Motherhood is not an easy job. It’s not always glamorous either. When my first child was born I took thousands of pretty posed shots. I would always hide the clutter and try to get him looking at the camera. While he was cute and I cherish these photos, they never told the complete story of my early motherhood days.
Read more: Tips For Taking Your Own Family Portraits
It was all set up, and any shots I was in showed a cheerful happy mother. Looking back at these photos, I feel like I’m not seeing the real me. I hid the tired eyes, stretch marks, and messy moments. It wasn’t until I was trying to balance the chaos of two kids, a husband, a full time health care job and a part time photography business, that I began to realize the beauty in the everyday moments.
A few years ago I had challenged myself to complete a 365 – taking a photo every day for a year. At first I was striving for technically perfect, light filled pretty shots. But I came to realize, I didn’t have time to get that type of shot every day. Life was moving full speed around me, so I started to capture what was happening in the moment.
As our family faced some big life stresses, I realized I wanted to capture these moments too. They were a crucial part of our family history. I wanted to document our journey through tough times, and celebrate our victories over life’s hardships. I wanted to share mundane moments that would soon be fleeting memories. I wanted to share my part of the story in surviving the rough moments of motherhood, along with the good ones.
As mothers we are all trying our best. We need to be proud of what we are doing. Documenting these days lets us look back on what we truly accomplished – not picture perfect smiling children in spotless houses, but happy homes full of crazy, chaotic life. It’s these photos of moments that often capture the most beautiful part of family life and motherhood. Through these photos, I have often found connections to other mothers, who also struggle with everyday life. These universal truths about motherhood connect us, and make these photograph timeless memories to look back on.
My strategy for documenting my family has changed over the last couple of years. I rarely set up posed shots. Instead I wait for the moments to happen. I keep my camera turned on and ready on my kitchen counter (the heart of our home), or keep it ready to use in my hand when we are out of the house. I still look for beautiful light, and creative compositions, but when I see my boys engaged, I move myself around to get the shot, instead of trying to reposition them.
Sometimes I will see my boys doing something I want to capture – a memory for the day. I try to include what they are connected to – whether it is the environment they are in, the objects they are using or the people they are with. However, sometimes it’s a feeling or a thought I have that I want to remember, and I look around to try to find the scene that best represents the thoughts in my head. Instead of creating a photo, I find the photo by being observant and looking for moments of inspiration.
My photos will often reflect my mood. On grumpy days I will shoot with more shadows or harsher light. On cheery days my photos are a little lighter. These are the shots that become most self-reflective for me, and often give more raw emotion. By being more introspective and mindful I have taken many more shots that I feel connected to, and that represent my story as a mother.
I also try to make sure I am in a few shots a month. I use of the camera self-timer or my remote, and I try to capture myself engaged with my family. My husband and boys have all learned to ignore the camera and carry-on what they are doing. I will use a tripod (especially if I am trying to get shots of our family snuggle times), but often times I prop my camera on various surfaces – especially if we are out of the house. I use the live view mode to ensure we are all in focus and to make sure my composition is the way I like it, then I return to the scene, and take a few shots. Once I’ve got the shot, I go back to being fully engaged with my family.
I’ve also taught my husband how to use my cameras so that he can capture the pictures when I am doing things with my children. I try to take a few self-portraits throughout the year. I try to capture myself the way my children see me. Sometimes, it’s a messy hair no make-up, real me pose. But sometimes I take the shot because I feel pretty. Like all my other photos, it’s a balance of darker and lighter.
In trying to capture our everyday life more authentically, I have learned to go beyond what is technically correct and pretty. I look for the connections that tie me to my family. It’s the relationship that holds the emotional value. It’s these emotions that come flooding back to me when I review the images. These emotions are what tell the story. I hope you feel inspired to share yourself and your story of motherhood through images too.