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Guide to shooting portraits

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

How to shoot the best portraits

You don't have to be a professional photographer to take beautiful portraits of your family and friends. Just follow these simple tips and tricks to capture spectacular portraits.
Portrait of little girl

Photography do's and don'ts

  • Do shoot candids. Not all portraits need to be posed. Your kids (and other subjects) are more comfortable reacting naturally.
  • Do change your perspective. Every photo doesn't have to be at eye level. A different angle can create a spectacular portrait.
  • Don't always have the subject look at the camera. A person focusing her attention outside camera view can be intriguing in a photo.
  • Don't feel the need to make every picture perfectly centered. It looks contrived. Instead, take the photo opportunities as they come.

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Photography tricks and secrets

When shooting portraits, consider the background as well as your subject's clothing. For crisp portraits, take photographs against a solid-colored background -- a bright wall or an open expanse of grass, for example.

For family portraits, the subjects shouldn't be dressed completely matchy-matchy. Instead, ask them to wear clothes in the same color family but not in the identical color.

Don't wait for special occasions or holidays to shoot portraits. If you make photography a part of your everyday life, your children will get used to being in front of the camera, resulting in some amazing portraits.

Arieanna Schweber, mother of 2-year-old Aiden, says:

"I think my son is so used to having a camera in his face that he often keeps playing while I'm trying to get 'the' shot. He's also recently learned how to pose. If I want a posed photo, I can ask him to smile or say something funny and it will freeze the moment long enough for me to get a shot. Toddlers are vain, I think, and if you show them the result they will be more happy to comply with the request for photos. In the end, sometimes you end up with photos with weird facial expressions, but that's OK. Some photos (particularly those I take on my iPhone) are more about capturing an experience than having a perfect photo."

"My best shots are with our Nikon D300, though the majority of the pictures these days come from my iPhone 4. The photos look much better on the DSLR, but I find my son is too distracted by the big gadget and wanting to look through the photos on it for me to get any candid pictures of him (and I love candid photos). I also love the immediacy of being able to post photos to Twitter or Facebook directly from my phone."

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Portrait photography tips from the pros

Portraits of wiggly children can be difficult to capture in closed environments. "My youngest daughter is 2, and she does not like to sit while I take her picture," says Erin Myers, of Erin N. Myers Photography. "I find that my most successful photos of her are when I can get her interested in interacting with me. Go outside where there is a lot for the child to explore. Ask the child to find you a leaf or flower off the ground, or ask her to tell you a story."

Eyes are important in portrait photography. "If I'm taking a photo of my son for a candid portrait, I try to focus on his eyes; that makes the photo pop," explains Schweber. "I tend to go in very close for those photos. Sometimes, coming from the side a little bit and not centering Aiden in the shot gets a more intriguing photo.

"Although I like blurred backgrounds, that's often not possible with every shot of a toddler running around," Schweber continues. "Instead, I focus on taking photos when the background doesn't distract -- when there aren't other kids running in the background or garbage cans or things like that. For example, I find this closeup of Aiden as a dragon much more compelling than the busy full-body shot I took a moment earlier."

Watch: How to make your photos look retro

Turn your mainstream photos into retro coolness. This Photoshop video tutorial shows how to apply a retro photo effect using professional, non-destructive editing techniques.

More photography tips

Guide to shooting outdoors
Guide to shooting baby pictures
Best photography blogs for moms

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