Today I have a good friend of mine, Christina McGuire, as a Guest Blogger. Christina is a photographer with UBER talent! She’s writing about an important topic today—tips on photographing your children! Thank you for visiting Christina!

1. Make ˜em sparkle

The eyes have it! Catchlights are the gleams of reflected light in a person’s eyes in a photograph. Great catchlights give life and vibrancy to children’s portraits. To achieve these, turn off your flash and find the light. Face your subject toward a natural light source “the sky, a window, etc. The bigger the window, the better the catchlights; I try to utilize my sliding glass door whenever possible for indoor photos.The color white is the most reflective, so even positioning kids towards a light colored building or car can sometimes do the trick. If your subjects are more willing than my own children 😉 move them around and experiment“you’ll be able to gauge and see the light in their eyes before you even take the photo.

If your child is sitting on the grass or cement, try standing above them as they’re looking up to the sky (a good example of that shown here). This of course works best in the early morning/late afternoon, or on a cloudy day, so they’re not squinting!

Example #1: A quick snap before leaving for church on Christmas Eve. I had to pick up a couple toys and slide the couch over a few feet before positioning them in front of the doorwall. A couple minutes of pre-planning well worth the effort; these forced shots can be disastrous in our house, but I lucked out with 2 natural smiles! It may or may not have had to do with a jolly certain someone making last minute calls on naughty v. nice.

2. Get down & get close

Want to see the world from their perspective? Get down on their level! Squat, lie on your tummy, get on your side. Then, fill the frame. Again, if the background isn’t an important part of the story, get closer. Focus on their eyes, and don’t be afraid to clip off part of the head or crop out body parts. That said, try to avoid cropping exactly at the joints (i.e. knees, elbows, waist, neck) “it makes for an uncomfortable looking portrait.

You can always fine tune your cropping after-the-fact with editing software. I used Google’s Picasa (free!) for years before upgrading to Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop (both of which have free trials available).

Example #2: Watching cookies bake through the oven window. I could not have captured the anticipation in her little face had I shot looking down from my own eye-level.

3. Keep your background simple

Whenever possible, remove any distractions that take away from your subject, or elements that don’t add to the story in general. Outdoors, be cognizant of your surroundings and move/position yourself or your child so that tree branch isn’t sprouting out from behind their head when you snap the pic. Indoors, it may mean decluttering your house a bit (or tossing that pair of dirty socks out of the frame before you snap!) Sometimes, it’s easier to see the distractions by actually looking through your camera’s viewfinder/LCD screen, so don’t be afraid to take a few moments to survey the scene before you shoot.

Example #3: I just said to down on their level, so now I’ll say that rules are made to be broken 😉 and to experiment with other perspectives as well. In this beach shot, had I crouched down you would have noticed dozens of distractions (people/picnic tables/boats) in the background. By shooting from above, there’s no question as to who/what my subject is. I did, however, choose to keep the bucket in the frame because it was part of her playing-in-the-sand story.

4. Engage them

I avoid the C-word (cheeeeeese!) at all costs. If there’s a smile to be had, I want it to be genuine. I’d much rather capture a pensive moment or even a sulky pout than a fake smile. These are expressions authentic to your child, and I promise that photo of your toddler’s stink-eye will bring a smile to your face years from now.

I try to engage kids in a couple different ways:

1) Forget about eye contact, and just document children doing their own thing: playing, coloring, reading, building, chatting with friends, blowing out candles, sleeping etc.

2) Trick them into eye contact/real smiles. For babies, it’s the old stand-bys: funny noises and peek-a-boo. Sing songs with toddlers. Ask them to show you their silliest dance. Get preschoolers talking! Ask about their friends, school, their favorite princess etc¦ after a couple minutes they’ll get lost in their stories and genuine expressions abound. Conversation works well for older kids too, or if you’re desperate try some gentle teasing (“Whose feet are stinkier“ yours or your brother’s??”). Build up an arsenal of these tricks and prompts; kids are smart and the same one won’t work for more than a few shots! ˜º

Example #4: I combined both methods here– eye contact wasn’t crucial, but I did manage to keep my pre-reader’s attention by asking her to narrate a favorite book to me. She was happy to oblige.

5. Don’t forget the details

Some of my favorite photos of my girls do not include their faces. Get in close again and document those first cowlicks and curls. Hand dimples and fat rolls. Many of these are features that all too often, fade quickly. (Those fat rolls? So much more endearing at 4 months than 40!) With older kids, focus on their fingers while coloring or playing with Lego, their hands gripping a football, their knees covered in half a dozen bandaids, their painted toenails.

Example #5: My toddler’s first airplane ride. She kept her hand on that window, mesmerized, the whole time we were on the tarmac. Such a sweet memory for me.

(A bonus no-brainer) Click, click, click

Embrace the digital age. It’s no surprise that your chances of getting “the” shot are greatly improved with 3/4/5 consecutive clicks of the shutter. (Another good reason to find a natural light source: your camera’s shot-to-shot time will be much faster without flash!) So go ahead and fill your memory cards. Then? Upload your pics and delete, delete, delete. In most cases, you probably don’t want or need all 5 shots; save your sanity and hard drive space by only keeping your favorites. And finally, a plea to do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do: print, print, print. †My New Year’s resolution… for the third year in a row.
Now get out there and shoot!

Christina McGuire is an on-location, natural light photographer, specializing in custom portraits and lifestyle captures for expectant mommas, newborns, babies, children and their families. For more info, and to see her work, please visit

The next book in my giveaway, was written by another author friend of mine, Laura Becker. Laura and I share another special connection, I taught her nephew in the first grade, many years ago! You can find out more about Laura on her website.

About the Book:

Celebrate the beauty of summer as you relive memories of running though sprinklers and chasing after ice cream trucks. A perfect summer day comes to life with playful, rhyming text and colorful illustrations in The Wonder of a Summer Day. Pretty flowers blooming neatly in rows and grass below tickling your toes. The pages are filled with heartwarming words that will make you feel happy and take you back to the simple pleasures in life. Share the joys with someone you love.

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