Things A Photo Cannot Capture

I caught a glimpse of my baby girl as she stood by her favorite spot in our home – a wicker bench near a window which overlooks a ridge of trees. The sun was setting below the tree line on what had been a beautiful early spring day. There was something about the way the dusk light cast a gentle glow around my daughter’s profile that made my heart ache. I reached for my phone in hopes of taking a photo of the moment. After snapping a few shots, my eyes left my daughter to review the pictures.

Dang it, I thought, something is missing. So I adjusted the brightness on my camera settings and took a few more. Still not it, I thought and continued on. Finally, with slight disappointment, I realized the moment wasn’t going to be “captured.” The phone was put down.

My eyes once more looked for the ethereal glow of fresh baby skin only to see that she had scampered away from her spot on to the next attraction.

My heart sank. The moment – so fleeting and beautiful – had been once more interrupted by my desire to capture it with a photo.

How many times in my life has this happened? When would I learn?

I love taking photos. I love surrounding my home with images of the memories my heart holds dear. In laughing with friends, it’s frequently remarked that our photos are our best anti-depressants. When I’m feeling down or had a rough day, a scroll through pictures of my kids usually sets me aboard the happy train.

Our world of parenting is inundated with the availability and convenience of taking pictures. And although it may be met with cynicism at times, I know that we are taking and sharing photos out of love for our children.  We’re proud and in awe of these tiny humans who make us see the world anew every day, and it’s a good thing that we are able to document so much of this time.

But when I’m really honest with myself, my main reason for taking pictures is something a bit more melancholic. I take pictures because I cannot stand the heartbreaking reality that I can never have this moment again with my babies. Our children will always be our babies, but they will only ever be as they are now for the briefest of moments before growth and change carries them forward.

How incredible, bittersweet and at times painful is this?

No picture will ever truly “capture” everything that makes up the moments that matter. And let’s face it, amidst the good, the bad and the ugly, every moment matters. There are not enough Shutterfly products, Instagram filters and photography sessions in this world to change the fact that all we have is this present time.

When I look back at those photos I took of my daughter, I now know that even with a few pictures on my phone, I’ll never see the same light cast a glow on my baby’s cheeks. I’ll never hear the same sweet exhales from her button nose, never feel her soft wisps of hair just as she was on the evening.

On that evening I should have let the phone alone and had the courage to take it all in, realizing that this was it – this was all there was and all I would need as her mother.

If I can just have the courage to embrace this reality more often – the tenderness and the heartache – how much more authentic and powerful would this journey in motherhood be?

Perhaps I can show my daughter that pictures have a time and a place, but life is not meant to be captured, but experienced.

Perhaps I can help her realize long before I did that in both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life, our best bet is to allow our senses, not a device, to take it all in.

Whether it be a morning walk or a walk down the aisle, a trip to Europe or a trip to the grocery store with her baby, she should take it all in with her senses and trust that it will be enough just to live in that moment.


It’s so tempting to constantly snap pictures of our children. How do you find a balance between living in the moment and ensuring you have keepsakes for the future?

12 thoughts on “Things A Photo Cannot Capture

  1. Could not agree more with this sentiment. My life is better off for not always feeling the need to take pictures. There’ll be a few you hold dear and the rest will be piled away some where. Better to just live in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This I should such an easy thing to get caught up in! These precious moments are fleeting and there are so many I try to store in my heart!! I remind myself that I want my children to remember me as someone who listened, made them laugh and played – not necessarily things so easy to photograph!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I want my children to remember me as someone who listened, made them laugh and played – not necessarily things so easy to photograph!” Truer words have never been spoken! I know for a fact that my little ones would rather see my face unobscured, than my face constantly behind a phone or camera. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!


  3. I love this, especially moments are to be lived not captured. I need to find a better balance because I seem to be always grabbing my camera. Its so hard when you don’t want to give up the memories.


  4. I love this! I’ve given so much time to this and continually work through my ideas on finding a healthy balance. Thank you for sharing and connecting on my blog! So wonderful to walk the journey together and I LOVE the name of your blog!


  5. I struggle with this balance, too. I am intent on taking photographs regularly (seasonally, at least) and making them available to the family in photobooks (amateur ones, but that’s fine with me) because it can help us form a narrative of sorts of our family life. I can imagine that this changes according to one’s experiences. As for me, I don’t have many pictures from my childhood, and I regret that, and I have a poor memory. Making the books forces me to get the photos organized and make sure they get back in the children’s hands to look back on and remember, celebrate, be grateful. Now that your post makes me think of it, I guess I use photos almost exclusively to mark times of being with family and other experiences so we can reflect on them, compare something in the past with where we are now, etc. As for those almost transcendent moments you mention, I’ve sometimes tried to capture those, but they seem so fleeting and impossible to capture, so I now try to resist grabbing the camera for those (or I’ll need to carry it around with me and wait for it– I don’t have a camera phone). You hit the nail on the head as for why that desire is so strong– to make time stand still. I love the idea of someone who commented on this, suggesting taking a mental photograph. Perhaps my memory would be sharpened if I exercised it more, and did it so meaningfully. I also believe that some have a gift and/or an acquired skill in taking beautiful photographs that are true to life and then some. But it’s truly a fine art! Thanks for another thought-provoking post.


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