What I Wish I'd Been Told About Photographing My Kids When I Became a Mother

Yvonne's kids

Last weekend I celebrated the high school graduation of my second child. As I scrolled through his baby and childhood photos, I cringed at the terrible quality of the photos I had taken of him. I didn't know the first thing about photography when my boys were little. I just knew I wanted to capture every moment that I could. I snapped away on my disposable cameras, clueless about things like composition or exposure. Luckily, by the time my daughter was born, I had discovered blogs and photo-sharing sites and was able to start learning and understanding how to capture and document my family's life in a creative, beautiful, more meaningful way with a Canon DSLR camera. I know that understanding photography can be a bit overwhelming, so I'd love to share some simple tips for seeing your family through the lens of your camera and capturing beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.


Get to know and understand your camera. Don't play the guessing game when it comes to getting a good shot. Knowledge is power! When you truly understand how your camera works you can make your camera work for YOU. Get to know your camera's capabilities and functions. You will be more confident behind the lens and be able to capture memories without stressing out or missing out on precious moments.

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Turn off the flash and use natural light whenever possible. Flash can be harsh, creating unnatural skin tones, overexposed subjects and red-eye. Take some time and learn exposure. Understanding basic exposure can be a game changer when taking photos of your family. I have boxes full of pictures of terribly exposed photos of my boys that are mostly unusable. I wish someone had said to me "hey, you should learn about exposure!"

Yvonne's kids

Change your perspective. When photographing children or moments in our lives, it's so easy to simply point the camera and shoot straight on. Try a different perspective. If your baby is sleeping, step out of the room and take a shot while looking through the doorway. If your baby is playing on the floor, get down on their level and capture the moment from their perspective. If you're outdoors, lay down on the grass and shoot looking up. Move around, try different angles, different points of view. Get creative! 

Yvonne's kids

Always keep your camera close by and ready to go. Life happens fast when you have little ones and you don't want to be caught off guard. Make it a habit to keep your camera accessible with a charged battery (or an extra one ready just in case!) and plenty of space on the memory card. Also, don't be afraid or intimidated to take your camera with you when you're on the go to be able to capture moments you experience with your children while out living life.

Yvonne's kids

Invest in a prime lens if you're using a DSLR camera . A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length. Using this type of lens means having to move around a bit more to get a shot. Since it cannot zoom in or out, you have to move to get closer or to back away. But prime lenses are quicker, sharper and allow more light in. This makes them ideal for low light situations. Some prime lenses can cost a pretty penny, but Canon sells an EF50mm f/1.8 STM lens for less than $200. It's one of my favorite all time lenses and is usually the one you will find on my camera.

Think candid. Not all pictures of your children have to be their smiling faces. Try capturing them in their surroundings without asking them to smile, or to look your way. Don't focus so much on getting a perfect shot. Life isn't always picture perfect. The little moments are worth capturing too and will be so much fun to look back on. Your baby's sleeping face. Your toddler's favorite shoes. Your child reading on their bed. Pick up the camera and shoot when they're not looking or expecting it.

Yvonne's kids

Get in the picture, mama! Hand that camera to someone else and ask them to take a picture of you with your kids! This is one of my absolutely biggest regrets. There are so many holiday pictures, family gatherings, family trips that I documented with my camera, but never thought to include myself in the pictures. Or, invest in a tripod and remote so you can take pictures of yourself with your family. I know sometimes as women, we prefer not to be in the photo. But if you take one thing away from this post, PLEASE LET IT BE THIS. You will want to remember being there with your family. It can be painful to look through albums and not see a single photo of you with your children at big life events. Twenty years down the road, you won't care about how much you weighed, or if you had a terrible hairstyle, or if the dress you were wearing was hideous. Trust me.

Back up your photos! I can't stress this enough! I once lost thousands of pictures when my computer got a virus and was destroyed. It was devastating. That will never happen again. I currently back up my photos on a hard drive and also upload all photos to Dropbox. Find something that works for you and BACK! UP! YOUR! PHOTOS!

Yvonne's kids

Now, the most important thing I can tell you is that you just need to pick up that camera and start shooting! Take the tips that I've shared that work for you and put them to use. Find photo blogs and photo sharing sites that inspire you. The more you shoot, the better you'll get and the more comfortable you will feel. Remember you are creating a visual history filled with all kinds of wonderful, emotional, funny, adorable stories to pass down to your children. That is what really matters. Have fun, be creative and don't forget to enjoy each moment you are capturing!

What is the single best tip someone has shared with you about photographing one's family? Or do you have advice of your own to share? I would love to hear from you!


Yvonne Valtierra of Joy Unexpected is addicted to lattes, reality TV, fitness boot camp and to getting really good deals through coupons and “club member” savings (Please, respect The Costco Card.) She is extremely competitive, just ask her husband about the time she sold him out to win a game of Taboo.

All images courtesy of the author

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