Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



documenting the smaller picture in the everyday

Are ya’ll ready for another month of photography tips? Let’s jump in…

Today’s subject is all about documenting the smaller picture within our everyday photography. I truly value this rule within my own family’s documentation and it really does make all the difference in storytelling and creating little pieces of personal art.

I think sometimes we can be fooled by thinking we have to fit the whole picture into that viewfinder we find ourselves looking through. We worry that if the entire scene cannot be captured, then it won’t tell the story or give the details later on to be enjoyed. I actually believe the opposite. While it is valuable to have the whole picture of a moment, I find that the intimacy, the emotion, and that image that takes your breath away is found in the smaller picture. The details. Let me show you what I mean.

We cherish our weekends as a family. We go hard all week long and come Friday night, it’s movie night and Saturdays are all about sleeping in (as long as we can) and breakfast together and a lot more relaxing. I didn’t need the whole picture of the kitchen. I didn’t need to see what everyone was wearing or what we were eating when I took the photograph below. I wanted to remember the feeling of these times together as a family. When my kids are older and grown, I want to remember home with little ones running around. To me, nothing says home more than Saturday morning breakfasts and bare feet on the kitchen floor – little ones up on their tippy toes trying to steal more bacon before the pancakes are even ready.


This next photograph is a recent one from just this last fall at the pumpkin patch. To me it is still storytelling, but it also achieved a more artistic feel. Again, I could have made sure to compose the shot to show my daughter smiling at the camera or gathered up all four of the kiddos to get a snapshot with their pumpkins, but the angle it is at shows the weight of the pumpkin she is trying to handle, the color, my son in the background – all of those details work together to tell the story in a beautiful way.


Another way to apply this rule is on vacations. Being desert dwellers, we truly crave the coast. The smell of the ocean, the salty breeze in our hair – it’s intoxicating. The photograph below was from several years ago when we were in Newport Beach. I didn’t need a family portrait on the beach to remember that we were all there. I didn’t need the kids looking at the camera and saying cheese. My son was covered in sand head to toe after being buried by his dad and little sister, and the giggling that ensued was the cutest and most innocent thing. This image truly depicts what beach trips are like with kids and the love/hate relationship all of us parents have with them. But you know what? Some of the best memories are wrapped in the messiest parts of life. And this is what this photograph is for me. Such a beautiful memory.


This is another vacation photo from a trip we took up north. The snow was starting to fall and it was freezing outside as we got on the road to head home. The kids were watching a movie in the back, my husband and I had our favorite tunes on the radio, and I had my feet propped up on the dash. This was the only detail I needed to remember that moment, but it also helps to tell the story of our entire vacation – how cold it was, the cozy feeling of being bundled up, and the comfort of being all together.


This next one is a photograph I never planned on getting, but I am so grateful I grabbed my camera in the moment and captured it. Our family would always have Sunday dinners where we would all gather together to enjoy good food and catching up. My grandparents would come and my grandfather would always have the best stories for us. They varied from his time in the Navy, his childhood upbringing, starting his own business, and many more. This particular Sunday he told us about how he and my grandmother met, how quickly they were engaged, and how he promised once they were married that he would never remove his wedding ring no matter what. Over the years and all the wear and tear, his ring became tight and it still never came off. He would even refuse to take it off for surgeries. It finally got to a point where it was cutting off the circulation, so he cut it in half while still on his finger. And even then? He never took the ring off. This image depicts so much more than the obvious. It documents a man who was faithful to his spouse in every sense of the word, who worked hard and respected the promises he made to others. As he finished the story, I grabbed my camera sitting nearby and photographed his hands as he clutched that napkin, glanced over at my grandmother, and gave her a wink.


Remember that documenting your everyday stories is so much more than the entire picture. It’s those little details strung together that create the story and remind you of the most intimate moments with your loved ones. The next time you pick up your camera, remember to look for the smaller pieces in order to tell the bigger story.

See you all next month, friends!


12 Responses

  1. CarrieH says:

    A beautiful reminder, thanks

  2. Jenny B. says:

    Wow! Such beautiful photos and stories. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Lydia says:

    Thank you for sharing!!! This really makes me think of photographs differently and give me a ton of inspiration for the future in my storytelling!!!


  4. Sabine H. says:

    Love this post. I am always taking pics of the little details… People think I’m nuts sometimes but that’s okay – I like details and I know I’m in good company with all of you. 😉

  5. Laura says:

    Love these posts! My photography method has been point and hold and maybe one will turn out but I’m really trying to do better. :)

  6. Charlotte says:

    Oh Kara! You have such a lovely way with words. I was so touched by the way you described these photos. What precious memories……all of them but especially your grandfather! Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Ashley says:

    I absolutely love these! I always feel as though I need all the pieces in the picture. But I have been noticing so many pictures feel the same. I need to capture the little details that I know I will forget! Thank you for the reminder! Loving all these photo tips!

  8. Debi says:

    Great tips, lovely shots and a beautiful story of your grandfather. And next time you’re in Newport Beach… well, my kids are now too big to get buried in the sand, so I’d love to get my fill of family fun at the beach again! (Yep… I live there!)

  9. Nancy says:

    Great tips, beautiful photographs! Thank you!

  10. Denise says:

    This was so helpful! Thank you!

  11. Kathy says:

    Beautiful shots that inspire me to try to do some of the same. I’m always catching the tiniest details out in nature, I should be more aware of them in my everyday.
    Thank you! xoxo

  12. Melissa says:

    Love this series and your pictures! Can you tell us what lens you typically use for shots like these? Do you have a favorite “everyday” lens? Thank you!