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Adding a Spark of Personality to Your Portraits

You can spend hours researching camera settings. You can spend thousands of dollars on THE fanciest camera gear. The fact is, with all the expensive gear and all the knowledge in the world, you won’t get the photos that give people the warm and fuzzies unless you put some LOVE into them.

My best pictures are not the ones where everyone is looking and smiling. My favorite shot is one that is full of personality. When I say a picture has personality, I mean that you feel something when you look at it.  You feel an emotion. It makes you remember the feeling you had at that time the picture was taken. It captures specific traits about the subject.

I have pictures of my oldest son, Luca, on his first day of kindergarten where he is smiling and standing alone. Sure it’s cute…but when I see this one I feel something. 

I remember the story of this day when I look at this one. Luca was excited for his first day, but also a little nervous. He tried to hide his nerves in front of his little brother and sister, but when they all saw the bus coming around the corner it became reality. My daughter, Lyla, and Luca did everything together until this moment. Even though they were only 4 and 5 years old they were hit with the big realization that they would be apart. Also, I laugh when I see the baby, Nico, hanging onto the back, not understanding what was going on but just doing what his siblings were doing- like always.

Follow these three tips to add personality or emotion to your pictures!

1) Get on Down

Go ahead, get on down. I imagine I look like a crazy person when I am taking pictures of kids. I take every picture on the level of my subjects (usually my kids)- even if that means laying on the ground in he middle of a park. Kids see the world totally different than how you see it. Check it out. Get on their level when you take pictures of kids, animals, or anyone!

You will get an entirely different shot if you get down to their level. You will get a picture of their face square on, not looking down at them like you usually do.  You also get to see from their perspective.

Here are some examples:

2) Don’t Stress over Smiles

“If you smile for this picture you can have candy…” Do you ever find yourself saying that? Don’t be ashamed. That was me too. Until I realized that sometimes the best pictures are kids showing ALL emotions, deep in play, or interacting with other people.

If your kid is always happy, GOOD FOR YOU- consider yourself lucky. You are the minority. It is better to capture other honest emotions, than fake and forced smiles. Or sometimes the best pictures is when your subjects aren’t even looking at all. I love the ones when they are interacting with each other. 

I love this one of them not even looking. I just remembered how they looked like a tiny married couple brushing their teeth this day. Tiny babies, yet gaining independence. 

3) Capture those Personalities and Moments

I am not going to pretend like my 5 year old daughter is a calm, happy-go-lucky sweetheart. She is a strong, powerful force who knows what she wants and she gets it. And I love her for that- maybe not 10 minutes before the bus gets here and she is demanding to wear shorts when it is 40 degrees out, but I still respect her for it. I love capturing her sometimes terrifying, dictator-like personality in pictures.

I mean come on… she is a tough girl in a tutu, and I am not going to pretend otherwise.

My curious son had a dinosaur obsession starting at age 2. He talked about them constantly and knew the names of about a hundred dinos. When we brought him to see the dinosaur bones at the local museum for the first time his little his mind was literally blown seeing how big the dino-bones were.  This picture and those big eyes bring me RIGHT back to that day.

Capture kids being kids. Getting dirty. Running around. Making messes. Before you know it there will be no more messes, and you will miss it.


You will start to develop your own photography styles, but following these three tips will guarantee that your personality and the subjects personality will shine through in your pictures. THOSE are the photographs that you will remember for a lifetime. 

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Tamra Elizabeth Cater

Saturday 13th of April 2019

Beautiful pictures. This article made me smile and reminded me to capture more of the "real" moments rather than the posed shots. Thanks for sharing!

Hiking Singh

Wednesday 9th of January 2019

Perfect shots !!! You have captured the moments beautifully !!! Very helpful tips !!!


Thursday 3rd of January 2019

I love these tips! Some of the best pictures come from getting down to the same level as your children! Also natural photos, not trying to force smiles make some great pictures! Thank you for sharing this!


Thursday 20th of December 2018

Children are such photogenic subjects, and they're always changing and growing so photographs are a great way to capture those moments.

Elizabeth O

Wednesday 19th of December 2018

That last shot was precious! I agree that some of our best shots are spontaneous not forced. I took tons of photos of my kids when they were younger and learned a lot from the effort.

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