Picture this…

It’s that time of year when our e-mail inboxes get slammed with spam from Shutterfly and Snapfish advertising discounts on holiday card orders.  All the cards they have in their ad displays a beautiful portrait of a family interacting so naturally hanging out in a field or by the beach.  Everyone is smiling and laughing.  You can almost feel their happiness.  I always think, “I could NEVER get a picture of my kids doing that”..  Worse, I avoid that formal picture because I know that Boo will have such trouble focusing on the photographer. She might look vacant or checked-out. 

But then I met Zach’s mom, Laura. Her reply? Well, of course you can!  I’d like to introduce you to Laura, an awesome mom and someone who taught me to relax in the moment of trying to get that ‘typical’ family portrait. 

And hey, my first ever guest posting on my blog!

Photo Credit – Trace Melody

I’m a mom-tographer based on the Cape.  Every year around the holidays my schedule packs up.  Parents contact me sounding anxious to schedule a holiday session with their kids but apprehensive.  The conversation always starts out with the same phrase “I just want a few good pics of my kids.” And they hope to, “Maybe get a nice one of all of us”.  Then, their session rolls around and we rock it out.  I may show the parents one or two little quick glimpses on the back of my camera but I like to save the best for when they see their gallery. 

The gratitude for not only beautiful portraits, but also for a fun experience is what pours out of these families.  I love giving that experience to people.  Giving them a visual representation of not just what their family looks like, but WHO they are together.  Their connection and how they interact with one another.  Capturing their children’s reactions to their Daddy’s funny story-telling voice.  It’s the art of the family I always strive to capture.  And it’s not always easy.  Those amazing smiles usually come after some protest and maybe a few tears.  But I keep my patience with a few simple tricks that you can use if you’re going try and take a holiday portrait yourself! 

   Get outside!  Kids are naturally more relaxed outdoors.  The light is gorgeous outside and you’re almost guaranteed a few keepers if you shoot outside.  Preferably right around the 3pm mark. 

   Put their back to the sun!  People have this common misconception that they need to light up their kids’ faces by having them face the sun.  Not true.  Put their back to the sun and you’ll have some gorgeous results. 


  Turn off your flash!  Especially when shooting outside.  Flash is unflattering and gets rid of some very interesting shadows on the face.  Shadows show depth and make a portrait more dimensional.  Turn off flash.  You’ll love the results.   

  Take the pressure off.  Try to steer clear of phrases like, “Ok!  Let’s go take a picture now!!  Everyone look at me and smile!!  If you don’t smile no candy!!”  These phrases put pressure on the kids and will almost always produce less-than-desirable results.  Instead, try taking your children to a park or an unfamiliar field.  When your kids are involved in exploring, get low on their level and talk to them.  Talk to them about their favorite character from Sophia: The First, or Handy Manny.  Have your camera ready and when they glance up at you, press the shutter.  Their face will be natural and relaxed.  Even more so if you get them to laugh at you singing!  A much better smile will happen if it happens naturally rather than forcing it by saying “Cheeeeeese”. 


  If you have sensory sensitive kiddos, be aware of their triggers and head them off at the pass.  If they don’t like grass, bring a throw blanket to toss on the grass.  Or a low stool for them to sit on.  The problem I have when I try to photograph my own son (who has classic Autism) is that he sees me every day.  I’m not interesting to him.  So, I have to make silly airplane noises and wave my hands in the air to get him to notice me.  But once he sees me and thinks, “Hey, mommy is doing something pretty silly there”. That is when I’ve got him.  I can capture his laughs in-between my silly acts. 

And if all of this still intimidates you, you could always invest in a professional to help you capture your families.  Special needs families are personally a favorite of mine to capture because I KNOW how I longed for someone to capture our interactions as a family together.  I needed to freeze the period in time where my sensory-seeking child would press his face into mine so hard, he’d shake.  And his infectious giggle when his daddy would make him fly up in the air.  Those moments for me are priceless.  And when I can take a family who is convinced that we’ll never get a good shot of their child because they’re fixated on the car door, that’s a challenge for me and I adore the parent’s reactions when I show them the incredible results. 


Laura Fiorillo is the owner of Family Tree Photography located in Sandwich, MA.   Contact familytreephotography@hotmail.com


I’d like to thank Laura and the parents who allowed us to share their photos to demonstrate how our children are just so beautiful. While we never got that formal family photo, our pictures are unique just like our family. I cannot thank Laura enough for prompting me to do the photo shoot. Remember I once explained how Boo does the full body hug? The one that just pours out her love and enjoyment? Laura captured that moment which is so more spectacular than a staged formal shot. 


7 thoughts on “Picture this…

  1. Dana Hemelt

    Such good tips, Laura. I have a new camera and I'm ready to drag my family outside for some photos. And Kerri – I think candid photos can be even better than formal ones – the two you've shown us are amazing!


  2. Kristi Campbell

    I'm in awe of the full-bodied Boo hug photo. I want one. Tucker does the same thing and nobody's ever even thought to capture it on film. Does Laura know anybody in the DC area??? Because ugh. I'm sad now as I want one of those too!!! So much. Tucker sees the camera and mugs. Not in a cute way (he has maybe-probably-autism too – he's 4). Thanks, Kerri. XOXO

    That photo needs to be everywhere.


  3. Christine

    As a former photographer, I have to completely agree with Laura. People go in saying they want a formal portrait, but when they see the fun, real photos, those photos become the favorites. I had one family send out a Christmas card with the two older kids smiling and the baby crying her full head off instead of the one where all the kids were smiling. The crying was much more the story of their life at the moment.
    Those photos of you and Boo are fantastic. I hope you are getting a great big print of if to put on your wall.



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