A guest post from Jessie Martin
Pictures provide us with a way to revisit a single moment in time and relive it over and over again. They allow us to remember the small details that we never want to forget and provide us with the opportunity to document our children’s childhood. They give us physical reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from, and what’s important.
Unfortunately, taking pictures can actually be super challenging and discouraging when our photos aren’t turning out the way we envision.
I remember a few years back scrolling instagram and wondering how in the world all of these non-photographer mamas were creating such amazing pictures with only their smartphones.
I realized pretty quickly that those mamas had been very intentional and had invested some time to learn HOW to take better photos.
Good pictures aren’t just going to happen. Even the most expensive camera isn’t going to magically take great pictures. I believe if you’re willing to be intentional and put in a little bit of time, you can learn to take incredible photos of your family and make photography a natural part of your everyday life.
Below are 10 reasons why your photos may not be turning out the way you hope and how to improve in those areas:
1. You aren’t seeing the magic in your everyday
Sometimes, when we’re knee deep in diapers and sleep deprivation, we can lose sight of how incredible these days actually are. We can’t help but put our heads down and push through – constantly looking towards the next season, thinking it will be easier and better. Taking pictures can do something to you, though. It can cause you to dig deep. To slow down. It can cause you to see.
Let photography help you slow down. Let it help you see the magic of your everyday. Think of the things your kids do that make your heart burst. Think of the everyday family routines you never want to end. These things are the magic of your everyday. The little details. The seemingly ordinary moments that make up your days and eventually your years.
If you want to know how and why I see the magic in my everyday, you can read my ‘Why,’ from week one.
Pick a day and make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Don’t just include broad things like “family.” Get specific. What things throughout your day are you really truly thankful for that maybe tend to go unnoticed? These are the things that you should be taking pictures of.
2. You’re letting the thought of taking pictures overwhelm you, and in turn, you aren’t taking any
Taking pictures doesn’t have to be some huge unrealistic time commitment. Photography can be incorporated throughout your day in a natural, unburdened way with a few simple habits.
1. Keep your phone memory uncluttered so that you always have enough storage to take pictures when the time comes. Back up your photos often and then delete them off your phone. Google Photos is an amazing tool – It offers a ton of free storage and after you use it once, you can set it to automatically back up your photos for you. Allie actually did an interview in my photo course for moms where she shared that Google Photos is her go-to as well!
2. Keep your phone (or your camera) somewhere nearby and easily accessible. This will probably already be your habit if your phone is your main camera, but keeping it close, or in a central location, will alleviate missing photo opportunities. I keep my camera hanging by the door with a clean memory card and a fully charged battery at all times so that I can quickly grab it if I notice a photo opportunity.
3. Start picking 2-3 things each week that you want to document about your family. An example may be that you really want to take a picture of the way your baby looks when they’re asleep. When a good opportunity arises during the week, take the picture. That’s it. That was like 2.5 seconds of being intentional, planning a photo, and taking the picture.
3. You don’t know how to use your phone or your camera to its full potential
The basic difference between a phone camera and a DSLR camera is the amount of control you have over the settings.
A smartphone camera gives you less control over the settings but significantly simplifies the process. Most smartphones have pretty incredible built-in settings and features that make the photo capabilities rival that of many DSLRs. The trick is knowing how to use the camera you have to its full potential.
There is a saying among photographers –
The camera doesn’t make the photographer, the photographer makes the photographer.
You could have the most expensive camera on the market, but if you don’t know how to use it or how to use the light around you, your pictures will be awful. On the flip side, if you understand basic photography techniques, you can make beautiful images with just your phone camera.
I had the chance to talk to Allie about the photos she has displayed in her home. She shared that all but ONE of the photos she has hanging in her home are iPhone pictures! She and Brian own a fancy camera, but her go-to is her smartphone because it’s simple and she’s taken the time to learn how to use it.
Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you don’t have a $3000 camera. Change your mindset. Be intentional and learn how to use the camera you do have. Become an expert at taking pictures with the gear you have available to you and I promise you’ll be ecstatic with your photos.
4. You aren’t being creative with the way you take your photos
‘Composition,’ is the way you arrange your photo. It’s being intentional and thoughtful with the way you take your picture and where your subject is in the frame. Composition isn’t just for professional photographers – it’s an easy way for anyone to take better photos.
Easy Composition Tricks
Always make sure your photos are straight. Pick a vertical or horizontal line within the image and use it as a guide. It’s much easier to do this before you take the picture, but if you forget, you can always correct this when you edit.
Think of ways to make your photos more creative. Get closer or further away from your subject. Take pictures at your subjects eye level. Take pictures from above or below. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take pictures from various angles and heights.
5. You don’t understand light or how to use it
Lighting is one of the most important elements of taking a great picture. It can make or break your photos, so it’s important to understand it.
There are different types of light depending on the time of day. The most well-known is during the evening when the sun is just starting to go down. This is called “Golden Hour,” because the sun is casting a golden glow onto everything. This is one of the prettiest types of lighting.
The easiest type of lighting to use as a beginner, and especially if you’re using your smartphone, is “even” light. Get out of the sunlight and take your photo in the shade where the light falls evenly across your subject. This alleviates having to worry about angles or the sun causing weird shadows on your subject.
Once you feel like you’ve mastered the easy light, move on to more challenging lighting situations.
My Number One Lighting Hack:
Artificial light casts a yellow glow onto everything and causes photos to look unnatural. One of the easiest ways to transform your photos is to turn off all of the artificial lights and open the curtains to let natural light in.
