8 Tips for Capturing Everyday Moments in Your Family Photography

Marianne Stenger
10th November 2019

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss.

Most of us have a tendency to pull out our cameras mainly to document special occasions such as birthdays, graduations, or family holidays. But although these events are certainly worth documenting, it’s also important to recognise that what seems like an ordinary moment today may not be as commonplace a few years down the line when circumstances have changed.

Often some of the most precious photos to look back on are the ones that depict seemingly insignificant everyday moments and capture genuine emotions. In fact, researchers have found that although we consistently underestimate the value of ordinary experiences, rediscovering our mundane moments later in life can bring us unexpected pleasure. 

When captured on camera, ordinary daily occurrences, such as taking the kids to the park or enjoying a meal together as a family, tend to make some of the most memorable prints and photo books. With this in mind, we asked eight photographers and bloggers and who are also parents to share their top tips for capturing these precious everyday moments on camera.

1. Be spontaneous but plan ahead

“When photographing my kids I do a combination of planned and unplanned shots,” says mother and photographer Vironica.  “I take my camera pretty much everywhere I go so I can capture moments as they unfold. Sometimes I do plan for shots, mainly when we are doing activities at home. 

For instance, I set up their activity in a place where I know will have good light for photos and ask them to play there. My kids do complain when I ask them to pose for photos but they generally don’t mind me taking photos of them when they are playing and having fun. When we go to places such as the beach or the aquarium, I tend to plan ahead and dress them accordingly in colours that I know will stand out against the background.”

2. Don’t wait for perfection 

Madelon, mother and the photographer behind MadeByLon says her biggest tip for family photography is simply to not wait for perfection.  “Don’t wait until your home is clean, don’t wipe those faces clean, don’t worry about messy rooms and hair before taking that photo. Because you know what? Those things will bring back memories too; a pile of your favourite toys, remembering your favourite plate, or even how the dining room table looked after dinner. 

I photograph with either my iPhone or my Canon Mark III, which is almost always on my kitchen counter, ready to grab. The moments I love the most are the mundane, normal, day-to-day, in-between moments, such as children playing, dressing up, staring out of the window, or dancing. Just the ordinary things. These moments are the ones that kids will remember when they are all grown up.”

3. Shoot candidly 

Mother and blogger Clare Nicholas suggests shooting as many candid moments as possible.  

“It’s great to see your kids having fun building sand castles or enjoying a snowball fight, and considering how limited kids’ attention span tends to be, it’s ok to take pictures of them while they’re not looking straight at the camera. It’s better to capture an adorable moment on camera than ruin it by trying to make the kids pose for you.”

4. Put your subjects at ease and use the surroundings

Mother and South East London Blogger Marcela says there’s a lot of trial and error involved in photography, so it’s important to put aside your fear of failure and just shoot. 

“Try to talk to your child while taking their picture and ask questions about what they are doing or thinking. It helps them focus on something other than the camera and you get some great insights too. If I want a genuine smile, I will tell them a joke. 

Also, try to look at your surroundings and how they can help with your picture. Look for colours, shapes and interesting backgrounds. Different angles can help too. 

For instance, if we’re taking a walk, I like to stay a bit behind and capture what the kids are doing or run ahead and call them over to me. Sometimes a higher angle is better for capturing activities like painting, drawing, cooking, or doing homework. Just be sure to check your pictures after you take them, as there have been times I was convinced I had the best photos, only to come home and be disappointed.”

5. Have fun with it 

Parenting and lifestyle blogger Chloe Barson says that in general, it’s better to have fun with your photography than try to stage a specific photo you might have seen somewhere. 

“It’s hard trying to capture pictures with one wild child, let alone two looking at the camera and being still. My best advice is to not try to make them do this. Instead, let them look at each other, dance around and be a little silly. Just take multiple photos of each scene. This way, the kids have more fun and your photos will look a lot less staged.”

6. Be quick and take as many photos as possible 

Travel enthusiast and mother Sarah Jane suggests taking as many photos as possible. “Taking photos of kids can be difficult as they don’t really want to sit still for too long, even when they get older. I often also take photos of my son with our pet rabbit, which is even trickier, although I do have a few tricks for getting a decent shot. 

First of all, I take a lot of photos in one go as I find that it’s much easier to get a good one this way. I also try to get my son involved in the photo taking process by telling him what kind of look I’m trying to achieve. When photographing animals and kids, it’s all about being quick and catching them being cute before they get bored.

Finally, location is important. I like to find places that are full of colour, and preferably in nature. These are the places where both children and animals are happiest.”

7. Follow some basic photography rules 

Mother and professional family photographer Posy Quarterman points out that the more you have your camera out, the less kids will notice it and change their behaviour for the camera. To capture better family photos, she also suggests keeping these basic photography rules in mind: 

  • Get down to their level: You can practice your squats or simply lay on the floor.
  • Pay attention to the background: Nothing makes me crazier than a great photo of a cute kid with a pile of junk mail or a dirty laundry in the frame. If you can’t move the pile of junk, try changing your perspective.
  • Move around: Change your perspective and shoot from above, below or behind. Play with your camera while your child is distracted playing with their toys, friends or pet.
  • Be aware of your light source: Unless you are intentionally trying to achieve something different, your child should be facing your light source.
  • Don’t extract your child from what they’re doing: Go to them and get involved. Compose your shot and take one of them completely immersed in their activity, then try whispering their name and be ready to shoot as they glance up, before they register the camera. If they want to interact, try chatting with them about what they’re doing while you shoot.
  • Watch out for color casts: Bright items of clothing, blankets, grass, or colorful walls can all reflect light and bounce unwanted colors onto a person’s skin tone and ruin a shot. So pay attention to the colors around you.
  • Embrace the chaos: Photograph your kids jumping on the bed, throwing couch cushions, clapping through a bubbly bath, rolling down a grassy hill, or putting on a fun song and having an impromptu dance party. All of these things will inspire joy, laughter, and natural smiles. Chaos truly does make the most personality-packed photos.

8. Document your daily routines and rituals 

Mother and professional photographer Sarah Mason says the many photographic possibilities around us can sometimes be quite overwhelming, which leads to us not picking up our camera at all. Because of this, she likes to give her family photo shoots a theme or take photos from the perspective of one of the children. 

“In documenting our own family life, I like to record our everyday moments. This photo of our daughter, to me, signifies one of the changes when she was going from being a baby to a young girl. Her first teeth pushing through and she was fascinated by us cleaning our teeth. She wanted to do the same, but being held whilst doing it. It’s from a series of photos I took for an hour one morning, documenting our daily rituals and routines. 

It’s good to give a photo shoot these boundaries, and bring it in a bit. For me, it makes a stronger body of work. A few years ago, I set up the hashtag #storiesoftheeveryday so other people could share their extraordinary ordinary moments too.” 

Looking for more advice and ideas on documenting your family life? Check out our five tips for the modern day memory keeper. You may also want to have a look at our photo books, which are perfect for honouring your precious family memories.