Tips for Shooting Your Own DITL – SoCal Documentary Family Photographer

September 13, 2016

SoCal Documentary Family Photographer

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of photographing my daily life (and yours too!). I’m in the middle of my third 365 project (366 this year) and I have plans to continue shooting daily at least for the next 2 years while we live in Europe. Every once in a while I like to throw in A Day in the Life,  a single day that I commit to photographing in its entirety, a day in OUR life. I used to do one every few months, but lately I’ve only been averaging one per year. Why so infrequently? Because they are exhausting! Photographing an entire day in a way that tells your story WHILE parenting is just plain hard.  Still, it’s fun to be able to look back and see what a full day looked like in July 2015 when I was hugely pregnant compared to a day in July 2016, right before my youngest son’s first birthday. I think everyone should try to do it at least once, so I’ve compiled some tips to help you make it through the day without wanting to throw your camera in the garbage.

1. Pick a normal day.

For your first DITL especially, I’d highly recommend choosing a day that reflects your normal routines. While I definitely think that extraordinary days deserve to be photographed in all their glory, you might find yourself distracted by the camera and miss being present during important moments or you might find yourself too distracted by what’s going on and miss photographing certain moments. Pick a day that is predictable and you will know when you need to put the camera down and when you need to pick it up.

DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

2. Don’t try to do it alone.

This tip is mostly for those of you with kids who you’ll want to include in your DITL. If you have any choice in the matter, try to shoot your first DITL on a day when you’ll have some help. Usually this means two parents are home from work. Shooting all day is hard. Parenting all day is hard. Parenting and shooting all day is exhausting and there’s no need to torture yourself.

DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

3. Include indicators of time.

Over the course of your day, you may shoot anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand images. When you cull down to your favorites and the ones that tell the story of your day, you’re still probably going to have a very large collection of pictures. How will you (and your viewers if you plan to share your DITL) distinguish the different parts of your day? Time plays a huge roll when shooting a DITL. It helps give context to your activities and it lets your viewers relate better to your day. Obviously there are things that you can include like alarm clocks, cell phones, the time on the computer, the clock on the stove, but think beyond that. Focus on your three main meals. Breakfast in the morning, lunch midday and dinner in the evening is pretty universal. If you spend a lot of time outside, focus on the position of the sun and how your environment looks early in the morning, versus in the evening and again at night.

 DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

4. Include plenty of details.

You know I love details. Don’t skimp out on them. When you’re shooting all day it can be easy to get stuck in one way of shooting- think all medium action shots. The details are so important to your story and they are so easy to forget. Details can also help fill in gaps in your story. I will oftentimes shoot some details and use those when I need to take a break and put the camera down. For example, instead of photographing lunch from start to finish, I might take pictures of the ingredients, food cooking, food done cooking, table set, and dirty empty plates.

 DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

5. Use transitions.

Transitions are important if you want your DITL to flow smoothly from one activity or location to the next. Transitions help tie together the shot of you brushing your teeth in the morning with the shot of your kids running down the aisles of the grocery store. Feeling uninspired while you try to visualize transitions you could use? Try to use some details as transitions. I might use a picture of keys next to my purse and phone to show that I’m getting ready to leave the house. Socks and shoes kicked off and forgotten by the front door show that we’ve returned back home.

 DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

6. Aim for balance in the day.

It is so so common for people to start out with great energy on the morning of their DITL but burn out before the day is done. You will wake up excited and aware. You will see a million great moments and connections in the dreamy morning light. You will be drawn to every detail of breakfast. By lunch you will have slowed down considerably, being a bit more selective with what you shoot and maybe missing a moment here or there. By dinner, you will be exhausted and ready to put your camera away for a few weeks. You’ll have to push yourself to get a handful of sleepy images at bedtime to end your story, too frustrated with the lack of light to try more than once.

Pace yourself. Especially if you have kids. The evenings can be rough with all of the day’s emotions spilling out as you try to get the kids in bed. If you’ve shot too much during the first half of the day, you’ll be more tired than normal. Save some of your energy for the evening and give dinner as much attention as you gave breakfast and lunch. When you step back to admire your story, you don’t want to be left wondering what happened in the afternoon. Finish your Day in the Life strong.

DITL Tips - Online Photography Mentoring

Interested in learning more from me or looking for your very own socal documentary family photographer? Check out my photography mentoring options and session info or email me at Be sure to follow me on Facebook.