Take pictures, ignore the mess

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If you follow me over on Facebook, you may have seen my note yesterday about the lack of pictures I’ve been taking since our move. It dawned on me over the weekend that in the last 3 weeks I’ve taken almost zero photos of our new house. Sure there was the Peanut’s first day of school photos and maybe 2 shots of Little Pea in the kitchen, and my daily Instagram project, but I have not whipped out the DSLR to document life in our new home even 1 single time.

I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve been surrounded by clutter. I’ve had mountains of boxes to unpack and even larger mountains of “stuff” to find a new spot for in this house that I barely feel like we can call our own.

And then it hit me: “At what point will I feel comfortable taking pictures again?!”

And I realized my deep down scared-to-admit-it answer is: “When everything is put away and the house is ‘set up.'”

Seriously?! I’m not taking pictures of this huge transition in my family’s life because there’s clutter in the background?! I’ve been ignoring every ounce of photography advice I’ve ever given on this blog.

So yesterday I did what I should have been doing all along. I picked up my camera and I ignored the mess.

And I captured these:

Here are my girls. We’ve been so busy painting and unpacking that they have been left to their own entertainment. To “help mommy” they decided to wash the dishes for me. The Peanut pushed up two stools, I filled the sink, and they had a blast for 2 whole hours. I’m not even kidding.

By the end of their washing episode, my floor needed to be mopped, the cabinets wiped down, and both girls needed to be peeled out of their drenched clothes. But they were thrilled. They were taking ownership of our new sink. And I finally took advantage of the beautiful light that comes streaming in through my new (very dirty) kitchen window.

And if you step back a little further, you see this:

Painting supplies, a spackle container, piles of cleaning rags, random kitchen clutter, and just general chaos. All of that is still there in the original images but because of creative cropping and standing at a different spot in the kitchen when shooting I was able to focus on what really matters: those little sweeties helping Mommy.

Now why would I want to miss out on that “until the house is clean”?

Is visual clutter preventing you from capturing the moment? Here are my 5 tricks on avoiding the chaos:

1. Move in close to your subject: The less environment you have in the background, the less room you have for junk to creep in.

2. Try a different angle: If you’re as close as you can get and you still have clutter in your background, try stepping 1 or 2 steps to either side and shoot again. Or try shooting from the opposite side of the room.

3. Selectively edit the items in the frame: That first shot of the girls at the sink taken from the back originally had a big red paint bucket lid on the counter next to them. No matter which angle I was shooting at, it was still there. So I grabbed it and tossed it farther away on the counter and out of the scene before my next shot.

4. Crop even closer in post-processing: Missed something during your session? Try cropping in a photo editor after the fact. I removed an obnoxious power outlet in one of the pictures just by cropping the photo in a little tighter on the girls.

5. Embrace life as it is: If all your best attempts at removing the clutter from your photo fails, embrace the fact that this is the stage of life your house is in. Don’t be shy about capturing your family just because there may be some toys or kitchen mess in the background. In the years to come you just might become nostalgic about your crazy busy life when you look through your photo albums from the comfort of your sparkling clean living room.

Now I’m off to go take my own advice!

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  1. Renee says

    Good for you! And what adorable photos you captured! And guess what? Almost all of us have clutter in our lives, whether we’ve just moved across the country or have been in our homes for years :-) I know it’s easier to say than to believe, but who cares? Nobody would have known the mess in the background if you hadn’t showed us, and I, for one, am glad you did. Makes me feel less guilty and more normal for my own clutter, even though I don’t have a huge move as an excuse for mine :-)

    And, seriously. I adore those photos of the girls playing in the sink. Reminds me of doing the same with my sister when we were little :-)

    • tiffdahle says

      Aw, thanks Renee! You know me well enough to know that these tips apply even when we’re not in the middle of moving!! Handy tips year-round here at the Dahle household.

  2. kristi says

    Yay, I am not the only one! I find myself in this predicament when I’m outside. I grew up in a home where my parents perfectly tended the lawn and I just don’t have time for that. I avoided taking pics of my little outside because I was always comparing my plain, weedy yard with my parents beautiful showcase yard. You do what you can. :)


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