How I capture my kids’ true personalities with my camera

Our little military family was gearing up for another big adventure.

We have moved 14 times in the past 18 years and my husband and I weren’t sure that we had the energy to move our 14, 10 and 2 year olds to a new location AGAIN.

One night, as I was sitting there with my enormous to-do list and it hit me! Instead of being sad or overwhelmed that we were leaving our happy place in Oklahoma, I was going to spend the days leading up to our move capturing moments.

I vowed to capture them everyday. I wanted to capture my kids’ everyday lives, but I wanted it to be in a way that didn’t interfere and that was true to their personalities. No screaming, smile or cleaning the house to make a shot pretty… that is not real life in our family and I firmly believe in capturing the messy, unscripted, behind the scenes parts of life.

Those are the moments I want to remember.

I’m a photographer, like all of us, but I wasn’t one who had ever completed a 365 project or who photographed every day. I planned my shooting more with my clients or big events, so this was going to be a little outside of my comfort zone.

I stuck my Canon baby in my purse everywhere I went and it took a few days for it to become natural. The amazing thing is that the more that I shot, the less that it felt like an intrusion on our daily lives. The kids stopped posing for Mom and just kept doing whatever they were up to. I would take a couple shots and still stay engaged in the moment.

I learned a few things along the way…

1. Have a conversation

One of my favorite lessons learned is having a conversation with my children while I am photographing them. This works really well with my two year old. I have always done this with clients, but I was more rushed with my own children… until this project. I will sit on the floor, at the table, or in the car pickup line and just talk to them.

I have my camera in my hand and snap a few photos as we are talking, but I keep the conversation going. I have a favorite moment with each of my children doing this.

close up portrait of boy outside by Michelle Stoddard

2. Say yes

Life is hectic and crazy at times. As a Mom, I would feel myself saying no because of the clean-up or the possible inconvenience a request might make. I forced myself to try to say yes if at all possible. I even found myself making my own messes for the kids to have a little fun.

picture of kids laughing by Michelle Stoddard

3. Capture the details

We hear this a lot as photographers, but capture those details. The way that the sun comes in the kitchen in the morning or the pacifier that you should have taken away a year ago. The little details change so much and it’s hard to notice that they are changing until you look back.

I guess I have a greater perspective on this with moving every 2 years or so. As much as I think that I will remember what a room looked like or what their favorite stuffed animal looked like, memories fade.

the details of life with kids by Michelle Stoddard

4. Go on adventures

As photographers, we all love the golden hour and what better way to capture those dreamy warm images than a little adventure. Before we moved, we would go on walks in the evening or play in the yard and I’ve tried to keep that going here in DC. You don’t have to go far to visit a new place or have a new adventure.

picture of kid hanging on poles on a football field by Michelle Stoddard

5. Edit and share daily

My last tip is to edit those moments daily. I’ve gotten to the point that I look forward to sitting in the evening and editing my three or four (or 10) photos from the day. I started editing in Lightroom this year and have drastically cut down on my editing time. I share my favorites to Instagram and with family.

photo of girl in a red sweatshirt swinging by Michelle Stoddard

I encourage every one of you to become best friends with your camera.

You aren’t going to nail the focus, the settings or the composition in every shot. What you will do is grow as a person, a mom, and a photographer. It has been such a blessing to make myself slow down and enjoy the messy moments during a time of our lives that I could have sat back and just been a grumpy girl.

As photographers, we have a priceless gift to see the world through our lens, to see the beauty around us and experience moments through the eyes of our subjects. Get out there and capture the beauty in the everyday moments and you’ll find yourself capturing your children’s true personalities!

How I capture my kids' true personalities with my camera

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