THE BLOG
01/13/2015 03:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Your Everyday Is Beautiful: Kirsten Lewis' Secrets to Documenting Family Life for Pros and Moms With A Camera

2015-01-12-01kl.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

It's a new year and new opportunity to focus on photographing your family and documenting your life as it is now -- craziness and all. With time, you may find photos of your everyday life more beautiful than any portrait ever could be. The mundane, the chaos, and the small acts of everyday love that make up your life are the photos you are likely to treasure years from now. These are the photos your children will want to see when they grow up far more than a posed photo that looks just like the one on everyone else's wall. For this reason, photography that tells a story, your story, is growing in popularity among professional photographers and Moms alike.

2015-01-12-02kirsten_lewis_photographer003.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

Photographer Kirsten Lewis developed a keen eye for seeing what makes each family who they are through her background in child psychology and experience as an elementary school teacher. Her background working with children along with her substantial talent as a photographer has led her to be recognized internationally for her incredible ability to tell each family's unique story through images.

2015-01-12-05kirsten_lewis_photographer024.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

Kirsten goes in-depth about her approach to storytelling photography in her wildly popular Creative Live course Modern Storytelling Family Photography. But, she believes in what she is doing so much that she wants everyone to be able to tell a story whether they are a professional photographer or a busy parent with a new camera.

2015-01-12-04kirsten_lewis_photographer023.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

Putting her tips into practice I've been able to move towards capturing the parts of my own family's life, big and small, that I want to remember and be able to share with my children when they are older. I've learned to never leave home without my camera. I've also invested in a lightweight and compact Manfrotto Befree Tripod and Hotshoe Bubble Level to help get in more photos myself.

2015-01-12-06kirsten_lewis_photographer0251.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

Some of her best tips are:

SEE WHAT IS UNIQUE

Remember that each child is an individual, with their own personality and uniqueness. While some little ones will giggle from the moment the sun rises till it rests, other children seem to be the reincarnate of a wise philosopher from 1886. A good portrait is one that makes the viewer feel like they know something about the subject. An unspoken connection. A familiarity with the unfamiliar. Rather than forcing a child to sit and fake a smile, try having them just sit and be in the moment with you. Get down to eye level and ask them to look at you. That's all. Talk to them about their favorite things, their family, their pets. As they begin to relax and open up, start taking pictures while still engaging with them. Believe it or not, parents seem to have the biggest challenge making a great portrait of their kids but don't let this discourage you. Try accentuating their individuality, their uniqueness, what makes them who they are and no one else.

2015-01-12-08kirsten_lewis_photographer035.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

RETRAIN THE KIDS

If you are wanting to make more natural pictures of children, yours or others, the first thing you need to do is retrain them to not pose for you, not acknowledge the camera. This might seem like a challenging task but it is actually quite easy to achieve. When photographing children involved in an activity, whether it be hopscotch or tooth brushing, every time the child looks and smiles for you, put down the camera. You don't want to reward them by taking their picture, but instead just talk to them. Once they go back to their activity begin making pictures again. It won't take long for them to understand that if they look at you, you will stop photographing. I find it only takes doing this about 3 or 4 times before they stop acknowledging the camera all together.

SMART PHONES AND INSTAGRAM
I think the ONLY reason I upgrade my iPhone regularly is for the increasingly impressive adjustments to the camera. Today, you'll find that most all photographers, from photojournalists to fashion photographers, have an Instagram account. Why? Because it is a tool that has given us the freedom to make good pictures of our everyday life, no matter where we are! The same for Moms and Dads! Try setting a goal to make just one good picture of your baby a day for the first 365 days and post one photo a day on Instagram. Not only does this give your friends and family a chance to watch your baby change and grow, but it serves as a visual journal to look back on. Many photo printing companies will print your Instagram pictures monthly and automatically send you the pictures.

2015-01-12-09kirsten_lewis_photographer036.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

PRINT YOUR PICTURES!
I think the MOST important advice I can give a new mom, or any mom for that matter, is to print your photographs regularly. The cardboard box filled with old photos is a dying tradition that I fear has moved from threatened to endangered. There is something incredible special about physically holding pictures in your hands, passing them to you loved ones and revisiting old memories. They are conversation starters, family bonding reminders. Printed photos are a means for grandchildren to relate to their grandparents, couples to meet their partner when they were children, adults to feel connected to their parents who since have passed. Nothing can replace the feeling of a tangible memory. I implore you to print a few pictures every month and save them in a box with your child's name on it. Plan on keeping this box until they become adults and giving them the gift of a life time. It will mean a whole lot more than a dozen hard drives that will probably be obsolete in 20 years.

HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER
This advice is especially for professional photographer moms. The upside to professional photographer parents is the endless amount of incredible images of their children. The downside? They are NEVER in the pictures. I strongly encourage hiring a documentary family photographer to spend some time in your home making pictures of you and your kids that are honest and real. These photographs will eventually become your children's most prized possessions later in life, special moments, regular routines, the things they remembered and loved most about having you as parents preserved forever in a collection of pictures.

2015-01-12-10kirsten_lewis_photographer037.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis

FOCUS ON THE REACTION
When photographing a moment, an activity, focus more on the reaction than the action in most cases. The greatest moments are usually the in-between ones that become before or after. For example, when kids are playing toss the better moment is usually the child catching vs. the child throwing.

PHOTOGRAPH RELATIONSHIPS
The greatest of moments usually involve at least two subjects. Try photographing the relationship that the child has to the other people, big or small, human or pet, in the room with them. Try focusing on how they communicate with one another, interact and relate to each other.

2015-01-12-11kirsten_lewis_photographer041.jpg

Photo: Kirsten Lewis