We’ve talked about how, up until now, you might have considered “photo-worthy moments” to be those where everyone is happy and smiling at the camera. 

And while we all want our kids to be happy, that one emotion alone is not all that we want for them, nor is it all that we value or love about them.

We want to honor and validate their feelings — all of them.

But it’s not always easy when those feelings involve sadness, anger, frustration or any of those “negative” emotions, especially when those negative emotions are channeled towards us. 

What I’ve found, however, is that photography can be a surprisingly helpful tool during difficult moments. When used to let your child knows that it’s how it feels, not how it looks, it will help your child feel seen and validated, allowing them to “feel the feelings” and move on. It can help us as parents do the same.

My free 7 day challenge to take better photos of your kids using just your smartphone takes you through several steps towards this, such as capturing natural emotions and interactions, and getting your child engrossed in something that they love

But to really validate all your child's feelings, take it a step further.

Photosanity Day Five Challenge - Capture a Full Range of Emotions

Capture a full range of emotions

Liam as a toddler: "“Mommy didn’t bring the blue ball so I’m stuck with this stinky yellow one!”

Liam as a toddler: "“Mommy didn’t bring the blue ball so I’m stuck with this stinky yellow one!”

One of the things I love about kids is the full range of emotions they experience and express on a day-to-day basis, right there, out loud, in your face. Young children, for the most part, haven’t yet learned to moderate their feelings. 

“You’re making me sad,” my 4-year-old will inform us without a moment’s hesitation, and I have to say, that kind of clarity impresses me. As exasperating as it may be, I love him no less in that moment. I’m grateful that he trusts me with these feelings. So yes, strange as it sounds, I want to remember these moments too, as part of the overall experience of loving my kids and doing my best to be there for them.

When you capture the full range of your child’s emotions, photographing your child becomes a deeper, richer and more rewarding experience.

Liam more recently. Nothing like a meltdown, on the street, in the rain. Those moments can be very trying and emotionally exhausting. Taking this photo helped me to feel compassion for Liam instead of losing my cool completely.

Liam more recently. Nothing like a meltdown, on the street, in the rain. Those moments can be very trying and emotionally exhausting. Taking this photo helped me to feel compassion for Liam instead of losing my cool completely.

You are acknowledging, accepting and embracing all aspects of their personality and life, and yours too. 

It may seem callous to photograph your child when they are sad or upset, but if done appropriately, it can be validating for both you and them.

And of course there are many other emotions to capture too - excitement, joy, curiosity, anticipation, surprise, concentration, reflection, curiosity, bravery, pride, anxiety, nervousness, uncertainty, questioning, confusion, humor, disappointment, frustration, sadness, determination, perseverance, stubbornness, trust, admiration, love, tenderness, protectiveness, camaraderie, enthusiasm, trepidation, wariness, exuberance, relief… go for the whole range, happy and sad, big and small.

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

"Gramma gave each of the boys a microwave popcorn in their Easter baskets, and my oldest didn't want to share his bag as his brother had polished off his bag days earlier. As you can see, his little sister was unhappy with his selfish ways! It was difficult to choose which emotion to share from this series as there are some other comical ones: the baby right up in his face pleading for some; one of my middle guy begging with an empty bowl; and one of the oldest one {pretending to be} angry with them." - Jennifer Quinn DeMarco

Day five photo by challenge participant and longtime Photosanity parent Jennifer Quinn DeMarco (click to enlarge)

Hi Jennifer,

Love this sibling moment, even though it is so different from what we typically think of as the “picture perfect” moment with all kids sitting nicely together, smiling and looking at the camera. Of course, that is nice to have too, but these moments are so much more real and also part of the life that we will want to remember for years to come. This photo is a great example of that!

I love that the light is gorgeous, especially the way it is illuminating your daughter’s face and the intensity of her emotions. I also love that all three kids are interacting, and the focus is on your daughter but you can still see the expressions on her brothers’ faces. Perfect in its own way.

"I tried tap to focus, but I can't ever quite get my 2 year old to come out clearly." - Melissa Duphiney

Day five photo by challenge participant Melissa Duphiney

Day five photo by challenge participant Melissa Duphiney

Hi Melissa,

Awww, I love the emotions you captured here, and the view from above showing only the floor (good way to eliminate background clutter). Great off center composition too, whether deliberate or not!

It is true, tap to focus doesn't always work. The more natural light you have, the more likely your photo is to be in focus. 

If you're ready for a more advanced technique, you can actually control your shutter speed if you shoot using an app like Camera+ - see my blog post for Mom365 that describes exactly how to do this.

It takes a while to get used to but I have found the results are worth it!

This photo is so Jack... and I love it

This photo is so Jack... and I love it