I’ve never really been into set-up photos with boring backdrops at home or in a stationary predetermined location. I’m more of a get out there, live life & capture moments as they unfold kind of girl. I want to document my daughter’s childhood in a fun & meaningful way and I can’t think of a better way to do it then a series of awesome images taken while we’re constantly out on mini adventures or just doing everyday activities.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret…95% of the photos I take & share of my daughter were all taken with just an iPhone. That may sound strange knowing my daughter has two photographer parents who have built a business around taking photos for a living but it’s the truth. The very last thing I want to do while out with my daughter or while travelling is to worry about my camera equipment! As soon as we bring out our cameras it feels like a “session” instead of just capturing life naturally unfold. My trusty iPhone is also way less intrusive giving me a better chance to capture unexpected moments on the go.That doesn’t mean I still haven’t put any thought or care behind the photos I take because I often can see a photo-op or great location for a photo coming a mile away! I just try to keep things simple on my end while capturing a toddler who doesn’t always want to have her photo taken. I also don’t want her to feel that absolutely every single move she makes or item of clothing she wears NEEDS to be photographed.
I do have a few tricks to help me fulfill my mom need to freeze as many moments of my daughter’s life as possible but making sure they’re still aesthetically pleasing even if just taken with a phone…& most of the time without her even knowing!
#1-Get a Good Phone
If you’re like me and the majority of the photos you take of your child are with your cell phone than it’s worth the investment to have a great tool to snap your photos with.I have an iPhone 8 which means at 12-megapixels I have a pretty decent portable camera in my pocket at all times. My iPhone completely meets my everyday & travel needs to capture life as its unfolding with my spunky toddler. I’ve been eyeing the iPhone X as a dreamy upgrade but for now my cell is definitely enough to get some great snaps as we’re out & about.
#2-Edit Your Photos
This is a must! I absolutely edit all of my photos taken with my iPhone. I’m not talking about any super sophisticated editing but I definitely do some in app tweaking before I save or share them. Below is a perfect example of how a little quick editing completely saved a photo! I remember for this shot Isla unexpectedly jumped up onto the ledge I had previously asked her to stand on for a photo & had refused. She suddenly posed giving me the toddler equivalent of milliseconds to snap a pic. Needless to say I got the shot but needed to adjust it.
I find most iPhone pics I take tend to need a little extra boost with balancing light. For example the “shadows” are usually the first tweak I make sometimes followed by a little adjustment with the “colour saturation” & “black point”. And although I’m pretty on top of other things like keeping my horizon straight sometimes I need to adjust that as well through the crop function…especially if it was a super speedy snap & go situation. In other cases a little cropping is required to remove someone or something I don’t want in the frame to bring the focus back on my daughter.There are some great editing apps out there but the majority of the time I just use the basic Photos app that comes on my iPhone. If there is something absolutely driving me crazy in the photo that I’d like to remove I use the PS Express (Photoshop) or PhotoRetouch app. I’m not really into photos that appear to be heavily edited so my main goal is to just keep with a natural looking photo that is clear & consisting of vibrant colours…no filters or effects.
#3-Candid ShotsNot every great photo will involve your child standing in a forced pose facing you & grinning. In fact many of my favourite pics I’ve taken on the go of Isla are of her either completely looking off in the opposite direction, just doing whatever she was doing or simply walking through what is undoubtedly a beautiful backdrop. The best part is she often has no idea I’m even taking a picture!
I personally think candids are important for several reasons. If you are forcing your child to stop what they’re doing to pose & smile constantly throughout the day, you’re taking away from their experience & that particular moment. Yes of course there’s a time and place for posed “say cheese” pics but try to fill your outings with lots & lots of candid photos as well.
Casual candid photos not only capture a real moment in time but also look awesome! There’s just something about catching a moment as it happens…especially when your little one has no idea you’re sneaking a pic.
