Pictures are souvenirs.

They are gifts to which we hold tight for years. Oftentimes, images of our childhood are the only tangible treasures we have to remind us of that fleeting time. To me, the photographs of my family are priceless and shall remain my most treasured recollections of these times in our lives.

1. Lighting

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I’m a huge fan of natural light. There is nothing more perfect than the gorgeous glow that comes from a bright open window or the way your child’s face radiates with the sun setting behind her.

Good light is one of the greatest ways to enhance your photos. I used to think the brightest, sunniest days were the best for pictures. On the contrary — bright noonday light is nice for visits to the park, but use it with caution with photos. The harsh effects of the sun show up as dark shadows covering the faces of your loved ones.

Sometimes, the placement of the sun is out of your control. In these situations, do your best to put the sun behind your subject. Besides, we could all do with a few less squinty-eyed images every now and again, wouldn’t you agree? Instead, search out open shaded areas, where you still have light, just not direct light.

My absolute favorite time of day to shoot is early morning and late afternoon; the lighting is wonderful as the sun is near your side or behind you, as opposed to right above you. Go against the grain, and head out on a cloudy day or near sunset! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference this creates.

2. Location

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I would venture to say that the majority of your family pictures are taken in or around your home. I love this! After all, your son’s room won’t always be adorned with infant furniture and your daughter most likely will fall out of love with her Hannah Montana posters. Embrace the stages your kids are at and as always, be sure to include these items and details in your photos.

While I love to capture my own boys in their element, it’s also fun to get out. Thinking outside the box with location can produce some fabulous, and genuine portraits. When deciding where to head out, I ask myself — where would they enjoy being?

Although I may want snow pictures, I have to keep in mind that my finicky four-year-old isn’t a fan of the elements of Old Man Winter. Unfortunately, everyone would end up feeling stressed out and our photos would suffer.

Instead, I’ll usually ask him where he’d like to go. I camouflage a fun day at the zoo with a secret mission: mom taking photos. Sometimes we’ll take a surprise trip somewhere I know he’d enjoy. Many of my all time favorite images display exactly that on his face, simply because he was having a great time where we were.

3. Change Your Perspective

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So often the photos of our children and pets are shot from where we stand, which is usually at a much higher level. The pictures all begin to look the same — wide shot with child or pet at the very bottom of the photo.

Instead, get down there with them. Lay on the floor in front of your crawling baby, or sit down for the tea party with your little girl. Step back for the wide shot, but also be sure to get in close. Zoom in on the details — the chubby hands and details of your pups’ face. Seeing the images from their level takes on a completely new view.

4. Capture Your Subject

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As a lifestyle photographer, my aim is to capture life as it happens. I’ll not soon forget the stress of the portrait studios growing up, and this was a big part of my urge to take the picture taking into my own hands.

This photo-journalistic style bleeds into my own family’s image as well. Some of my most cherished pictures of my now four-year-old are the ones that weren’t posed, the candid and treasured ones. I see him as a two-year-old carrying his bucket of matchbox cars everywhere we went while the following year he sported various fake tattoos on a daily basis.

These are pictures that make me giggle and in an instant, I am right back there helping him carry that heavy bucket from place to place. When you allow your children to have fun in the moment, doing something they enjoy, you will then have genuine and natural images to hold dear.

Keep in mind, life happens every day. Rain or shine, tears or smiles. Your aim is to capture your family in real life terms. Not every day is beautifully sunny or full of laughter. That’s the beauty in it! Freeze time as you see it – scraped up knees and broken hearts.

5. Fleeting Moments

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The detailed shots have to be my all time favorite. My baby’s eyelashes, the way my husband’s wedding ring slides down his finger, or the tongue hanging out of our dog’s mouth as he sleeps. Think about the details in your every day life — are you capturing them?

Even in the simplest of moments, pull the camera out — during the early morning feedings, in the middle of homework time, even as they are getting ready to go out with friends. Capture those wrinkly post-bath toes, be sure to take pictures of her reading her favorite book, and by all means, snap that shutter when they are sleeping.

At the end of the day, as long as you drool over your pictures, that is what truly matters. Browse through the folders on your computer, let your fingers trace the image framed on your mantel, or flip dreamily through the photo book you had printed. Allow that big smile to spread across your face!

LOVE what you are capturing, and not only will it show in your photos, but you’ll realize that no matter how many rules you follow or break -– you’re giving future generations a gift that is truly priceless. So get out there and snap that shutter.

Your moments are waiting to be captured.

What is one of your favorite photographs in your family?