To us it feel like kids go through a photogenic phase at around six months. Before that, they look a bit like aliens and after that, they just won’t stay still. But photographer Olivia Shaw has a few tips on getting snaps worthy of the Boden catalogue (or at least Granny’s mantelpiece…).

DON’T FREAK THEM OUT WITH LIGHTS

“It’s so important to make sure the lighting is right before taking any photo. I prefer natural light, especially for children’s portraits, because it’s less alarming than a camera flash or studio light. If shooting indoors then try to find a location near a window and face them looking out of it, so the natural light falls onto their face.”

REMEMBER THAT SUNSHINE IS SOMETIMES OVERRATED

“People are usually very happy if the sun is shining brightly on the day of shoot, however this is not ideal for portraits. Direct sunshine will create shadows across the face and squinting eyes. I take people into the shade on days like this and look for a spot where the sun is shining through the trees behind the subject’s head, to create some back lighting.”

DO SOME BACKGROUND CHECKS

“Be aware of the background of the photo before taking it. Try and find a simple backdrop, which won’t over take the image. When shooting in a client’s home I ask to look around as soon as I get there and as long as the lighting is right, then I have the little one sat on a bed and use the headboard as a backdrop or have them in front of a plain wall, if possible. When shooting outside its lovely to sit them among the flowers, which also adds colour, texture and depth to your photo.”

LIE LITTLE ONES DOWN SO THEY DON’T LOOK LIKE A CRUMPLED HEAP

“Experiment with different compositions. The little one doesn’t always need to sit in the centre of the image, but it can be more effective to position them to the right or left of the frame. Having them lying down and you shooting from above works really well too, especially if they are lying on the grass, a picnic blanket or a rug inside. This is always a good angle when photographing little ones who are not yet able to sit up on their own.”

AND FINALLY… DEPLOY THE BUBBLES!  

“Remember to make the shoot fun and engaging. Children don’t have a long attention span so if you make it enjoyable for them, it will help you to capture naturally happy photos. Use their favourite toys and games to help keep them interested as long as possible. Bubbles are always fun to use and most little ones love them! I always keep a duck puppet in my camera bag to help encourage eye contact.”

View Olivia’s gorgeous work at shawshots.com. She recently moved from London to Surrey. She is available for photography shoots within the M25 and sometimes further afield.

@mushmums @oliviashawphoto