A Publication of WTVP

You want beautiful portraits of your child. You want portraits that make you smile every time you look at them. Having professional portraits created should be fun, relaxing and memorable. What it shouldn’t be is a reminder of the dreadful experience you had when you took your child to the studio. It is possible to get those beautiful portraits as well as the pleasant memories if you follow these tips.

It has been my experience that smaller children are usually at their best during morning sessions. They may have that “happy time” in the afternoon as well but it does not seem to last as long. They have already had a full day of adventure and discovery by then. Their patience and attention span, along with their happiness, is short-lived. However, after a good night’s sleep and breakfast, they are usually more agreeable to the whole situation for a longer period of time. So, if at all possible, schedule that morning appointment.

Another tip is to reschedule if your child is ill. Even if they are in a good mood at the session, I have heard remarks that a child’s eyes look sick in the portraits. I would much rather reschedule than end up with images that remind parents that their child was sick at the time of the session. Most professional photographic artists will understand and agree.

Please come prepared. I always ask parents to bring snacks and something to drink. If I see the need to take a break away from the camera area, it helps to have their favorite snack available. The child comes back feeling refreshed and happy.

This brings me to the next tip: allow plenty of time. I take the time needed to get the child to relax, get comfortable and be themselves. That is when I get the best images that capture their personality. I tell my clients on the phone before the session that I allow lots of time for each appointment and not to worry about watching the clock. If you are stressed that it is taking a long time, your child will most likely sense that stress and react to it. I don’t have a clock visible in the camera area, and the atmosphere is light and relaxed to help everyone involved enjoy the experience.

Even though a portrait displays emotion and personality, clothing choice is an important aspect. I prefer clothing that isn’t distracting or dated. Smaller children do not care what they wear, so comfort is most important to their happiness. The fancy, lacy formal attire makes most infants fussy; they only begin cooing and smiling after it is removed. If the child is older and lives in bright colors or jean bibs and pigtails, I prefer that and will choose the appropriate background and poses to showcase their personality. After your child is grown, and you look at the portrait, you should notice their expression and personality, not what they were wearing.

Bargaining with older children before getting to the studio is not very helpful. If you bargain before things even start, your child thinks there must be a reason they will not be happy or have fun at the studio. The best thing you can do is talk about how fun visiting, playing and spending time with “Miss Julie” can be.

Never, ever, coach them to smile. A forced smile is very apparent, and will be noticed even if everything else in the portrait is perfect. If I share a moment of joy with my young client, it is captured in its truest form. Some of my favorite portraits are not smiling faces, but expressions of wonder and discovery, so I will photograph those as well.

Last, but not least, is the suggestion to let me do my job of creating portraits you will treasure. Your child may have the most angelic smile and adoring eyes when you talk to them, but you are not the one holding the camera. I need the child’s attention and focus so I can capture their personality for you. Occasionally, I will enlist the help of a parent so I can see what particular song, gesture or noise their child responds to, but I need to be the one who does it when the time comes to create the portrait. The exception to this is when I am creating relationship portraits of the child with another family member. I also ask that you limit the number of people that come to the session and are not in the portraits. It is difficult for me to have that one-on-one connection with your child when there are lots of relatives and friends in attendance, all cooing and talking to the child.

Most of all, my goal is to create beautiful, emotional portraits of your child while offering a fun and relaxed experience. If you follow these tips, you will have treasured portraits that create warm memories of chubby toes and fingers, precious expressions, the wonder of childhood and a good experience of having those memories captured. TPW

Julie Sowers is an artist and owner of Short Stories Photography studio in East Peoria. She specializes in capturing precious expressions and personalities of children in portraits and paintings; along with photographing graduating seniors, families and couples. Visit her website at to see her award-winning images of adorable faces.