Five tips for documenting your kids

Young girl jumping off a couch onto a mattress

Here we are. If you live anywhere near me then we are six weeks into our “March Break” as my son continues to call our new normal. These days can be stressful, chaotic, low key, or even relaxing, depending on the day of the week (home-school, anyone?) or even the time of day. Honestly, I think we went through all of those just yesterday. Documenting this time allows us to freeze moments, to capture those fleeting laughs and fort building sprees. My kids have never fought more (I think?) but I have also seen them play and watched their imaginations soar in ways I would not have been able to witness if it weren’t for the time we’re in.

1. Let go of perfection

OK this one is hard for me. I have an idea in my head of what I want a photo to look like, then try to manipulate my kids into participating (I think I’ve mentioned my chocolate bribes, right?) This is real life. Real life (even before this pandemic) was messy, raw, and real. Documenting your life right now means accepting that there are dishes in the sink, toys ALL OVER the house (seriously how do they own so many?) and dirty feet ALL THE TIME. I’ve learned I need to let go of my expectations and see the beauty in the everyday.

2. Keep your camera out

Some days my camera lives on my kitchen counter, because inevitably the second I put it away is when I see the sweetest moment unfold. Keeping your camera accessible means you’ll be more likely to reach for it when you see something you want to remember. Phones have incredible cameras on them too so really, we’ve got no excuse these days.

3. Focus on the fun

What are the memories we want our kids to remember when they look back on this time? The obvious activities come to mind: baking, crafts, fort building. Don’t overlook the beauty in simplicity, however. Sometimes it’s finding your fighting kids curled up together reading a book, or stumbling upon them acting out their princess stories. I think the beauty is in the everyday moments.

4. Look for the light

You know what makes a good photograph great? Light. Most of us are home now much more than we typically are. Study the light in your house. Notice where the sunlight streams through in the morning and the late afternoon. Notice where you get soft, diffused light. I get the most gorgeous light across my kitchen table in the morning, so if I’m feeling energetic (3 cups of coffee, anyone?) I might put out a puzzle or some clay in that spot and see what happens. Or I might suggest some fort building in the afternoon. Notice light and see what works best for you!

5. Change your perspective

Get down low or get up high. Experiment. I sometimes put my camera right down on the floor if my kids are playing there, or I’ll stand on a chair over top of them to get a bird’s eye view. Changing your perspective can help tell the story and draw a viewer’s eye to parts of your photo you feel are most important.

Finally, I can’t stress this enough – let go of perfection. Let go of what you think this time is supposed to look like, supposed to feel like, and try to be present in the moment. That’s at the heart of documentary photography and I think that is what we’ll want to look back on in years to come. The small, everyday moments that helped create our new normal.

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Greater Toronto area family and newborn photographer providing authentic, lifestyle photography
 for people who love to play, laugh, and have epic adventures.