12 Steps to Better Child Portraits with Park Ave Photography

We are so excited to have Holly today on the blog! Holly is the fabulous photographer behind Park Ave Photography. She is a pro at boutique photography and working with kids. I’m sure you have seen some of her images in your favorite online stores. She is going to share with us some of her tips for taking pictures of young children! Please welcome Park Ave Photography to the blog!

Like every other parent, I love photographing my children. My oldest daughter, Peyton, was born 5 years ago, and with her birth came this fascination of capturing her every expression and milestone. Okay, okay, I am also guilty of buying those over-the-top outfits and dressing her up like my little doll to take pictures. When Peyton was 18 months, a few online boutiques asked if she would model their clothing. It became something fun for us to do together, and after a few years of doing this, we found a routine for it. It used to take 40 minutes to do a shoot, and I would take over a hundred photos to get only 10 good shots. Now we can go out and shoot 35 great shots in less than 10 minutes. Here are our steps to a successful photo shoot.

Step 1: Plan it all out ahead. Being spontaneous is great, but once a shoot goes bad, trust me, they never forget.

Step 2: What time of day is your child happiest and alert? If it is 2:00, then make sure he/she is fed and bathed by 1:00.

Step 3: The invite. “Hi honey! Do you want to go ____________?” This is where you come up with something fun to do. Some examples would be picking flowers, playing red light green light, seeing how many balloons it takes to fly, hiding objects and finding them, blowing bubbles, counting and feeding ducks at the park, or any kind of pretend role playing.

Step 4: Now that you’ve gotten a “yes” it is time to get dressed and do up the hair. Be sure to talk about how much fun you are going to have and let them know taking pictures is also part of the plan. “I’m bringing my camera so I can take pictures when you fly away with those balloons!”

Step 5: Introduce the reward system. “If you’re a good girl today, we’ll go get some ice cream later.”

Step 6: Pick a location that will be safe and fun with good lighting at the time of day you have chosen. It needs to be a location where they can move around freely.

Step 7: The car is packed up with your camera equipment, a tote with props, wet wipes, drinks, and a change of clothes. Why a change of clothes? The clothes they have on for the pictures may be cute, but when they take them off, it signals that they are all done.

Step 8: Before you try to photograph your child, make sure your camera is on the correct settings. Then forget the camera for a while, and take time to connect and enjoy each other. Whatever event you have planned will set the mood for your photos. What you want to capture are the expressions that are a result of your precious time together (and maybe that really cute outfit too!).

Step 9: When everyone is relaxed and happy, this is a great time to bust out the camera. If you have had a series of bad photo ops with your little one, it may take longer for them to warm up to you. They know what you are up to, but they are willing to play along when they know it’s going to be good for them too. After several fun shoots together, they will soon forget the days of you making them sit, smile, and say cheese.

Step 10: Make suggestions for poses, but let your child lead you. You are simply the admirer here full of compliments and by no means the boss. If he/she wants to be close to you or held, bring a helper to distract and play. Toddlers often look down at the ground and run. Rather than chase them around, have a helper bounce a ball high in the sky or find a location near an airport to get them to look up into the sky with expression. Kids love spotting planes in the air and they can’t help but to smile at them. No matter what, if you get to the point that you aren’t having fun, put the camera away. You never want it to be a bad thing. There is always tomorrow.

Step 11: Shooting between 15 and 40 minutes is about all you should expect. Be sure to shower those babies with hugs, kisses, praise, and a fat reward afterwards.

Step 12: Show them the finished product. My daughters love looking at the silly pictures as well as the pretty ones. We actually have names for certain facial expressions, dance moves, and poses. Most of them are pretty goofy like “The Scuba-Scoob” or “Spanky Hanky”. Someday when Peyton is grown and dealing with real life issues, I’m going to tell her to bust out the Scooba-Scoob, and we will both crack up.

So in case you haven’t looked at it this way, taking pictures with your children can be quality time you spend with them. The best part is, you have the photos to remember those times forever.


Thank you Holly for the awesome tips! You can follow Park Ave Photography on Facebook to see all of the amazing clothing she gets to photograph and her beautiful photography. 


photography via lilblueboo.com



  1. Soren Lorensen Design says

    Thanks Holly!!! Love your pix and great tips!! Will totally be using with Finley :) xo Shari

  2. MonetPaisley says

    I will have to try this. My five year old loves photoshoots but always strikes the same poses. This would get me some great shots of her not looking at the camera. Thanks for the great photography advice this week. I took some great shots on manual settings yesterday, a first for me :-)