6 Secrets to Taking Great Kid Photos From a Professional Photographer

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

Everyone tells you this, but it’s true: Kids grow up fast.

And while you can’t do anything to slow down the time, you can remind yourself to get photos to capture all the fleeting ages and stages.

When we say “get photos” we don’t mean paying for professional photo sessions every season. Raising a child is expensive enough.

With some expert tips from Sharon Steinmann, The Penny Hoarder’s former director of photography and a mother of two, you’ll be ready to take your own professional-looking shots and save money.

6 Tips From a Pro Photographer for Taking Photos of Kids

Photographing squirmy babies or easily bored kiddos can be challenging. The following tips will help amateur photogs take pro-level pictures of their children on any occasion. 

1. Find the Best 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 said amateur photographers will take the best shots outdoors. She suggested taking photos at a park if your own backyard isn’t suitable for pictures.


When children are your subjects, Steinmann said, 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 said. “Make sure it’s comfortable for them. Have everything together.”

2. Timing Is Everything

Steinmann recommended 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 said. “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 … pastel and light colors.”


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


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

3. Be Mindful of CIothing

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

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


Steinmann advised avoiding 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 said. “Another thing is avoid white shirts. They tend to be too bright and create a hot spot.”


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

4. 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 suggested 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 said.

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 said. “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 recommended turning on your flash to provide a pop of light.

And make sure to set your camera on portrait mode if your smartphone has that feature.

“It blurs out the background and keeps the focus on the person,” Steinmann said.

5. 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 son, Ezra, at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

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


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 advised, “because they’re going to look over there.”


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


“It gives [the children] something to hold or play with,” Steinmann said.

6. Leave It Unfiltered

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


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


Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors contributed to this post.