DIY Easter Portraits: Tips from a Photographer

With every holiday, there’s a great opportunity for photographing your children and family. Photographing your family can be a very rewarding and cost effective way to create memories.  As someone who has photographed families in a studio and home setting for the last 20 years. The studio lights, props, and lack of light can make a photo studio very intimidating to children. 

Photographing your children in your home or at a park near your house is one of the best environments for children because they are familiar with that location and they will feel very comfortable. Location is one of the most important parts creating excellent children’s portraits. The more comfortable children are with the locations, the more relaxed they will be to give nice expressions. When choosing a location, look for a setting that is not extremely dark and provides ample natural light. The best location can be right inside your own house. 

One of my favorite areas to shoot is right inside big, bay windows. These windows offer great lighting. Another idea is to use the chair back as a support.  Older children can stand behind the chair and cross their arms.

For some variety, I bought black bed sheets. These make great backdrops for infants and small children wearing white outfits.  Be sure to watch if your child’s outfit blends into the background.  You want the outfit to compliment the background, not be part of it. Before you pose your child, place a stuffed animal in the spot where they will sit, and take a couple test shots to verify the exposure.

If photographing a single child, go with the flow. Photograph them looking at some flowers or looking out the window. When photographing more than one child, place the oldest child first and work your way down.  Try not to place them in a row next to each other. Have the oldest child sit on their side, like when they are watching tv. Then place the next child, on their knees, behind them. Another child can sit, cross-legged, towards the oldest child feet.

A lot of folks try to get big, toothy smiles on every single picture. I like variety.  Some of the best expressions that parents seem to love are the soft smiles and the pensive looks.  They like the seriousness of the portrait.

I have not talked too much about cameras or settings.  Photographer Chase Jarvis is quotes as saying, “The best camera, in the one you’re holding”.  That is one statement that couldn’t be more true. If you are not that familiar with the setting of your camera, leave the settings on automatic and choose the largest file size that you camera will support.

One tool that has come in handy for me is a tripod.  Because once you pick the location, and get the kids in photo clothes, and pose the child, you are ready to go. The tripod keeps the camera in one place as you work  to get everyone to look at the camera at the same time.

When you do your own photo shoots, you are able to schedule it based on the best time for your children. This means that if your child is having a bad day, don’t force the photo session.  Try again the next day. I usually tell the older kids to look at the camera, and not me.  Then I work on getting the younger kids to smile and look at the camera.

Since most people are shooting digital, try different things and just keep hitting the button.


Leilan McNally was a professional photographer in a former life. He enjoys spending time with his family and photographing in downtown Indianapolis. Check out his work on Flickr, and be sure to follow him on Twitter for daily hilarity!

One Response to “DIY Easter Portraits: Tips from a Photographer”

  • Sheila March 24, 2010 @9:51AM Reply

    Very informative!! Thanks for the great tips!!

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