I posted these photo tips as a guest post on another blog last summer. I’ve been getting a lot of photography questions lately so I figured I’d post them here as well. Most of these pictures are taken with my big camera, but these tips are things that can be done with any camera to add just a little variety and quality to the pictures it takes.

Here you go:

1. Turn off the flash.
Lighting is key in taking good pictures. If you look for beautiful light, you are almost bound to end up with beautiful pictures. In my opinion flashes can mess that up. There is just something so beautiful about natural light and if you seek it out you can almost always find it. Sure, there are occasional times you must have a flash, at night, for example, if you don’t have a high enough ISO, and sometimes you need to use just a fill-flash. But as a general rule, get rid of that flash! (Note that I’m not talking about the flashes that go with studio lighting…I covet that kind of flash which I experimented with here. But I’m talking here about how to take better pictures without all the hoopla of expensive equipment.)

When I first started family photography I did it purely on my driveway in front of my garage. I know, that sounds very picturesque, right? But I got great results. I bought a black, king-sized flat sheet and hooked it up to the bottom of my open garage and shot away. Something about the light bouncing off the pavement with the backdrop created beautiful light:Porches or garages are great in the shade. This next one was on our back porch. Again, the pavement creates a great reflector of beautiful sunlight to light up faces.
Open doorways, with you outside and your child or children looking out the door, also provides you with great light. This one was just inside our back door.
Even though shady areas work great, don’t limit yourself to just that. In the early morning or evening when the sun slants just so, there is gorgeous light to be found.
If it’s too hot outside (like it is most of the time where I live in the desert), you don’t need to invest in expensive lighting equipment if you want to get good indoor shots. You just need to know where to look for the light. Almost every home has got some good lighting somewhere if you just look for it. I utilize beautiful light inside my house wherever I have north-facing windows.
2. Composition: get creative with it.

Get down on the ground.

Look down at the subject from high above. Try standing on a stool or chair.
Get closer. The closer we get, the more we really “see.” Try getting so close you only capture half of the face. Get close up and take pictures of toes, fingers, just a smile. You’ll be so happy with the results.
I love getting really close to nature too. It seems that the closer I get the more in awe I am of how breathtakingly beautiful it is.I love to set my little point-and-shoot (Canon Elph 750) on the “macro” setting and get super close-up.

3. Catch emotions and relationships.
I also always ask the kids to laugh instead of smile. It seems to produce a much more natural smile than the cheese-ball ones that are easy to get with kids.
But remember, subjects don’t always have to be smiling.

Or looking at the camera.

4. Capture the little things.
I think it’s important for moms to remember to capture little things about kids whether it makes an artistic picture or not.I love this one of my Lucy because it epitomized her at that time in her life. With her bedroom around her and her morning smile and her blanket there beside her that she HAD to sleep with every night. I want so much to remember all those little things. So I take pictures of them. I wish I had pictures of things like that from when I was growing up.

5. Always have a camera ready.
Although most of the time I feel like my big camera is just an extension of my body, it’s too big to carry around all the time. But I ALWAYS have a point-and-shoot (or even my iPhone) in my purse that I can pull out when I have an opportune moment. I love having a little camera that also takes video footage so I can capture things on the go. Even my six-year-old has captured some masterpiece videos with it that we are going to love some day. You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment.

You just never know when those kids are going to do a perfect pose for you.Or when you’re going to capture things like the tongue-hanging-out-run.
This was totally Claire at that age. She always ran like that. And if I didn’t have my camera ready I would have forgotten that.

Here are baby Lucy’s legs: That’s how she sat every single day in her highchair, legs crossed neatly over each other while the top half was certainly far from “neat.” And I’m glad I had my camera right there to get it.

Let’s remember though, that I am a little bit nutty when it comes to trying to capture every moment. I want to hold on to time a little too much sometimes. But photography helps slow things down for me.

And I’m so grateful for that!

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  1. Thank you these are good tips. Love your blog and I read it regularly!!
    I have a question though.On a sunny day I often end up with a pictures that have shade and sun on faces and I hate that. As probably every kid, my kids hate having sun in their eyes, so I pose them so they don't look directly into he sun, but then their faces are half sunny and half not. Is there a way to avoid that? I want some sunny pictures and I keep having this problem!! Can you help???!!

  2. Fabulous pictures, thanks so much for the great tips! I think always having a camera on hand is most important, you never know what will happen!

  3. Thanks for all the tips! Beautiful shots too

    Just wondering… I know this was a re-post, but how much time (roughly) do you spend on blogging each day? You blog so often and your blog post are so well thought out, full of pics (which of course need editing, compressing, etc) and often carry important messages, yet we all know you've got kids and obligations like the rest of us.

  4. Just a couple more photography questions: How do you shoot in bright sunlight without over-exposing the white area? Or is this something you fix in editing software? Also, what lens/settings do you use to shoot macro shots with your big camera? I love to do super-close-ups of nature, but they don't always turn out how I'd like them to.

  5. I always love your photography tips, as I'm always looking for ways to make my pictures better, especially since I can't take them myself and have to instruct others what I want and how I want them to take my pictures for me.

    Two questions that you could maybe answer in one of your Friday Q&A posts:
    #1) How did you first get interested in photography? How old were you, what fascinating you about photography, have you had any formal training/schooling, or has it mainly been trial and error?
    #2) What tips do you have for photographing young kids (around age 1–2 years)? They are SO wiggly and it's hard to get them told still.

    Your paralyzed friend,

  6. thank you shawnie for the tips!! It was JUST what I needed. I LOVE photography, but have never taken a class, etc. I just do what feels right and my wonderful husband splurged when I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and bought me a great canon with and extra lens that I am in LOVE with. I feel like I am truly capturing our life!! The real moments..
    p.s. if you ever teach a class, will you let me know?
    thanks so much for your tips,
    Christa Johnson (Sharon Wiemer's daughter)

  7. Thanks for the tips! I am going to buy a sheet and try the driveway shot. I am wondering how you blur your background. Is that a photo shop thing or do you do that with your camera? Maybe a future Friday question….

  8. Wonderful tips! I especially love the ones about lighting on driveways, porches, garages, etc. I discovered recently that lighting can be great at certain times of the day on a covered deck. Never would have known if I didn't have my camera with me – which is a habit I'm working on getting into. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants to hold on to time, or at least slow it down. I am always trying to capture little things with my daughter, and even though she's only a year old, I'm already glad. There are already things I've forgotten in her short little life. I think taking pictures of those moments helps us to savor our lives. To really live in the moment instead of just living through life. Thanks again for sharing!

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