It doesn’t even phase my kids anymore that my camera is always in front of my face like an extra appendage growing out from my nose. And while I give them the occasional photographic direction, “Can you please zip up your zipper before I take some more pictures?” they’ve grown pretty used to having their pictures taken.

I do not happen to have a beautifully curated baby book for each of my girls, but I do have a heck of a lot of photographs to show for my ten years of mothering and I’ve learned so much about photography along the way.

Here are ten of my favorite tips for photographing your children.

1. Photograph what you want to remember.
Do you have a child who always walks around the house with one shoe on, one shoe off? A kid who refuses to wear anything but his Superman briefs and cape? Or a baby who drags her stuffed bunny around the house by its ear? Capture these moments. These are things that will tug on your heart years from now when they’ve grown into that teenage attitude and and you’d give anything for a kid that needs bedtime stories and nightlights. Don’t worry about every photograph being perfect, posed portraits; let your photographs tell your children’s story.

2. Leave the cheese in the fridge.
Keeps things light, fun and candid when you photograph your children. Make it a relaxed, normal experience and chances are you’ll capture that favorite smile, scrunched up nose or head-tossed back laugh. Please don’t make them pose.

3. Get down on their level.
Move around. Try different angles. Lie on the floor or in the grass. One of my favorite pieces of photographic advice applies–if a shot just isn’t working, move your body and take it again.

4. Turn off the flash. Please.
I beg you. Just turn it off. It washes out and discolors everything in the picture. Leave the diffusers and speedlights to the professionals. Your best bet is to set it to “off,” not “auto.”

Tips for taking better family photos

5. Seek out natural light.
If you’re shooting outside, the sweet spots come one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. You can even get some dreamy light and color on overcast days. Just avoid bright, intense sunlight which yield squinty faces and blasted out colors. If you’re shooting indoors, shoot near a window with soft, filtered light.

6. Make sure they’re well-fed and well-rested.
If your kids are anything like mine, at the first sign of exhaustion and hunger they turn whiny and uncooperative. Nothing good can come from that. (Unless of course, this is what you want to remember about them. See tip #1.)

7. Get the props ready.
While props can quickly turn a great picture tacky, some props will add a lot to your picture and help your child relax. Whether it’s lollipops, a red wagon, or a pile of pillows, have it all ready to go before you bring your kid on the scene. Your window of good light plus well-behaved child is small. Don’t risk losing valuable time to set-up.

8. Focus on the eyes.
The eyes are the sweet spot, especially on a zoomed-in portrait. Make sure all your focus is there.

9. Be aware (or beware) of your background.
If you’re taking a wide-angle shot, pay attention to what’s behind you lest you have an adorable shot with the vacuum cleaner prominently displayed over your kid’s shoulder. Keep the background simple and remove the clutter.

10. Take a gazillion pictures.
Every professional photographer will tell you, don’t be stingy with the shots.It may take 100 photos to get one beautiful keepsake. That’s the beauty of digital. And trust me, you’ll get some good ones in there somewhere; probably even some amazing ones. -Molly

What are your favorite tips for photographing kids?