Take better pics of your kids

Say cheese! Expert tips for getting the best photos of your children

“Give them the creative freedom to have you photograph them however they would like. If they are the ‘star’ of the session, they are more likely to be excited about it.”

My children are A-list celebrities and I’m the paparazzo. Never wanting to miss a single memory, you will always find me with a camera around my neck or smart phone in hand. I stalk them from behind a lens, jumping out with my camera at any given moment. I bark demands and bribe them with sweet treats if they stand still and “SMILE!”

One look at a photo and it brings me back to that time. I can look at the one when they first started to smile and hear the sweet giggles in my head. I laugh as I walk past the one in the kitchen where my son is covered head to toe in sauce, bowl as a hat and spaghetti on the wall.

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s already time to start thinking about holiday photo cards. We try so hard to have a perfect family photo knowing the card will be displayed for at least a season if not longer in your loved ones’ homes. Matching outfits? Check. Hair styled? Check. Practice smiling? Check. Getting a card-worthy shot? Help! You don’t understand the term “near impossible” until you try propping an infant up next to a bustling toddler. Sometimes I take dozens of photos just for one that I have deemed worthy of being framed.

Determined to take better photographs of my children, I have reached out to a few professional photographers. Besides being experienced behind the lens, they are all parents themselves. Here’s what they had to say about getting the best shots of your kids:

Take candid photos

“Don’t. Pose. The. Kids,” says Tamme Stitt of Tamme Stitt Photography in Kingston. “Kids are beautiful in their natural element, exploring, wondering, loving each other, finding bugs, climbing trees, finding joy in everyday things that a lot of adults miss because they are too busy. You cannot recreate that joy by saying, ‘Sit. Smile. Look.’ While I do that, of course, most of my shoots are just letting the kids be kids because no one can recreate faces like they make by asking.”

Keep it real

As a parent who captures those everyday moments, Amy Kover Gallagher of Artistically Amy in Fishkill understands that we all want a “picture perfect” worthy moment. “Don’t worry about cleaning up messes,” she says. “You’ll want to remember life as it was, including toys scattered on the floor or dishes on the table.”

Get down and all around

“Get down on their level, rather than standing over them,” Amy says. “Children are much more likely to interact with you and the camera if you’re not holding it over their head.”

Don’t forget to take photos of tiny hands wrapped around your finger, the size of their foot next to yours, or a close up of those big eyes and missing teeth.

Let it shine

Head outside. It’s as simple as that.

According to Carolina Weick of Walk With Me Photography in Port Ewen, natural light trumps fluorescent light any day. When indoors, don't be afraid to open the shades or even open a door to let in the natural light! If Carolina has family over to visit and wants a quick shot of all of them together, she opens the shades, open the doors, and lets the sunlight flood into the house, creating a warm, real, and natural feel.

A few of their favorite things

My son has a stuffed animal named “Ducky” that is tucked tightly under his arm each night. Despite the fear of the flash waking him up, I slipped into his room one night and took a photo. The memory outweighed the risk and it’s now one of my favorite photos.

Leyla Cadabal of Leyla Cadabal Photography and Highland Cultural Arts Studio agrees that we should incorporate our children’s favorite objects into photos. “There is nothing better than a beautiful candid of a child holding a beloved toy. It captures that fleeting innocence.”

Grab some of your children’s favorite items along with dress up clothes and head outside. Let them be a beautiful fairy or a hero saving the day. You will get those genuine smiles.

“Give them the creative freedom to have you photograph them however they would like,” says Brandy Riggins of ShutterCrazy Photography in Montgomery. “If they are the ‘star’ of the session, they are more likely to be excited about it. Let them choose their outfit — such as a super hero costume — the location, and the general mood of the photos. Let them have a few moments in their own little world.”

Get in the frame

Last, but not least: Learn to use the self-timer button. How many photos do you have of your children? How many photos do you have of YOU with your children? Don’t critique your body, the way your hair is thrown up or that you haven’t put a touch of makeup on. Five, 10, 20 years from now, your child will only see the love of a parent and everlasting memories, and so will you.

How to take the perfect family holiday portrait

Holiday photo cards done right

1. Choose a location. How about standing in front of one of the many historic sites in the Hudson Valley with a snow-covered ground? Or simply sitting in front of your cozy fireplace? 

2. Use props. Hold up a chalkboard to convey your message. Get creative with a string of lights.

3. For newborns. Keep them warm. Wrap up your sleeping infant in a soft blanket and place him in a big wrapped gift box, or give her a handmade crocheted hat.

4. Make a collage. Dig through old photos and make a collage with your newest front and center.

5. The right attire. Don’t wear matching outfits, but do opt for colors that compliment each other.

6. Be original. Let your family’s personality shine through. Your photo does not need to be of everyone sitting prim and proper on a couch. Have a great shot of everyone building a snowman? Use it.

Gloria Darmanin lives in Saugerties with her husband and two sons. She is a social media coordinator for Hudson Valley Parent magazine.