This is real life.

There is something you all need to know. Nobody loves the hundreds of photos you have on your phone of your kids grimacing out the word “cheese”. Even less so the ones with the ‘cute’ snapchat filter on that makes them look like some kind of weird pixie cat. While we’re here, I’m just going to throw it out there that with that filter on, you look ridiculous too.

So there it is – I’m just telling you what you already know. And if you didn’t… you do now.

Here is how you fix it.

Taking pictures of your family, whether it be your kids or your Grandma, or you sister or your dog, should not be just about how pretty it looks. It should not be about how to manipulate them into looking like creatures from another planet. Family photography should be about capturing the moment. Immortalising snippets of your life so that you can go back and remember what it was like, for real, when the kids have grown up and flown the nest. With all the incredible mobile phones and point-and-click cameras available on the market, there should be no excuse for taking naff, meaningless photos.

Here are a few ways to improve yours:

Make sure there is enough light.

Taking photos outside, at daytime, should mean that you get crisp, clear, bright images. You will notice that the photos you take in the sunshine are always the sharpest ones right? Light is important. If you don’t have enough, switch on your flash or turn on some lamps/lights. If you don’t you risk your pics being blurry.

Focus!

It might seem obvious, but try and take the time to focus your images. On a phone, this usually means tapping on the area of the image you want to be sharp, before you take the photo. With most cameras, it means holding the shutter button down halfway to focus and then pressing it down all the way to take the picture. A lot of the modern cameraphones (such as the iPhone X) have some incredible new features, including depth of field. This means that you can focus on your subject and choose how blurry you want the background to be. Very cool for a phone.

Compose.

Think about the scene. Is there a lamppost sticking out of the top of his head? Is the top of her head cut off? Where have his feet gone?! Make sure that you have everything you want to photograph INSIDE the frame. Equally, think about what might be in the frame that you might not want in there. (What a lovely photo of your little boy! Shame the dude in the background is knuckle deep up his nostril, digging out a booger).

DON’T say ‘Cheese’!

This will NEVER get you a natural smile. Try making silly noises, making a joke, distracting or getting them to say a rude/silly word, and then take the picture when they’re laughing afterwards. It’s all about natural smiles.

Don’t get frustrated.

Let’s face it, children especially can be sooooo frustrating when you are trying to get a good photo of them. But getting ratty will not get you natural smiles. Walk away and try again later or get someone else to take the pic.

Capture the natural.

The absolute best photos of life are taken when no-one realises you are doing it. Observe, appreciate and document what happens in real life but try not to orchestrate. At the end of the day, you want to look back at these photos and remember exactly how it used to be. When your children have all grown up and flown the nest, you WILL go back over old photos. How sad would it be if all you had was photos of you and your children looking NOTHING like yourselves but highly resembling something somewhere between a cat and a Pokémon.

Answer: It would be tragic.

Last of all, if you really want some good photos of your family, whether it be portraits or lifestyle, pay to have a professional do them for you. It is one of the soundest investments you will ever make. Whether it’s documentary style or a studio shoot, you will never, ever regret having them done and on your wall.