Home Grandma Basics Using Photographs to Capture the Magic of Childhood

Using Photographs to Capture the Magic of Childhood

by grammiestewart

I really should be going to meetings of CA (Cameras Anonymous). I am often out-of-control with a camera in my hands, taking pictures of every little thing that is happening with my grandchildren … them eating, playing, bathing, breathing. But that isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.


In the early 1990s, Sally Mann famously told The New York Times Magazine,

“Sometimes I think the only memories I have are those that I’ve created around photographs of me as a child.”


I  think that is rather true; now that I am in adulthood, I tend to remember my childhood from pictures taken by my parents. My own children loved to look at the photos in their scrapbooks when they were young, and the experiences that are recorded there seem to be the ones they have the most vivid memories of.


Some of the most important photos that you’ll ever take are of the people close to you, including your grandchildren. Photos of magical childhood moments are particularly special. We all remember to take photos of the big occasions such as birthdays and Christmas morning, but there are so many great moments every single ordinary day that should be treasured.


Here are some suggestions to help capture the magic of your grandchild’s life:


  • Try and take some photos most days that you are with them. Capture the ordinary and the not so ordinary for a great collection of images that tell the story of a their childhood and time with you.


  • Make sure you are IN some of the photo with your grandchild, creating a record of what you did together. I wish I had pictures of making perogies, shucking peas, straining the cream from the milk, pumping water, or picking strawberries with my grandma. I have no photos of  any of the things I remember doing with her when I spent the summers on her farm.



  • Get down on their level to capture those very candid moments. If you are willing to get mud on your hands and grass stains on your pants you can capture what life is really like as a child. You have to be willing to run around and chase after them. Have you noticed that childhood is often NOT very static or calm or clean?



  • Snap and snap and snap tons of pictures. I once heard a famous photographer say that  you should take a hundred pictures and get rid of 90% of them. One of the things other grandmas say when they see a good photo I took is, “My grandkid wouldn’t stand still long enough to get that shot.” My response is, “Neither does mine.”  When you are photographing your grandchild, the easiest way to get that great shot is to take as many pictures in the moment as you can. Don’t expect them to be still so that you can capture a perfectly posed photo,  but instead get them in action to capture the true spirit of childhood. Remember, snap away and delete the ones not worth keeping.


  • While you are clicking away, remember to switch up your point of view. Take some photos from the perspective of an adult, but remember to get down on the child’s level. Think about what they see and what stands out to them.  Bringing to life a cherished doll or toy truck from the child’s viewpoint is a great way to remember a special stage in their life.




  • Use those precious photos you take. Digital photography allows us to take many, many photos— but then we have a tendency to just forget them. Be sure to post them to other family members to enjoy, use them to create a scrapbook for your grandchild, or print your photographs and put them in frames around your home.



There are different kinds of photos …

Candid Shots

These are pictures that are taken when a child is really unaware of the camera and is just involved in childhood. They are just playing in the bathtub, having a tea party, riding their bikes, or dancing in the living room. These photos are not posed, but capture a moment of real life. I really love these kind of photos because they capture who the child really is and how they spend their days.




Posed Shots

These pictures are a little trickier to take, especially if your grandchild is young. You have to get the child to sit and pose in a certain way, usually trying to get them to look at you, and then hold still for a split second. Talk about a big undertaking! I have tried to get a shot with my granddaughter “Tiny” (a nickname) with the Halloween cat pumpkin we carved, and she will have nothing to do with cooperating … all she does is pull off and suck on the ear. I am still working on it…



Lifestyle Shots

This is a relatively new idea in photography. It is taking photos of the child’s everyday life with their family in their home … but it is more than candid shots. It is capturing images that reveal a story about a child’s and family’s life.  It is photography which aims to capture and document real-life events.


My daughter’s sister-in-law, Kathleen Keenan, runs Kat Keenan Photography (click to see her Facebook page) in the Hamilton/Niagara, Ontario area (if you live in the area, I highly recommend her). She takes amazing lifestyle photos that capture the essence of families in their homes.

Kathleen says …

“Photos have come a long way from the Sears family portrait. Lifestyle is the new way to take pictures and it is for the reason of preserving  memories of the way things really were at that time … the books on the shelf, the way the nursery is decorated, the personal touch of being in your home instead of in a studio.
You can say to your child, “This is where we lived when you were born or were a child, this was your furniture or your backyard.”
Below are some of the brilliant lifestyle photos Kathleen took of my daughter, her husband, and their little Mister Moo (a nickname) in their home. They capture the essence of their sweet little family:


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So gung ho grandma, start taking pictures of your grandchildren … and maybe I’ll see you in a CA meeting.



heartWhat have been your good (and bad) experiences taking pictures? Maybe share some of your best photos with us in the comment section below.

And if you like the ideas in this post, please share it with other grandmas!

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Katie November 19, 2016 - 9:03 pm

I am just like you … I love to take photos of my grandbabies. But I often don’t get the pictures I want and I now realize I should be taking more pictures and getting rid of the bad ones. I will often only take one picture of what is happening and then be disappointed when it is blurry or their eyes are closed. I will definitely be snapping more photos in the future. Thanks!

grammiestewart November 21, 2016 - 8:31 pm

Good luck Katie … I find I get better end results by having lots of photos to choose from. Just make sure to only keep the best or you could wind up with a bazillion pictures!


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