When we are in a moment and hope that the memory of it will last, we sometimes take a photo to remind us. But too often, the photos we take focus more on saying “cheese” than on the real elements of the moment. Use these five tools to make your photos more meaningful today.
1. Get on the same level as your subject
Whether it is a child, a pet, your grandmother in a wheelchair, or Uncle Albert who used to play college basketball, get on your subject’s level. Try to see things from their point of view and look at things the way they might. Get a close-up of those ants your child notices marching across the sidewalk or snap a photo of Uncle Albert as he ducks under the chandelier in the dining room. Changing your own view point can make a huge difference in your photos.
2. Take un-posed shots
Going with the photo-taking favorite of “Say cheese!” will definitely get everyone’s attention, but it will also get you a lot of posed, inauthentic faces. Try going for more candid shots. Capture faces made during conversations, games, cooking dinner, and other moments. Grandma’s head-tilted-back laugh while she talks with her daughter or the intense focus on the faces of young cousins as they make mud pies, are the ones you’ll really treasure.
3. Capture raw emotion
You may not always think of pulling out the camera when emotions are running high, particularly in moments of sadness or frustration, but these may turn out to be some of your most moving, poignant photos and may help you process your own thoughts and feelings. When looking for opportunities to take such photos, consider taking your camera along (with permission, if needed) to major events like weddings, births, and homecomings. Look beyond the happy, posed photos and get closer to more intimate scenes. You’ll soon learn when and where you’re likely to find the most memorable images.
4. Capture personalities and passions
A truly wonderful photograph will embody the spirit of a person. Some of your most meaningful photo opportunities may come while a person is focused on something they love or showing their true self as they struggle, play, learn, or simply sit and think. Your job is to have your camera ready for those moments. You may also try projects that capture the many faces of a person as you ask them to run the gamut of their emotions. These can preserve the more simple memories you have of someone’s personality, like your child’s funny way of crinkling their nose when you talk about a food they dislike or your mother’s warm smile when you remind her of times you spent reading together.
5. Get closer or step back
If many of your photos feel more like they’re just a picture of a random scene than a real moment, change your proximity. In most cases, getting closer to your subjects makes the biggest difference. In other cases, you may want to try a new vantage point. Get up high and look down on a scene or down low and look up. Zoom in on details like hands, mouths, and eyes to cover all of the bits and pieces that describe your feelings in that moment.
Once you’ve added these methods to your photography arsenal, remember to print and cherish your photos rather than leaving the memories to fade on your computer’s hard drive. A photo meant to capture a memory is only as meaningful as the conversations it sparks when it is viewed.
Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.