As mothers, we are endlessly documenting our kids, constantly reaching for our phones or cameras to capture yet another milestone or moment, whether it’s sweet, funny, crazy, or calm. We know childhood is fleeting and we’ll want to look back on photos of them to remember how little they once were.
But what about you, Mama?
Are you documenting your motherhood as well? How often are you getting in photos with your kids? When they look back on the thousands of photos you took of their childhood, will you be present?
As a photographer and mom of two, Jill Neil was often holding the camera, documenting every milestone, which means she doesn’t have many photos of herself in front of the camera holding her babies. Kissing them. Nursing them. Bathing them. Tickling them. Singing them to sleep. Or the way they would hug her legs, hold her hands, rest their head on her shoulder, or all snuggle together in her son’s twin bed to read their favorite books again and again and again.
These are some of the moments Jill cherishes the most from early motherhood, yet they are the ones she has the fewest photos of to look back on and share with her children.
Here are Jill’s 7 ideas for documenting your motherhood through photos (beyond just smiling for the camera):
- Book a motherhood portrait session – recommended for multiple stages of motherhood (pregnancy, breastfeeding, the toddler years, and beyond) this is a lovely way to give your child your undivided attention while a photographer captures your genuine interactions and physical connection.
- Book an in-home documentary photography session – sometimes referred to as “day in the life” sessions, these generally range from 3 to 8 hours allowing the photographer to document real-life moments from a typical day at home with your family.
- Book an adventure photography session – this is a great solution if you have older children or active children who would be more content engaged in an outdoor activity with you rather than cuddling up in your lap.
- Ask someone to take your photo – when you find yourself experiencing a moment with your child you don’t want to forget, ask whoever is around (spouse/partner/sister/friend) to grab your phone or camera and take some photos for you. Don’t worry about your clothes, makeup, hair, or the cleanliness of your house. Just document the moment before it passes.
- Swap with a mama friend – you take photos for her one day, she takes photos for you another. Plan what you want to capture – whether it’s nursing, bathing, playing in the middle of a toy-filled living room, or simply snuggling in a chair. Keep it simple. Take it slow and let the best moments naturally unfold.
- Create self-portraits with your phone – there is no shame in the selfie game. Sometimes a hand-held phone selfie is the quickest way to document a fleeting moment. If you have a little more time to plan ahead, use the selfie mode on your phone paired with the self-timer so you can prop up your phone and have both of your hands free to interact with your child.
- Create self-portraits with your DSLR camera – if you have even more time to plan ahead, attach your DSLR to a tripod and use the timer or a remote to capture moments of yourself with your child. Setting your timer to interval mode will allow you capture multiple images at a time which is great for action shots like dancing or tickling.
Some motherhood moments will be spontaneous and others can be more intentional, which is why it will likely take a combination of multiple approaches to document your story.
About Jill Neil
“The greatest joy of photographing motherhood is the ability to freeze moments mothers never want to forget through images that grow more valuable over time. The photos I treasure the most are the ones in which I’m holding my babies, regardless of their ages. I look back on those photos and remember what it felt like to hold them that close. And when my babies are grown, I hope they look back on those images and feel that same embrace.” – Jill Neil, lifestyle photographer, and mother of two