How to Capture Natural Moments with Photography

Cute little toddler taking pictures with a vintage camera

Capturing milestone moments, smiles and eye contact is of course important, but one of the things that gives me the greatest pleasure is capturing children, my own in particular, just as they are.

Yesterday was Jack’s second birthday and I happened to capture a series of photos that illustrates this approach to photographing your kids that I think works perfectly.

We had a busy day. After dropping his older brother off at school, we spent the morning at the local children’s museum, heading home for lunch with my parents and then nap time. I knew after the nap we’d be heading right out again to pick up his brother so I delayed nap time in order to get some rare one-on-one time playing and taking photos.

Because of the limited time, and as a bit of an experiment, I did something I NEVER do (and always recommend against) which is… I asked him to smile!

Note that I did not ask him to say cheese but he did anyway, so ingrained is this in how people around him take photos even if it isn’t how I do! Also, I do sometimes ask him to smile when I don’t have the camera out because he has a really cute “put on” smile—but this was not it.

So instead I took my usual approach that I teach, which is to get natural smiles and eye contact by interacting naturally from behind the camera. In this case, I tickled him under the chin (he LOVES this right now!) and then he started poking my face so I would do a big grand over-reaction which just made him crack up more.

The result, as you can see, is not only a much more natural and heart warming smile, but also theexperience and memory of a real and more meaningful interaction.

Having captured the birthday portrait I wanted, I let Jack take the lead for a few more minutes before popping him into bed for naptime, and he quickly became engrossed in playing with his trains. And that’s when I captured the photo I ultimately shared on my personal facebook page as THE photo that I loved the most as the ultimate portrait of Jack on his second birthday.

As I said, it’s the moments like these that I get the most satisfaction out of capturing—the moments where a child is just exactly who they are, and I’m just there along for the ride.


This holiday season, amidst the bustle and excitement of the big moments we’ve all been waiting for, don’t forget to stay connected to your kids and to look for the transcendent moments that you could never stage—or even predict.

Learn more about how to capture natural moments in my Stop Misisng the Moment workshop.