How To Take Your Own Documentary Style Photos

Hello and good morning!  Today is going to be a good day, right?  Right.  As I categorize myself as a documentary style photographer I wanted to give a few tips on ways you too can take your own documentary style photos of your family.  I know that, at least around Indianapolis, the documentary style photos aren't as requested as say, posed family sessions and sometimes they can seem intimidating.  I mean, letting someone into your home when it's not immaculate and then being told to not dress up or even coordinate and be YOURSELVES!  Yep, that sounds intimidating to me, too.  But it doesn't have to be and shouldn't be!  Having or taking documentary style photos should actually be the easiest and most laid back session you've ever had done!   


  • Relax; This is supposed to be super laid back and these photos are for you and your family to remember your day and what it really looked like.
  • Let your kids be kids; I've said it so many times that every time I set things up and try to get my kiddos to cooperate, they never do but once I set them free to be kids I always get the best photos!
  • Take photos around a normal event; By this I mean try to take photos during bath time, or dinner, or playing outside.  Take photos while something is going on.  If you try to capture memory-making photos during t.v. time, you might be disappointed, but then again, maybe not!
  • Get in the frame; As a Mama I cannot stress this enough!  Years from now you AND your kiddos are going to want to see you having fun with them!  I know, it's not always easy for us camera-loving Mamas to step in front of the camera but you'll be so happy you did! 


  • Worry about the mess or clutter; Those dang dishes and laundry are going to be there your whole life.  Don't worry if they're in the background, just go with it.  These types of photos are meant to document your REAL life, and trust one has it all together!
  • Dwell on your insecurities; This is hard for me.  I want to be in lots of photos but have, and will always have, things I want to change or that I wish were different.  That's life but please don't let it hold you back from having fun with your kiddos.  Those little ones look at you like you're a superhero!
  • Get all made up like you're going out for a date night; No no nooooo, I mean, unless you do that every single day, but again, this is supposed to be the real you! 
  • Get upset if your vision didn't come to life; Setting up the scene is fun and you can get some great photos out of it but remember, that takes time, especially when you have kiddos running around "messing up" everything you just did!  Like I mentioned before, some of my best photos came from me letting the kids BE kids.
  • Set specific expectations; "Look at the camera!", "Don't hit your sister!", "Come back here!"...all things I've said.  I'm not kidding you that when you take photos of your own family it's so much easier to not have certain expectations set.  It'll kill your mood, I promise! 

Something I adore doing with documentary style photography is editing as black and white.  Someone once told me that "if color adds nothing to your story, leave it out."  That's what I tend to do with this style of photography.  I want to remember the emotions at the time.  If a color photo gives me those emotions, which a lot of times they do (!), I'll keep it color but so many times I go to my trust black and white!

Here are some of my favorite photos of my own family!