Six Secrets From a Pro Photographer for Snapping Adorable Pix of Your Kids

A toddler sits in the grass in a city park.
Portrait mode on an Apple iPhone 7 Plus creates artificial depth of field, which blurs the background to create an image that looks like it came from a DSLR camera. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Photos of your children on the Easter bunny’s lap seem precious in theory.

But what isn’t cute is waiting for what seems like forever in line at the mall, only to have one kid start screaming his head off and another to suddenly look paralyzed in fear in the presence of an oversized rabbit.

And then you still have to pay for a photo package.

Parents who want to save a few bucks on Easter photos might be better off just taking the shots themselves.

The Penny Hoarder’s director of photography, Sharon Steinmann, is the mother of a 2-year-old boy and a 5-month-old girl and knows all about the challenges of photographing little ones.

She shares the following tips that amateur photogs can use when it comes to taking pictures of their kids for any occasion.

Timing Is Everything

A mother photographs her son with an iPhone.
 Sharon Steinmann, director of photography at The Penny Hoarder, takes a photograph of her 2-year-old son, Ezra Avila. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

Steinmann recommends parents photograph their children either at the beginning or the end of the day, time periods that photographers refer to as “the golden hour.”

“The worst time to photograph anybody is in the middle of the day,” she says. “Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the sun is very high and directly above you in the sky, so you’re going to get shadows under their eyes and you’re going to get lots of hot spots, especially if they’re wearing spring clothing, which tends to be pastel and light colors.”

Hot spots are areas of a photo that are significantly brighter than the rest of the shot.

Another key precaution: Avoid scheduling the photo session during mealtimes or nap times.

Be Mindful of Clothing

When dressing your little ones in their Easter best for photos, don’t focus only on how adorable their outfits are.

Steinmann advises families to avoid fussy patterns — anything with stripes or intricate designs — because they may not translate well digitally.

“My piece of advice is always try to wear a solid color or a pattern that’s not too busy,” she says. “Another thing is avoid white shirts. They tend to be too bright and create a hot spot.”

Steinmann also recommends choosing comfortable clothing for your kids so they’re not squirming or looking irritated in the photos.

Location, Location, Location

A father and his toddler son walk around a lake in a city park.
City parks are a pretty, accessible and free place for taking portraits of young children. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

Steinmann says amateur photographers will take the best shots outdoors. She suggests taking photos at a park or botanical garden if your own backyard isn’t suitable for pictures.

When children are your subjects, Steinmann says, it’s important to plan everything in advance. Make sure you have picked out the perfect spot ahead of time and have taken some test shots on an adult.

“You want to keep it quick,” she says. “Make sure it’s comfortable for them. Have everything together.”

Make the Most of Your Camera Phone

Many parents will turn to their camera phones to get photos of their kids, and that’s perfectly fine.

Steinmann suggests turning your phone horizontally to get a more flattering shot. Also, don’t put too much distance between yourself and your subjects.

“Get close, and if you feel like you’re too close, get closer,” she says.

Instead of stressing over getting one perfect shot, take several. You can go through your camera roll later to select your favorites.

“I’ll take 20 versions of the same thing,” Steinmann says. “Generally, the first few are the better ones. After the first few, they’re starting to get antsy and squirmy and they’re going to get annoyed, and they’re less likely to smile.”

If your photo session is running past late afternoon and it’s getting dark outside, she recommends turning on your flash to provide a pop of light.

And if you have a newer iPhone, make sure to set your camera on portrait mode.

“What it does is it blurs out the background and keeps the focus on the person,” Steinmann says.

Recruit a Photo Assistant

Marcelo Avila helps Sharon Steinmann shoot Easter photos of their two-year-old son, Ezra, at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
Marcelo Avila helps Sharon Steinmann shoot Easter photos of their two-year-old son, Ezra, at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

When taking Easter photos of your children, don’t make it a solo effort. Enlist your spouse, a family member or a friend.

They can serve as an extra subject for test shots and can stand behind you making funny faces to get the little ones to smile in the photo.

“Don’t have that person stand to the right or the left of you,” Steinmann advises, “because they’re going to look over there.

She also says it can be a good idea to provide props for the photo shoot.

“Bringing props helps, because it gives [the children] something to hold or play with,” Steinmann says.

Leave It Unfiltered

When it comes time to print out or share your Easter photos with friends and family, Steinmann recommends parents avoid applying filters.

“I think it’s better just to keep it simple,” she says. “Besides, all these filters that we’re using now, they’re going to look dated later.”

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her cell phone is full of photos of her kid.