Foreign and exotic always seem intriguing and captivating. I began my career with National Geographic, travelling to far-flung locales and racking up some 28 countries in my passport. It’s hard not to be drawn to the giggles and smiles of Cambodian children as they roll a tire down the road, or see the strength and beauty of a Rwandan woman carrying gallons of water on her head and a baby on her back. Those images connect us with other cultures. They open our eyes. They ground us.
But ironically, it’s not always so easy to see the beauty right in front of us. It took me having kids to discover that.
If we take the time to really slow down and look, it’s amazing what we can see in our everyday lives. That’s one of the things photography is so amazing at—not only preserving precious memories, but freezing time and reminding us how extraordinary our lives are, even in the midst of our daily chaos.
Here are some tips for how to capture the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.
1. Slow down and embrace the everyday.
Photography should be about capturing a person’s personality or the emotion of a moment—your kids’ quirky expressions, a gentle touch and the tears as well as the laughs. All of the seemingly mundane moments are what make our lives – and our children – so unique and beautiful. Homework, bath time, the playground. Sit back and watch the fun unfold.
2. Get on their level.
We adults see kids from above. A new perspective is unique and refreshing. Get down to their level, peek through the crib bars, lie on the floor—it’ll make your images more in-the-moment and personal.
3. Get close.
Move in close, and then move in even closer. Be natural, relaxed and have fun with it, and your subject will do the same. A kid’s eyes, a scrunched nose, the touch of a child’s hand. Close-ups create an intimate feeling.
4. Lead the way.
If you see a great moment that would express your child’s personality, don’t be afraid to guide them. Ask “Can you jump to that next rock?”… “What’s up in the sky?” Play peek-a-boo! Interact and have fun together while taking pictures.
5. Wait and watch.
You can sometimes give kids a nudge, but other times, the best things come to those who wait. Kids are creatures of habit. They’ll often repeat behaviors over and over. So if you miss a great moment, have no fear, keep your eyes open, wait patiently and they’ll most likely do it again.
6. Simplify your background.
Clean, simple images are usually more stunning than cluttered ones. Change up your angle – get down low or shoot from above – to simplify your background. In the image above, the tulip field was filled with hundreds of people! To get a clean shot, I knelt down and shot up towards the sky.
7. Print your memories!
Every time my children go to their grandparent’s house, the kids are drawn to a set of old photo albums. They never seem to get bored flipping through the dated photos. It’s their connection to the family and who they are. But in our modern world, our memories seem to get buried in a digital abyss. And we can forget how precious the tangible album can be. If you want a little help organizing, sharing and printing, apps like Likecake and MomentGarden are a couple fun, easy apps that can help! I’ve even found creating an iCloud “album” on my iPhone, where I can quickly throw my best photos to share with the grandparents, makes a perfect “best of the best” end of year photo album.
So, ditch the “say cheese” and embrace the chaos! It’s not about getting perfect pictures, and more about capturing the emotion and personality of the people around us. It’s authentic. It’s beautiful. And it’s what helps me truly see my everyday life with a new lens… because next time my kiddo stops for the 100th time to look at a rock on the way to the store, I’ll remember that moment she stopped to smell that rose. And how absolutely beautiful that moment was.