Your Kids' Natural Smiles Make Most Authentic Photos

When I worked at Child magazine, we orchestrated the first-ever children’s runway show at New York Fashion Week. It was a big deal, with some impressive casting (including Lindsay Lohan’s then little-known siblings Ali and Dakota as well as Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons' daughter, Ming Lee) and a 6am call time to the Bryant Park tents. The coiffed kids wore clothes by Tommy Hilfiger, Nicole Miller, Kenneth Cole, Escada, Lucy Sykes, and Gap Kids, and they strutted their stuff down the runway under the bright lights.

It was 2005, pre-Instagram and Twitter. So while there were plenty of camera flashes going off, the pictures were mainly seen in mainstream media. There was a glossy and aspirational quality to the shots, kids all dolled up like their adult counterparts, lighting just so…you got it, like they stepped out of the pages of a magazine. Because they did.

It’s pretty cool when, as parents, we get some slick shots of our kids posing in trendy duds, looking like they belong on a J. Crew billboard. Plenty of amazing family photographers can capture those shots for you, and they’re a hoot, as my grandmother would say: your son with a felt fedora jauntily tipped over his brow, your daughter donning a faux-fur vest and Ray Bans, giving the camera some attitude.

Indulge in those photo shoots, to be sure—the kids will (most often) have fun, and you’ll be rewarded with some magazine-worthy pictures. But don’t showcase those in frames and books at the expense of showing your kids for who they really are, too (unless, of course, your kindergartener really does wear a fedora around the neighborhood). Ask the photographer to take a handful of more natural shots, such as your son and daughter laughing in the clothes they themselves picked out. A real laugh elicits the best images, in my opinion; eyes light up and joy shines through.

A real laugh elicits the best images, in my opinion; eyes light up and joy shines through.

When you look back on your kids’ photos years from now, you want to recall their personalities. You want to be able to get clues about the time period from their clothes and accessories—their hairstyles (or lack thereof!). You want context.

Remember the Glamour Shots you insisted your mom let you get at the mall back in the day? You were made over to look more like Olivia Newton-John in Grease than yourself, but that was the point. The backlit hair. The excessive retouching that smoothed skin to porcelain… Would you want those pictures hanging on your wall now? Do they feel like you? Didn’t think so.  #embarrassing

Let your photos tell your family’s stories. Your true stories. You’ll be glad one day.

Here's an example of a shot from a professional shoot where the natural light and everyday clothing choices make it feel natural, not contrived. (Before heading out to Central Park, the photographer shot my son in the studio leaning on a skateboard, looking like he was in a clothing ad—cute as a button, but not at all indicative of my child's interests or personality!). Photo by PhotoOpNYC

Here's an example of a shot from a professional shoot where the natural light and everyday clothing choices make it feel natural, not contrived. (Before heading out to Central Park, the photographer shot my son in the studio leaning on a skateboard, looking like he was in a clothing ad—cute as a button, but not at all indicative of my child's interests or personality!). Photo by PhotoOpNYC

Are you telling your stories at all?

Here I am lecturing you about letting your kids’ personalities shine through in the pictures you choose, but chances are that aside from social media, you’re not doing much to document their stories. Who has time, really?

Let Modern Heirloom Books accommodate you. We’re here to help you identify and hone your stories, with pictures and words. Find out how we can work together to get your pictures out of cyberspace and into books.

P.S. We’ll even include yours and your kids’ glamour shots if you prefer!