I spend a lot of time editing photos (hazards of the job) and I’ve noticed an odd trend recently.
As much as our pictures focus on the activities of our family, ninety percent of my shots are lacking something pretty critical. Me. It’s like a Where’s Waldo hunt going on in my computer memory.
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Aha! Found one!
I think it’s because I spend so much time trying to orchestrate the perfect shot with everyone else, or I’m just distracted by the cute things my kids are doing. If we’re being totally honest, I’m also not very good at living in the moment. My time is spent either setting up an image or planning the next group activity.
On the rare occasion someone does point a camera at me, I get all awkward and weird and I’m never sure quite where to put my hands. I’m self-conscious about love handles or disheveled hair or smudged eyeliner. Back in the MySpace days, every single photo was of me. Me at a party. Me on vacation. Me me me me me me. Having kids changed the focus, though, and it’s strangely uncomfortable to be the center of attention. So much of my time now is spent making sure everyone else is put together. I’m never confident that I’m presentable. Being a mom is the best thing ever and when someone truly captures me in the midst of that joy it’s an incredible thing…but usually I’m surrounded by baby wipes or bottles. My critical eye kicks in.
The kids are getting older, though, and it’s kind of a bummer that we don’t have many whole-family photos to throw up on the walls. I’m trying to focus on the positive feeling behind each moment, ignoring the nit-picky details and making a concerted effort to get myself in our pictures. Here are the things I’ve tried that actually make a difference.
- Time it right. Dawn and dusk are the best times in terms of lighting, but you also have to consider your family’s’ patterns. 6pm is the witching hour in our house with the kids getting antsy over their impending bedtime, so things go much more smoothly if I aim for an early-in-the-day shoot.
- Get a camera bag. Take it everywhere. Actually having your camera on-hand makes a world of difference. When the perfect moment comes together with the kids engaged and your hair cooperating, you’ll be prepared.
- Use a tripod. A GorillaPod works really well, too, if you don’t want to lug around a big contraption. Set the camera on self-timer and step back! You can also get a tether or a remote trigger to make the process a thousand times easier.
- Selfie stick. When all else fails, camera phones are accessible and familiar. Throw that bad boy on a stick and snap away.
- Shoot in auto. I tend to get really hung up on ISO and f-stop and shutter speed, but those things can take quite awhile to fiddle with. The kids are often totally distracted by the time I’ve figured it out. Give yourself permission to set the camera in auto mode. It’s better to have a slightly dark photo where everyone’s smiling than a perfectly-lit pic with grumpy faces.
- Embrace the mess. Many parents stress over getting the perfect ambience in a photo. For us, pulling the toddler out of the stroller or getting the baby to ditch his binky can be kind of a big ordeal. So don’t. Again, it’s better to capture the family in their element and at least have something to look back on, versus trying for perfection and failing to get any picture at all.
- Bring a helper. Ask a friend or family member to come along with you on an outing, and hand them the camera.
- Enlist strangers. I occasionally ask restaurant hostesses to step outside and snap a pic of us (natural lighting is so much better than those indoor fluorescents!). They look at me like I’m a little nuts, but I get the shot and never see that person again.
- Mirror magic. If you’re having trouble getting everyone to look at the camera, try propping a big mirror up behind it. Suddenly, everyone’s attention will be intently drawn in the direction of the shutter.
- Use Photoshop. Details driving you nuts? Take a class, ask a skilled friend or hire someone on Fiverr to touch up blemishes or erase stray toys that may be cluttering up the photo.
We’re working with sponsor CVS to get moms everywhere back in their family photos with a fun Instagram giveaway! Follow the directions on our latest portrait over on Instagram for a chance to win a $50 CVS gift card. And be sure to check back next week, when I’ll post some pics from a recent shoot and share my favorite ways to show off those whole-family photos with CVS photo products from www.cvs.com/photo.
How do you get mom in the photo?
Disclosure: I’m proud to partner with CVS Pharmacy for the Put Mom In The Photo campaign. I am being sponsored by CVS Pharmacy for my posts and activities, but all opinions expressed are my own, and all product claims or program details shared should be verified at CVS.com or with the appropriate manufacturers.