The Rule of Thirds is a pretty basic photography rule of thumb to take aesthetically pleasing images. You don’t always want to centre your child right in the middle of each shot. Play around a little as it can help make your image more interesting.
The idea is to divide each frame into imaginary thirds both horizontally & vertically. I do this often placing Isla just off to one side and keeping the horizon in the lower third. This keeps my photos simple & uncluttered so she can be the main focus.
#5-Watch for the Right Moment Without Overdoing It
We all have that mom friend or two who over share photos of their child. I actually don’t mean in frequency but I’m talking a whole album of less than great pics from the same day or activity each featuring very similar looking photos of their child in the pool, park or play centre. Instead just watch for the most fun, stand out moment of the day. Get that one amazing image and let that photo be what you share & spark fond memories down the road!I’m pretty good at being able to quickly & quietly suddenly spot a great photo-op of my daughter, pull out my phone, snap a few quick shots and then put it away again. I don’t want to spend an entire outing snapping photos nor do I need 150 photos of my daughter jumping in a pool or doing the exact same activity over and over. I get a few really great & fun pics…& then I put my phone away!
#6-Take Photos at the Beginning of the Day or EventYou’ll have a better chance at capturing that stand out shot of the day if you do it before your little one has a meltdown…and it doesn’t hurt to do it while their clothes are still clean & hair in place.It also means you can put your phone away for a bit knowing you got some cute safety shots to fall back on and enjoy yourself. Of course you’re still in parental stand-by mode to snap more but having a great photo near the beginning is just a good idea because especially with toddlers you just never know how their mood will change in another 20 minutes.
#7-Get Creative With Selfies
There’s a time and place for selfies but I’m usually after more full body, scenic & creative shots. I don’t want my daughter to just look back on a series of head & shoulder shots of the two of us one day that say very little about where we were or what we were doing. I want her to have some great pics of us together actually showing us and where we went! Playing around with a selfie stick allows you to take some pretty quick & easy selfies without sacrificing the actual reason for snapping the pic in the first place.
#8-Use Your Camera’s Timer or a Remote
I spend a lot of time on mini adventures alone with my daughter. Since it’s often just the two of us I’ve had to get a little creative to snap a photo or two where a selfie just wouldn’t cut it. One trick I’ve developed is to put my phone’s camera in selfie mode and then set the timer. That way I can set it down somewhere, hit the button and run into place. I’ve usually already tested the framing so I don’t need to get back up again for my phone once I know it snapped the pic. I don’t use this method too often but whenever I have it’s been worth it.
If you’re interested in accessories you can get a small portable tripod or selfie stick with a wireless remote. I was able to capture some super sweet moments of Isla learning to walk using a remote. I placed the camera down and held the remote in my hand while she made her way across the beach holding my hands. It was just the two of us on the beach at sunrise so having a way of snapping that moment meant the world to me.
#9-Ask a Stranger or Friend to Take a Photo
If someone is around, don’t be shy to ask them to take a photo for you. That also means to accept if someone out of the blue offers to take one for you (sometimes I find my automatic reaction for some strange reason is to say “no” without truly thinking it through).
Truthfully some of my favourite pics were snapped by total strangers. They’re often my favourites because they’re of both me and Isla together doing something fairly normal to us that I otherwise wouldn’t have a photo of if someone else couldn’t take it for us. Recently Isla fell asleep while on my back in the carrier during one of our beach walks and a couple ran up to me offering to take a photo. I was completely caught off guard but I’m so glad now I said yes because that photo already means so much to me. It didn’t have to be perfect but it sums up so much about this current phase in our mother daughter adventures.
There have been times where I’ve also completely “set up” a shot I’m after by having a friend help out. I usually start out by first taking the photo I’d like of my friend. I can then show them exactly how the final pic will look, tell them where to stand, what angle to take the pic and then we can change spots. It’s a simple way to get the photo I’m after that I can’t take myself.
