Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Photographers’ Tips for Great Kids Portraits

A supercute outtake from our highly staged Sears shoot

After shopping around for photographers in Brooklyn to take a portrait of my kids, I was shocked at the going rates, which can add up to $700 or more when you get the CD of images after the shoot. Because the CD, and the dozens of photos on it, is what I really wanted from a portrait session. If a photographer was going to take a ton pictures of my kids, I wanted them all.

So while visiting my in-laws in Spokane, Washington, I got a Sears Portrait done, along with the CD, which was much cheaper by comparison but not exactly the aesthetic I was looking for. I mean, I knew we were in for some props and backdrops, but I wasn’t prepared for the stock poses. At one point I had to tell the woman that the way she positioned my 4- year-old daughter, lounging on a chaise in a come-hither style, wasn’t working for me. I also hadn’t done my homework in figuring out how to dress them.

Of course, once I mentioned my Sears experience to other moms, I got great leads on photographers who do portraits for reasonable prices here in Brooklyn–and who will actually come to your home, an option I never considered. All the kids portraits I see online (aside from newborn photos) seem to be set in a park against a backdrop of blazing fall foliage. But home portraits make perfect sense, especially for kids under 5. Why risk a meltdown or uncooperative child on location when you can weather out a storm far better at home?

So I spoke to and emailed with three photographers who make house calls anywhere in Brooklyn, all for far less than I assumed. Below they shared tips on capturing your kids at their best, and what to expect from a house visit.

Newborn home portrait by Carla Licavoli of LIttle Stars Studio

Why Home is Best
“Kids are always more comfortable in their own surroundings,” says photographer Carla Licavoli of Little Star Studio, “so you get much more natural photographs.”

“I think home portraits are also really meaningful,” added Raquel Frechette, a photographer in Carroll Gardens. “Twenty years from now, your kids will have so much fun looking at the stuff that used to be around them when they were young.”

And Barbara Corella of Windsor Photography NYC added a tip to keep in mind as you’re going for that totally candid, natural photograph at home (or anywhere really): “Natural expressions are best. Constantly asking kids to smile is stressful for them.”

Home portrait by Babara Corella of Windsor Photography NYC (windsorphotonyc.com)

What time?
Before booking your appointment, Carla Licavoli recommends watching your kids a couple days in advance to determine the time when they are most animated. Most often it’s in the mornings, and she can come as early at 8:30 am. Barbara Corella also stresses that the kids should be rested if they still take naps, and fed before the session begins.

How long?
A child under 5 will typically only have the patience for an hour-long session. If you have a newborn who could very well nap through much of the session, a shy child, or newborn and a toddler, it makes sense to hire a photographer for two hours. “Some toddlers I can be done with in 15 minutes, and some I need two hours,” says Barbara Corella. “I like to give myself that extra time to create some rapport with a child who is shy.” An added bonus of the extra hour is that once she takes the indoor shots, there’s time to head outside.

What to wear?
If you’re shooting a couple of kids, Barbara Corella suggests keeping the color scheme in one family. For example, she says, “One could wear a red top and one could wear a top with a red print.”

Raquel Frechette is not as keen on the color-coordinated approach, but is fully supportive if it’s the look you’re going for. “I also suggest avoiding white, very busy patterns, and anything with logos, characters, or writing,” she says.

Whatever you choose, both photographers stress that it should be comfortable.

An added plus of the home photo shoot: you can always change their clothes.

A bathtub shot better than any of your iPhone photos, by Raquel Frechette Photography

What room?
Every inch of your apartment is fair game. Even a dark room can be remedied with lighting equipment, which any professional photographer has, though typically they will find the area that has the best natural lighting, and make that work instead.

Carla Licavoli especially enjoys taking family photos in the family bed, particularly with newborns. “What do you do most of the time but snuggle in bed? That’s a great moment to remember,” she says.

Frechette says she inevitably ends up moving things around for a shoot (sometimes taking down window dressings or paintings off of walls), but she appreciates having a clean, clutter-free room to work with. She also warns that the spot for a winning shot may just be the hallway or kitchen. “Backgrounds can be blurred and the shot can be framed such that you wouldn’t know you’re standing next to a microwave.” Or it could be the bathroom. Frechette is a fan of home shoots that involve everyday activities like bathtime. “It’s fun to capture things that might normally happen when everyone’s hanging out.”

Turnaround Time?
All three gave a range of 7 to 10 days to 2 weeks.

Where to get prints?
Each photographer can recommend various services for printing (like tinyprints.com), and many work with companies that can order custom cards, mugs, t-shirts–any item you want your little angel on.

Rates
Carla Licavoliof Little Star Studios charges $99 for an hour session, which includes every photo edited and uploaded to an online gallery for easy print ordering (if you want to go through her) and burned to a CD. She’ll soon be booking half-hour, holiday card photoshoots at a gallery in Gowanus, for $49. Email her (littlestarstudios@gmail.com) to find out the exact date. She can also order prints and custom cards.

Barbara Corella of Windsor Photography NYC charges $300 for a photo shoot up to two hours, which includes every photo edited and uploaded to an online gallery that you can order prints and other accessories from, and the CD of images.

Raquel Frechette Photography’s most popular package is $450 for 90 minutes (though she can go up to 2 hours), and includes 40 edited photos in an online gallery that you can share for 30 days and download all 40 images from. She also offers a mini session for $200 (45 minutes long, 15 edited images in a gallery, 3 to download) and a multiple session option for $750 where you can book her for four hours across 2 or 3 sessions and get 80 edited images total.

You can find a ton of skilled photographers beyond these three, of course–just hit up your local parents listserv for recs.

2 Comment

  • I have used Barbara Corella of Windsor Photography NYC since my daughter was born. 3.5 years and all the temperaments later, Barbara has been there every step of the way and has floored me with her photography every time. She’s the real deal, and the way she connects with children is incredible. I actually don’t think she charges enough, but I am not going to tell her that ;-)