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Life in a Snap — 4 Tips for Shooting the Real Moments of Life!! (photography tutorial)

Are you one of those people who hauls their “good” camera out during special occasions? Birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings? Is your hard drive full of images of the kids blowing out birthday candles, the day your brought the new puppy home, and the first days of school? That used to be me too. My camera used to only see the light of day during special occasions, spending the rest of the time sitting on a shelf collecting dust, waiting for the next birthday party.

Well, not anymore. These days my camera goes with me almost everywhere. And if I don’t have my “good” camera with me, I always have my iphone. I no longer wait until special occasions to take pictures. I take pictures during the common, routine, ordinary moments. Because those are the moments that are certain to vanish the quickest but they are the moments that add up to become Life. They are the moments I want to remember after the kids are off on their own and life has morphed into something completely different. Those are the moments that I will miss.

Last year I joined a small group of fellow photographers in a project to document just those kinds of moments. We call it, “What ______ Looks Like”, and each month we fill in the blank with whatever we want. For me the blank has been filled in with things like “mornings“, “life with boys“, “getting ready for Homecoming”, “a Sunday afternoon hike”, “date night with Mom“, and “a family day at the beach”. Common, routine, and ordinary, huh? Exactly.

If you’re new to this idea, I’ve put together a few tips to get you started documenting the everyday, ordinary moments of your own lives.

1. Pretend to be a fly on the wall

The camera and photographer should never be a distraction to what is happening in the moment (if at all possible). You should try your best to blend in with the drapes. This means you should never, EVER, ask anyone in the moment to look at the camera and smile!!! It’s totally OK if nobody in the image is looking at the camera. In fact, it’s more ideal if they aren’t because really, how many of us go through life giving each other cheesy grins during the everyday ordinary moments?

2. Remember the details

One of my sons is very particular about how he wears his hair. His bangs have to go up “just so” and I wanted to remember that so I documented it with my camera. My sister came over the afternoon of Homecoming to help my daughter with her hair and to lend her a pair of earrings. I wanted to remember that so I documented it with my camera. For the past two years the kids have been having toaster waffles for breakfast. It’s been part of their typical, everyday routine that I wanted to remember so guess what. I documented it with my camera. Don’t forget the details!

3. Don’t be afraid to “Be Real”

Life isn’t always pretty and camera worthy. The house isn’t always perfectly clean and the kids don’t always match. But that’s real life. And it’s completely worthy of documenting. As much as it kills me everytime I step foot into my daughter’s room, the fact is, it’s usually a disaster but that’s part of who she is right now and I want to remember that. And it’s true. My kids spend way too much time playing video games. It’s documented. Be real!

4. Favoritism

And I don’t mean pick your favorite kid and take more pictures of him than the others. I mean document your family’s favorite things. My youngest has been Darth Vader for the past 3 Halloweens. In fact, he used to wear his costume so often that I wouldn’t give it a second thought if he hopped in the car wearing it on the way to running errands. He and his brother also love all things Legos. Last summer, my boys got the crazy idea of launching our huge canoe into our smallish swimming pool last summer. My oldest son got a BB gun when we lived in Idaho and he loves to target practice into the hills behind our house.

Document the favorites before they become a vague memory.

I hope I’ve inspired you to dust off your “good camera” or even remember to pull out your iphone more often and document life as it happens, the good, the bad, and the ordinary.




WOW – Wendy’s amazing, isn’t she???

What great advice!! One of my goals for 2012 is to get my camera out and snap more shots of my family. I love Wendy’s talent for bringing the extraordinary elements out of everyday moments —

Family Day at the Beach



Aren’t I lucky to have Wendy as a sister — she’s amazing.

If you want to improve your photography, be sure to follow along with Wenderful!

And if you are in the Bay Area and want some fabulous lifestyle pictures of your family, see if you can get on Wendy’s list.

Have a Great Day!



  1. I’ve started carrying my camera in my purse every day. It’s a Nikon D50 so it’s not little but if I don’t have it I use the camera on my phone.
    Thanks for sharing of these good tips.

  2. HighDesertGal says:

    Jen, since you have four little ones. How can I take pictures of my grandchildren who are perpetual motion machines? I don’t have a DSLR but a nice Cannon G11 ( so I have an adjustable view finder) and a point and shoot small Fugi. My picts are blurry in spite of every thing I’ve tried. Do you know any good tutorial places? I keep blaming my poor eyesight but I doubt is really the problem. I’ll try to get online tonight. I usually just read your rss feed in reading but I now subscribe to the newsletter.
    Nancy In Albuquerqu

  3. This is such an awesome post! Full of inspiration…I’m getting my camera out and getting started…right now! :) Cath

  4. What a GREAT idea! Love this…

  5. Jean Stringfelllow says:

    Great job Wendy!

  6. I have a good camera too, that’s a couple years old. I really need to get the hang of it more. love this post

  7. I used to wander around with my “good camera” all the time until I realized that I’m not a participant in my special occasions but a mere observer. So, now I’m trying to balance that out.

  8. So true- it’s the details. When I go back and look at photos of myself as a child, the thing that is most interesting to me is what is going on in the background – what toys are lying around, what the decor looks like. Great post.

  9. I love this post/article. When my boys were babies, I took photos of everything! As they got older, I noticed I took less photos. Usually only for special events such as holidays/birthdays/school events, etc. This is a good reminder to keep taking the photos!

  10. All these photos are great perspective – even every day life can have some fun, interesting views in pictures! I loved reading this tutorial and enjoyed all the pics. :]

  11. This post was absolutely, totally enjoyably, fabulous. I totally, whole-heartedly agree! Love all the pics.

  12. Very sage advice. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Beautiful photography! I imagine a good camera helps, too.

  14. Wow. What awesome tips. Love her photos. Sure makes me want to get out my camera today!

  15. This post was super inspiring to me. I’m doing a Project 365{+1} and I feel like I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut, trying to get “great” photos but, not so much “real life” photos (like I intended to take in the first place). Thanks for reminding me to keep it real and capture the special moments!

  16. I love random pictures and find myself taking them all the time. My husband has officially realized that if we are leaving the house, more than likely the camera (the good one) is coming along. After all, I am the mommy to these three little boys and it is my job to document their lives! Even the mundane moments.

    LOVE the pictures! Natural photos are my favorites.

  17. Wow! Great article! Yes, you are lucky to have such a special sister! Thank you for the inspiration!

  18. Those are great tips! I would love to hear how she organizes and stores all those photos. To me that is the biggest challenge in documenting the everyday. : )

  19. Wow, that is a truly inspiring post! I will grab the “good” camera a lot more often!

  20. The photos and tips are super fab! What great inspiration! Can’t wait to start “shooting”.

  21. Such great tips! She is a very gifted photographer. Pinning this!

  22. Wow! Amazing! I am taking a photography class in two weeks,and can’t wait…these photos remind me that maybe I take more posed pics than I should!

    Jessica @ Mom 4 Real

  23. Missy Harris says:

    Wow!!! Thank you so much for posting. All of the pictures are fantastic. I’d like to start taking pictures, but Im a beginner! What type of camera should I start out with?

    M :o)

  24. hi, just want to know what app you recommend is best to take photos with your iPhone? And what tips you have to take better photos using your mobile?

  25. That’s been my goal this year with our personal family blog. Love these tips, and yes, you are lucky to have a sister like that. Thanks for sharing.

  26. What a fabulous post! Great tips – great examples. Got to share with others.


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