you don’t have much time with your kids during the week.

This increased awareness increases your focus and gratitude on the positive aspects of your life. You will no longer feel like you are constantly missing the moment, or that you don’t have a lot of moments worth capturing.

5/14/17 update: This challenge is no longer available but check out our new challenge: 7 days to finding joy through photographing your kids.

Featured participant photos

Each day I'll be featuring two participant photo "hot seats" and giving detailed feedback not just on their photos but on the frustrations they shared with me when they joined the challenge.

"My biggest frustration is that I can't seem to 'capture the moment'. What my eyes see and what I am able to capture with a camera is so different that most of the times I don't even bother to take a picture." - Irit Anavim

Hi Irit,

You are not alone! This is a really common frustration that I hear all the time from parents, and it makes me sad as I know how much you want to capture some of these moments that are so fleeting and how frustrating it is when the resulting photos just don’t do the moment justice.

My first suggestion is non-technical, and it has to do with focusing on how it feels, not how it looks. I know that sounds counter-intuitive when photography is so visual, but if you focus on how a moment feels as you take photos, you will automatically feel better about those photos because they will bring you back into the feeling of the moment, even if it doesn’t look how you want it to.

From there, that gives you a good basis from which to play with a few more visual things that you can do to close the gap between what you experience and how your photos come out.

We have challenges later this week that address two of the biggest issues. One is lighting - your eyes can better adjust for low light than your camera can, so if you can find natural light, what your camera captures will be closer to what you experience, both visually and emotionally.

Another is background clutter. In “real life” your eyes focus on your subject and blur out the background (similar to what a DSLR does if you know how). However, it’s pretty hard to achieve that affect on your iPhone without using special lenses, apps or filters, so the next best thing is to eliminate as much background clutter as you can.

Day one photo by challenge participant Irit Anavim

Day one photo by challenge participant Irit Anavim

So, looking at your day one photo, you’ve got great natural light, even though you’re indoors, but working to eliminate some of the background clutter will really help to capture the moment more as you experienced it. As far as today’s challenge though, I love the natural moment here, even though he is looking at the camera. But as others commented, you captured his enjoyment, and the slight blur of his guitar and fingers show that it’s an “action” photo. 

The other thing I suggest trying is getting down at his level rather than shooting from slightly above. Shooting from above gives the “mom perspective” but shooting at his level gives a feeling of intimacy that you already feel in real life as his mom whether you are at his level or not.

Introductory photo by challenge participant Irit Anavim

Introductory photo by challenge participant Irit Anavim

These comments apply to the photo you posted with your introduction as well - I love this moment and can see why you wanted to capture it. In this case, it might have been hard to avoid background clutter, but getting more down at their level and cropping close might have eliminated some of it and put us really IN that moment as you experienced it.

Oh, one more thing from your survey comment about how once you’ve decided to take a photo, the moment has passed, the day two challenge of getting your kids engrossed in something they love will help give you more time to capture the moment.

But generally, what really helps is ANTICIPATING the moment, and having your camera ready to capture the moment when it happens. That sounds harder than you think! How could you possibly anticipate the moment, you might ask? 

Well, what you’ll find as a mom is that you know your child and you’ll have a sense for when something interesting that you’ll want to capture is coming up. And as you go through the challenges, you’ll also start to be on the lookout for good light, an uncluttered background etc. It sounds like a lot to think about to begin with, but as you get practice doing it, the coolest thing is that you’ll find that looking out for these things actually increases your awareness of the moment and you can actually use your camera to be more present, in the moment and connected to your child.

Thanks for your participation, I look forward to seeing more of your photos!

I have an inner conflict of wanting to capture moments, but then feeling like I am taken out of enjoying the moment if I'm trying to get a good picture. This is compounded by the feeling I get of so often not being able to capture the moment I was trying to. I have gone weeks with out taking pictures because of this and even skipped picture taking at school events and family functions. I'm hoping to get tips and feel inspired about picture taking again. - Christmas Somers

Hi Christmas,

First of all, check out my response to Irit above where I talk about how to close the gap between what you experience and what your photo shows.

I want to talk a bit more though about the conflict between wanting to capture the moment, but feeling that in doing so, you’re taken out of enjoying the moment - again, this is a very common frustration. I really love to turn this around for parents so that capturing the moment actually brings you MORE into the moment so that you can be more present, connect more with your kids and enjoy the moment MORE by photographing it.

Yes it really can happen, and the challenges this week are designed to help with this. So again, it starts with focusing on how it feels, not how it looks. This is the key, because it’s when we are thinking about how the moment looks for a photo that we feel like we’re “taken out of the moment” rather than getting more in it.

Then it’s about capturing natural emotions and interactions, rather than asking them to smile and say cheese (you mention in your survey that you always get silly faces when you do this!)  From there, we look at some simple tweaks to improve the visual quality of your photos, not so we can take what we might think of as a “better photo” in the traditional sense, but so we get photos that are better emotionally - they better capture the feeling of the moment, and when you focus on the feeling of the moment, you can enjoy it more.

You also mention in your survey your frustrations with “action photos that don’t seem to show the fun action”. Again, see Irit’s hot seat about anticipating the moment rather than waiting for it to happen and reacting (generally then it’s too late, especially on your smartphone).

Day one photo by challenge participant Christine Somers

Day one photo by challenge participant Christine Somers

And about indoor shots always looking terrible with low light - yes, this is definitely try, especially on your smartphone. The best thing to do is to at least try to find some window light when you are indoors, or sometimes I’ve even suggested to clients that they get better lighting i.e. some floor or table lamps! We don’t get into editing until the 30 day challenge, but editing your photos can also really help with low light photos - increasing the brightness and contrast (or using filters that do) can make all the difference in the world.  Also, low light photos often look great if converted to black and white.

As for your day one photo, I love the moment you captured here with your boys working together to help your dog get some water! You’re cropped in close, don’t have too much background clutter (that’s coming up day four) and are cropped in nice and close. I agree with Christopher that you could try getting down lower at their level for a more immediate/intimate feel - this simple tip can make a huge difference! And on day three we’ll also talk about how to handle direct sunlight.

Thanks for your participation - I look forward to seeing more of your photos!