As a professional photographer, I feel very confident I can capitalize on the time I spend with my clients and get really great images that are true to who they are…but when it comes to trying to snap some frame worthy photos of my own kids, I sometimes feel like I literally need to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat to get them to smile — and maybe a unicorn if I want them smile at the camera. I’m going to share a couple of my simplest tricks with you today!

1. Always have your child looking towards a light source (preferably a natural light source like a window!). This is a photography 101 (very basic tip), but it is one that is often forgotten.  Everyone wants those amazing golden shots with sun flair and halos of beautiful yellow light, but my tip is to leave that to the professionals. When shooting pics of your kids at home, your goal should be to quickly be able to capture them at that moment. The simplest trick in getting a clear shot is to have light pointed towards their faces.

2. Find a spot in the house with some color and texture. Interesting shots are both a combination of capturing a beautiful facial expression and an interesting setting.

3. Do not ask them to smile. Whatever you do, DON’T ask them to smile. This is the cardinal sin. The second you ask them to smile one of two things is going to happen — they will either give you that awkward ‘Mom, I AM smiling’ face…where it looks like they just swallowed something weird. Or, they will flat out deny you a smile because that’s what kids do. Taking photos of your kids shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth. Instead of asking them to smile, bring in reinforcements — family pets, siblings, friends…I’ve been known to put on a wig, stick a toy in my topknot and make ridiculous sounds. The key is to get them to actually smile? Don’t ask them to pretend to. In these moments, as you are making a complete fool of yourself, just start clicking. You will catch great smiles, laughs and really true expressions, which is really the point of the whole thing.

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Carrie Ryan