6. You aren’t editing your photos
The ability to edit your photos gives you so much creative freedom. A good edit can transform a photo and bring out so much life to an otherwise uninteresting picture. Editing is a skill. It takes a while to get a good eye for it. Practice makes perfect!
My favorite editing apps are VSCO, Lightroom, and Snapseed. Go download one or all of these and play around with them. If you’re new to editing apps, start with VSCO and play around with the free filters and adjustments.
Everyone edits differently, but I personally try to edit as true to life as possible.
My goal as I edit is to enhance the photo, but to do so honestly.
If you ever need editing help, I frequently do editing tutorials over on Instagram! I also created an editing cheat sheet that explains all of the actions in VSCO and Lightroom and what they do to your photo. You can get it for free HERE.
7. You aren’t in any of your pictures
I am a big promoter of getting into pictures with your kids.
I know how easy it is to feel self-conscious in photos. I know it’s much easier to hide behind the camera and be the one taking the pictures.
Don’t let insecurities get in the way of taking pictures with your kids.
Because of Allie and her heart for encouraging self-care for us mamas, I took the time to invest in myself in a few simple areas and it has helped my confidence SO much. I took her advice and invested a little bit of time and money into a wardrobe that I love. I also took some time to learn how to do my makeup and created a five minute makeup routine for myself. Those two things alone have boosted my confidence SO much. When I am dressed and ready for the day, I feel confident and am so much more willing to jump into pictures with my son.
The more confident you feel, the more likely you’ll be willing to get in front of the camera.
Because we don’t always have someone else to take pictures for us, there are a few simple things you can do to take those pictures yourself. I suggest investing in an inexpensive tripod and shutter remote. These two tools simplify the process SO much and make it possible to get into pictures with your kids whenever you want!
Smartphone Shutter Remote + Tripod
DSLR Shutter Remote (Canon + Nikon)
8. You haven’t developed a consistent photography style
Have you ever been scrolling Instagram, seen a photo, and without looking at the name you know exactly who took the picture? This is because this person has developed their own personal photography ‘style.’
Allie is a great example of someone who has a consistent photography style. Anytime her photos pop up on my instagram feed I know they’re hers before I ever see her name. Her instagram stories are also a great example because they always have a similar look and feel to them.
Start a Pinterest board with photos, colors, and tones that stand out to you. Take note of the way you decorate your home or the colors you choose to wear. These things can tell you a lot about your ‘style’ and will help you develop an honest photography style that is true to who you are. You can see my Inspiration board HERE as an example.
It takes time to develop your own style and there is a lot of trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if you try something for a few weeks and then decide you don’t really care for it anymore. You’ll find yourself continually tweaking and improving upon your style. You’ll continue to get better and feel more confident in your ability to create.
9. You focus too much on posing or staging your photos which leads to frustrated kiddos
Every kid is going to be different and their age needs to be considered. My biggest tip for taking pictures of your kids is to make it as easy going and simple as possible. Letting your kids just be themselves will allow you to capture their true personalities. If you let them be, you will be able to capture so many of their different emotions and their true personalities.
Because my camera is always easily accessible, if I see something picture worthy or the lighting is really beautiful, I can grab it real quick and snap a few pictures.
Try to limit yourself to just a few minutes and then put your phone or camera away.
For babies, I don’t recommend trying to pose them in any specific way. Try placing a few toys in a spot that is getting good light. Let your baby do their own thing with their toys and take pictures while they play. When I do this with my son, I usually walk away with several pictures that I LOVE. While he plays I’ll occasionally make him giggle by singing a funny song or making a silly noise. For the majority of the time though, I try to just leave him alone and take pictures as he plays.
A common issue with little kids is getting them to hold still long enough to get an in-focus picture. Try putting them in something that contains them a little more, like their highchair or the bathtub. One of my favorite places is our kitchen sink! I have taken some of my favorite photos while my son is playing during a sink bath.
For older kids, you can make a game out of taking pictures. Another great trick is to let them do something that is usually against the rules, like jumping on the bed. When you do ask them to pose or do something specific, just be quick and don’t make them take pictures with you for too long.
10. You don’t know when to put the camera down
When my son was born, I was terrified that I was going to miss an opportunity to capture a moment with him. He was growing so quickly and changing everyday. I was terrified that I was going to miss something or forget something. I read this quote by Ann Voskamp and I have been so thankful for these words, because I think it has saved me so much mom-guilt.
“All the moments a mother never captured on film – isn’t perhaps a failing, but a relaxing into fully being in that moment. They say that you can tell as much about a life by the photographs that weren’t taken as those that were. There doesn’t have to be fear of missing. Moments don’t need to be captured as much as they need to be enjoyed. There’s ridiculous freedom and glory in courage like this.”
Be encouraged mama. Pick up your camera and capture your babies.
Be intentional and practice taking good photos so that the time you do use your camera is worthwhile. Spend the rest of your time living in the moments with your family.
Don’t ever be afraid to put your camera down and just plain love on your babies. You won’t ever regret being fully immersed in moments with them.
If you’re hoping to up your photography game, I’ve created a FREE 5 day course just for you, mama! You can enroll for free today!
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Hi, I’m Jessie!
I am a wife + mama and self-taught photographer. Im passionate about empowering fellow moms to to see how incredible their everyday is and to take beautiful pictures of their kids (regardless of what camera they use). I teach moms how to apply the same techniques I use as a professional photographer to their own personal photography.
I love new friends! Come say hi over on Instagram (@hellojessiemartin)!