You’ve probably scrolled through Instagram a million times wondering how other moms post photos that always look so pretty. No, they’re not all professional photographers with expensive cameras, nor are all of them Photoshop masters. All you need is these seven simple, practical tips and you’ll be Instagramming beautiful pictures in no time!
1. Let go of perfection
I’m going to get a big one out of the way first, and it’s one that I’m working on, just like you. Let.Go.Of.Perfection.
Tell me you haven’t seen this on Instagram a zillion times. A sweet, smiling, perfectly clean toddler is dressed in an adorable outfit, in a perfectly decorated nursery with a beautiful rug on the floor. There are a few color-coordinated toys laying in a neat pile on the floor, and a gentle breeze is coming in through the open window, gently blowing perfect white curtains. The lighting is perfect, the kid is perfect, the room is perfect. You look around your own living room, wondering if you can go one more day without vacuuming, while the laundry pile takes over the couch… and wonder how another mom had the time to pull off so much perfection.
Here’s the truth, though. That shot was likely very carefully set up with a particular goal in mind (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Don’t be ashamed of real life moments (and your real messes!) for the sake of likes on social media.
If your kids are playing Legos together in the middle of your messy living room, take the picture! Don’t waste time clearing logos and miss your moment to get the “perfect” photo. Celebrate the messiness.
2. Turn your flash off…
If you’re like most mamas, you take a majority of photos with your phone, and most of them have pretty sophisticated cameras these days. This means your camera can easily take advantage of the light in a room without firing that yucky bright white of your flash. Turning your flash off will dramatically improve your images. Say goodbye to washed out skin tones, red eyes (or black eyes with an alien-like dot) and harsh shadows forever!
…and use natural light.
Telling your camera to not engage the flash means it has to take advantage of the ambient lighting – and that is so much more flattering than artificial light. Think about it this way – do you feel more attractive standing under fluorescent lights in a public restroom, or out in the sun at the beach? Surroundings notwithstanding, sunlight is tremendously more flattering than the yellowish, sickly tint of a fluorescent.
Seek out the natural light in your home by selecting a favorite place where you’re likely to photograph your kids – perhaps in the kitchen – and watch how the light falls there for a couple of days. In our home, the kitchen is brightest in the afternoon. If I want to take photos of my kids eating a snack together, I know I should plan to do that around 3:30. All I have to do is open or raise the blinds for flattering light that doesn’t wash out skin tones or cause red eyes.
Working without a flash will teach you to look for the best light wherever you are, inside or outside. It will become second nature in no time!
3. Look for open shade outside
Yes, I just told you that natural light is the way to go – but you have to know how to use it. At noon, when the sun is blazing, sticking your kids in the middle of your backyard with the sun beating down on them won’t give you pretty, even results. Instead, look for open shade – a spot under a tree, or close to your house, where the shadows fall evenly. Your subject isn’t in direct sunlight, so their skin tone will look more even, you shouldn’t see super harsh shadows, and they won’t squint at the sun.
4. Fill the frame with your subject…
Last year was my daughter’s first year of Mother’s Day Out and it seemed like they had some kind of party every other week. Although she was in the middle of her “I hate having my picture taken” stage, I could snap adorable pictures of her while she was talking with friends or decorating the party craft. My favorite images are ones where she fills the frame of my camera – I’m not distracted by other kids, decorations on the walls or the food on the plate in front of her. This means you may have to get closer to whomever you’re photographing. I’m a fan of moving my feet closer instead of zooming with the camera!
5. …but don’t be afraid to also step back and capture the scene to tell a story.
That means including the entire crib in that shot of your infant to show how tiny he is. Or, take the photo of your daughter playing quietly in her room from the doorway, where you’re including the dolls on the floor next to her.
6. Remember that clearing the clutter can help.
This is a big tip I share with all my clients before a lifestyle session in their homes. Take a look around the room – are there things out that you don’t want pictured? In your kitchen, that might mean hiding medicine bottles in the cabinets. In your bedroom, it might mean clearing off your nightstand or your dresser. Removing these distractions keeps the focus on your subject.
7. Shoot up
Sometimes I am on location with a client at the most perfect spot with gorgeous lighting… but there is a hideous trashcan in the background that I can’t get out of the frame. I could fix it later in post processing… or I could shoot up! This means get lower if you need to get unattractive items out of the frame. For me, this might mean sitting or laying on the ground and pointing the camera up at my subjects. Boom, the ugly trash can is gone without my clients moving an inch, and I have a more creative viewpoint for my photo.
Once you implement simple tips like these, you’ll see a huge difference in your photos! The best part is, these tips will work whether you’re making memories with your iPhone or that big, fancy DSLR camera you’ve been meaning to use more often 🙂