I’m an absolute sucker for silhouettes! They’re probably my favourite type of photo and so easy to take. Sometimes it’s a matter of not having much choice so it’s better to give in & purposely let a beautiful silhouette take shape.
For example…I’ve always loved walking the beaches here in Cancun during sunrise. Cancun & the Mayan Riviera are all east coast facing meaning the sun is dramatically rising from the east which is up over the ocean. I used to watch person after person during my beach walks struggle to take a photo of someone else standing there smiling with the sun directly behind them. The subject will be backlit making them appear very dark and if you’re just using a cell phone your camera will be no match for the intensity of the sun rising behind them. Instead you can take a photo like that on an angle (so the sun isn’t directly behind them) or go bold and instead get a silhouette photo. Place your child directly right in front of a rising or setting sun. They don’t need to smile in this type of shot so just let them play or act natural. The final effect is breathtaking!
#11-Take Photos from Different Angles
It’s always a great idea to take photos of your children from their level & not just from standing directly in front of them. This is super important for young children. Crouch down & get low instead of taking photos from the same standard adult peering down level. It just makes for a much more interesting picture to show your little one exploring at their level. It should also provide a better background instead of showing off just the ground if the pic was taken from chest level.
There are times for effect you may also want to to take a shot purposely from way high above or below. Playing around with the angles you take your photos can help tell a bit of the story when needed capturing a moment that wouldn’t have the same impact if taken just from a standard head on in the front angle. In the photo below my daughter was obsessed with using a small booklet that came with a toy as her “map” to guide us around Havana, Cuba. At the angle I took the photo it immediately brings me back to that moment & makes me smile. Again she had no idea I took that photo so it never interrupted the fun, wonder and independence she was feeling as our tour guide.
#12-Capture Your Child’s Size By Using The World Around Them
Sometimes you’ll end up somewhere and see an opportunity to truly capture just how small your tiny human is by adding an element of comparison. By having your child stand right next to something incredibly large like a tree, statue or wide open scenery, you can capture a sense of scale. It’s a fun way to add a little magic reminding you just how tiny your little one is next to the world.
#13-Waterproof Phone Case
For me getting a good phone case automatically means getting a waterproof case. It’s true we do spend a lot of time at the beach and by pools but having a toddler also means having an unpredictable tiny person who may accidentally put your phone in harm’s way. Having a good waterproof case is also key to taking amazing pics both in & out of the water. If you’re going to take the time to bring your phone with you to the beach or by a pool to get some photos, I think it only makes sense to get great photos instead of blurry photos taken through an awkward plastic bag. This isn’t meant to upset anyone but photos taken through those waterproof pouches look horrible! If they’re photos you don’t really care about than don’t waste your time with your phone in the first place. Those waterproof pouches are also really frustrating to use.
If you’re hoping to capture a few amazing shots of your child than the investment in a good phone case has suddenly just become invaluable. I’ve always had LifeProof cases and love using them as they’re super slim & trustworthy.
If you absolutely have your heart set on a photo & the little one you’re snapping pics of happens to be a toddler…you may need to resort to a little bribery! Nothing big but maybe you let them have that snack or treat they were after a little earlier than planned or let them choose the next activity. With my daughter it usually comes down to her not wanting to stand still because she wants to rush off to do something else. This way I can just buy a few minutes to take a photo and then we move along.
#15-They Don’t Have To Be Perfect
Not all photos will be perfect. Some happen so quick & without much notice that you just need to snap and hope for the best. Sometimes capturing the feeling and excitement of that moment is enough to keep you grinning every time you see the photo down the road. Having to go with the flow so you don’t interrupt a moment is just as important.
Ultimately the reason parents are taking photos of their children to start with is to document their childhood & have these great little photographic memories to look back on. Personally I’ve found that knowing I can take just a few incredible photos that help sum up a day, activity or even trip…has allowed me to stay more in the moment and actually enjoy that time with my daughter instead of serving as a non-stop parental paparazzi. It’s all about balance while still having some beautiful photos to hold onto forever!