Putting the “Extra” into Your Ordinary | How To Capture Everyday Photographs

When I first began my journey into photography three years ago, I was all about the posed portrait. A still, planned subject is a great way to practice your skills. But while a nice framed posed portrait with beautiful light looks great on the wall, that’s not where life happens. Life happens at the arrival gate of an airport.

Life happens on a swing with your brother.

But how do we photograph what is essentially an ordinary moment in such a way that it makes it special and evokes emotion?

#1 Focus on the Feeling {not the face}

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”- David Alan Harvey

Sometimes, we as photographers, tend to rely on our subject’s face to convey an emotion or feeling. While a person’s eyes can definitely be a way to connect with your audience, it isn’t the only way. Often times when we look at a picture, we zoom in first on the subject’s face, but what if the heart of your picture isn’t the face, but what their hands are doing or their little three- year old feet dangling from the commode…

What emotions does this picture evoke? How does focusing on his feet only and leaving out his face enhance the emotion of the photo?

Shooting from behind is another great way to capture a moment and tell a story…

 What questions or feelings does this picture bring to your mind?

#2 Life is in the details

“Details are not details. They make the design.” Charles Eames

 Capturing your everyday in a special way means slowing down and noticing the details. Here, my son Ben had woken up early hoping to go on a trip with his dad and the fact that he had packed his toothbrush touched this mom’s heart. It’s noticing the minute, small details in your daily routine that make your life YOURS. Search out those nuances that, once they pass, you will miss—like how my son loves Minions and labels his favorite cereal box “Just Noah.”

#3 Try a Different Perspective

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”-Dr. Wayne Dyer

Often, if we just approach our subject from a different angle or perspective, it can change the entire nature of the picture.

Don’t hesitate to get down low and shoot at your subject’s feet. By doing this here, I was able to use the balance beam as a leading line to Matthew’s feet. So whether you’re shooting your beloved pet, your 5 year old, or your coffee cup, or wildlife, pick the aspect on which you want to focus and move yourself to that level. When you move around a try a different perspective, you may discover leading lines or natural framing or a reflection that enhances your subject even more!

Or shoot from above and capture a normal routine with a completely different feel.

How did shooting from behind, instead of from the front, impact this photograph?

#4 Depth of Field

A great way to get creative with an ordinary moment is to have a shallow depth of field that allows your subject to stand out amidst a busy background.

To do this, I use a low aperture of 2.2-2.8 (depends on how blurry you want your background to be) and focus on my subject, which is closer to me than the background.

 #5 Be a Silent Observer

“When people ask me what photography equipment I use, I tell them my eyes.” –Anonymous

The number one gift that doing a Project 365 has given me is the gift of sight. My eyes are open {most days} to the simple beauty that is life. Our job is to live with eyes open and cameras close by to capture those moments forever.

What others may see as boring and mundane, we see as precious and special. So live with your eyes wide open and don’t hesitate or second guess yourself. If what you see moves you, capture it. Don’t ask yourself how many “likes” it will get or what others might think. These are your moments in your life. Capture them.



  1. Garnett Hutchinson

    Wonderful wonderful blog, Emily!!!!

  2. Cynthia

    You go Emily! What an inspiration! Your photos warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. You made such lovely use of black and white in your images. You could make a set of postcards/notecards of the ones without faces and so many would snatch them up for heart-warming adorable correspondence! 😉 I don’t have any small children around but your article gave me ideas for capturing different shots than I’ve done in the past. Thanks so much for sharing your words and beautiful photographs.

  3. Kathy

    I loved this article and your pictures. It reminded me of why I took up photography (and scrapbooking) in the first place, and that was to capture as many things as possible that my grandchildren do when they are with their Grandma. I’m hoping that they will share those memories with their children in the future. Thank you!

  4. Amy Jordan

    Oh Emily – your blog post is perfect!! So many wonderful tips & amazing photos. I always look forward to getting a glimpse of your everyday with your super cute kiddos!!

  5. Sherry Billings

    Awesome, Emily! I always love your beautiful photos that are ao filled with human emotion! It is great to read your hints on how you do this…love the tips about the angles! Now, if I just had some “human” grandchildren to put your wonderful instruction to work! 😉 Perhaps, one day…

  6. Love this Emily!

  7. Always love your photos Emily, such beautiful everyday moments. I used to shoot more photos like this when the grandkids were younger and lived closer to us, now it is mostly 3 adults around the house and I’m finding it a struggle at times, definitely need to focus on this type of photo more. Thanks for all the tips 🙂

  8. Rhadonda

    Epic to infinity!! Photographs with feeling. Totally love it. I need to practice this more. Thanks for the great tips! And your family…… YES!

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