Mumblings of a Momtographer: Tips for Capturing Timeless Treasured Photos of Kids

Posted by Katherine Gregory on

What exactly is a momtographer you may ask. Who is this growing breed of diaper bag carrying, soccer game attending, camera wielding mothers who have taken over social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook? This diverse group of women comes with varying levels of photography experience and style, but what they all have in common is the love of picture taking and the understanding that memories are made in life’s everyday little moments as much as they are in life’s bigger milestones. For me, it was a love of boutique clothing and trending kids fashions that made me pick up my camera again. I began my photography journey twenty years (or more) ago with an old manual 35mm Nikon film camera my dad bought me back in high school. Now there is a limitless world of digital photography, and it’s not just for professionals. I’ve been inspired on Instagram and Facebook by both professionals and hobbyists alike. Art and creativity knows no limits, and really, neither should we. Whatever your interests, whether it’s documenting your tiny trend setters outfit of the day, lunch time shenanigans, or family travels, hopefully, sharing some of these basic tips will help you begin your journey in momtography. 

Learn your equipment:

It doesn't take much, all you really need is a cell phone with a camera, but whatever you choose, make sure you have basic working knowledge of your equipment. Some cellphone cameras offer features like portrait mode, which can greatly improve the overall look of the image and even provide some of that coveted bokeh (background blur). If you use a camera, know what settings are available. Even if you’re more comfortable shooting in auto mode, this will help you to know what setting might work best for the type of picture you’re trying to take. While I’ve talked to many friends who find it intimidating at first, I would encourage any mama to play around using the manual mode on your camera. Learning the basics of the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) can go a long way in helping you understand the adjustments needed to get a well focused and properly exposed shot. While that may sound like a scary geometry problem, let this math challenged mom assure you, with a little time and practice you can learn to shoot in manual too.

Stand back:

I personally like to stand back from my subject if space allows. I typically get far enough that I won’t accidentally cut out a random extremity belonging to my twirling tot. Let’s face it, most of us have wiggle worms for kids, so allowing some space between you and yours will ensure all of their cuteness (including fingers and tippy toes) end up in the picture. You can always crop a little (or a lot) to achieve a certain look, but a crooked horizon or missing toes and hands on a full body shot can look awkward. I have also learned that some of the best pictures happen when I step back, remove myself from their space, and just let them be kids. Candid shots are sometime more magical then posed pictures because they allow the essence of the child to be captured. Belly laughs, grumpy faces, sweet sibling bonding moments, these are the memories I want to freeze forever.

Get on their level:

I don’t know a mom out there who hasn't experienced the unflattering result of a camera aimed up at them (this seems to be a trademark move practiced by most of my male family members, I’ll be sure to direct them to this blog post when its published). Likewise, shots of children are often taken at a downward angle because we are standing over them. While you can certainly get creative with camera angles, and I would encourage you to do so, getting down and photographing at the child’s eye level results in a less distorted image. Eye level photos tend to be more engaging because you are allowing the camera to connect with the child at their level. To steal a quote from the little mermaid, you really do want to be “part of their world” and especially if your goal is a portrait, it’s helpful to use the eyes as your focus point.  An image taken from above can convey the message that the child is small in the world, but they are big in our world, and that’s what we should want to convey when we photograph them.

family christmas photo photography train station

Background:

Simple uncluttered backgrounds should be the goal. I always check for anything in the background that might distract from my subject. Distractions can come in all forms; a discarded yard toy, a fence board that is a different color, a felled limb on a path, or often times for me a clumsy black lab who likes to photobomb pictures.  I personally find it harder to achieve indoor angles where distractions are limited, but truly that may be more related to my housekeeping skills than my skills as a photographer (I’ll give you one guess which one I’m better at). A stack of folded (or in my case unfolded) laundry is probably not something you want in the backdrop of your photo.

Lighting:

This is a big one. Lighting can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Natural sunlight outdoors and the natural light that filters in through a big window is the best kind of light. I rarely use a flash if I can avoid it and when I do I opt for a bounce flash, but that’s a whole other blog post. Harsh light and dappled light (think the light that filters through the tree leaves) are some of the most difficult lighting situations to shoot in. Overcast days, overcast periods during the day, later afternoon when the sun is down closer to the horizon, even late morning light before the sun gets too high are more lighting friendly times take photographs. If you do have to take pictures when the lighting situation is harsh, finding a shaded spot where your entire subject or subjects are evenly lit is key. Pay attention to harsh shadows particularly on the face which can distract from the photo. Sometimes changing your position is all that is necessary to correct unwanted shadowing. 

fall photography pumpkin

Don’t ever be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. There are tons of free resources online for novice and experienced photographers alike. And as the old saying goes, practice really does make perfect. Just don't pick a big milestone like a first birthday party or high school graduation to try something new! One of the great things about being a momtographer is that most of the time your pictures are for you. You have the opportunity to capture those little moments, the ones we sometimes forget about as our children age. A simple snapshot can tell a story where words can fail. Now, what I I want to know is, what’s your story?

{ Michelle Grant is a photographer in Florida who has worked with numerous clothing brands and captured oodles of amazing images of her three beautiful children. You can follow her photography journeys on Instagram at @closetfullof whimsy. }


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