This past weekend my mom and I took the girls to a Sunflower fest and it did not disappoint in the slightest. This is a new attraction at the Farm we visited so I didn’t know what to expect but luckily it was super kid-friendly and the girls were able to run amok and go exploring between the blooms. It really was a beautiful evening–I haven’t seen that many Sunflowers in one place in my life and they are truly a sight to behold.
We took a tractor ride out to the field which the girls loved and we each got to cut a Sunflower to take home with us (which I gifted to my mom because she was the real MVP putting up with all of our craziness, haha). We went near the end of the day so we wouldn’t wilt in the August heat and the conditions were perfect. Not too hot, not too sunny or shadowy and not crowded with people trying to get their perfect Instagram photos and standing in the way of the flowers. The girls had a blast and were so dang filthy at the end which is a sign of a good day in my book.
I often get asked how I get such great pictures of my kids (I am so uncomfortable with compliments but THANK YOU) and there really is no better answer but practice. But I figured nobody wants to hear that so I’ll give you a few of the things I’ve learned over the last 5 years of photographing my kid’s childhood.
- Lower your expectations. And then go ahead and lower them again. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to get posed pictures of my kids and one’s either picking her nose or tickling the baby so hard that she’s screaming and nobody is having fun (especially me). I have to ask myself “Who am I taking these for?”and almost always it will refocus me. If it works out, great. If they don’t, who cares? Snap some, save them for the memory archives and move on.
- Lighting. is. Everything. Even if you’re only working with your phone camera, the more natural light you have the better your photos will be. I don’t use flash (ever) and will often turn lights off when I’m taking pictures of my kids indoors. It sounds counterproductive but it truly makes a difference in skin tones and the contrast in the pictures. I’ll just up the brightness and exposure when I’m editing them as needed.
- Let them be wild and free. All of my favorite photos of my kids are rarely ones that I have asked them to smile for. Get on their level, stand back and just snap them in their element. Make a fart noise to make them laugh, ask them to run to you, be silly. Document the little moments instead of the forced ones. Trust me when I say that they will turn out so much better and with minimal tears or whining from your kids. Pinterest is a great source for lifestyle photography inspiration if you need some visuals to work from.
- Plan ahead. If you want to have nice pictures of your kids in the Halloween costumes you worked so hard on–don’t wait until Halloween night to do it! Last year I got up early with the girls and went to my parent’s property to snap some pictures of them with fresh face makeup and happy kids that weren’t on sugar overload and they turned out SO cute. Same goes for birthdays and parties. I admittedly love party planning and all of the little details and often relied on other people’s pictures of my parties because I would be so busy scrambling and hosting that everything was torn apart before I ever documented it. Wake up an hour earlier, and have everything done an hour ahead of schedule so you can take some time and snap the details before you’re distracted. If it’s important to you to document those types of things than I really suggest making a point of doing it ahead of time so you’re able to be present in the fun and you didn’t spend your special days threatening to cancel all joy because you spent a lot of time picking out their Christmas outfits and they will.smile.dammit.
- A little editing never hurt nobody. Crop, straighten, brighten, boost—if you spend all your time looking at the pictures as you take them you are burning daylight. If you’re using your DSLR, obviously adjust a bit as you go if you’re shooting in manual but other than that snap away, my friend. Take a whole bunch of pictures. I edit 99% of my photos with my phone because my camera connects right to it via Wifi and will delete as I go while I’m uploading them. Find an editing app you love and just practice. The more you practice the easier it will be and the faster you’ll be able to do them. I’ve used A Color Story for years and I admit, all of the tools and filters can seem daunting but I have used it so much that I can burn through them effortlessly at this point.
- When in doubt, write it out. Photos are not the only way of documenting your kid’s lives. Invest in a memory journal, take mental snapshots and write down your thoughts and feelings. I love the idea of having something tangible that my girls can pick up and read when they’re older–long after I’m gone. Sure it would be fun to have Charlie look at a picture of her on her first day of Kindergarten to share with her children but how much more special would it be for her to read how I was feeling and share in that human connection with her mama so many years later when those things are weighing on her heart too? Pictures are wonderful but words are potent.
Happy Tuesday, friends.