Chicago Photographer Shares Tips for Capturing Children's Portraits a Mother Can't Resist

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a baby is born in the United States every eight seconds. Undoubtedly, that means parents are snapping countless photos to record every smile and minuscule change during their children’s lives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a baby is born in the United States every eight seconds. Undoubtedly, that means parents are snapping countless photos to record every smile and minuscule change during their children’s lives. Experienced child photographers like Chicago-based Jessica Tampas Photography, however, focus on capturing the artful moments in each child’s life – creating the difference between a snapshot and a masterpiece.

Since 1996, mothers-to-be, endearing newborn babes, expressive toddlers and confident teens have been the heart of Tampas’ portrait business. As she marks her 10th anniversary in business, she shares four tips that can help turn a child’s photograph into a masterpiece -- just in time for Mother's Day.

“It is important to understand what settings and approaches help capture the fleeting and significant moments or changes in a child’s life,” said Tampas.

Four simple rules for capturing masterpiece portraits

1. Find a calm atmosphere

Children can be easily distracted, so Tampas suggests finding an area where they and their other family members can relax and enjoy the portrait session.

“Children should feel comfortable, safe and happy,” said Tampas. “I am very sensitive about the child’s experience while being photographed,” said Tampas.

At her studio, comfort is unhurried and evident. Private one-hour sessions are scheduled so mothers and babies have time and space to relax on the comfortable couch, to nurse in private, or just hang out in the quiet, soothing studio. There is always plenty of time during a sitting for the baby to eat, have a diaper change or to be held, and afterwards, photographers use gentle noise makers, colorful objects and puppets to get a baby’s attention. Tampas’ quiet demeanor and welcoming presence combined with her affinity towards people makes her a natural when shooting baby photography.

2. Simplify the wardrobe and props

Tampas recommends choosing very simple clothes and few distracting backdrops or props. She warns that busy patterns, over-sized outfits and clunky shoes can overwhelm a baby’s final photo. Props and backdrops can do the same. She explained that your children should be the centerpiece of each photo, not the clothes or props.

Babies featured in Tampas’ images are usually naked or just in diapers so the main focus of her portraits is the child’s physical attributes, expression and personality. To ensure that the babies are comfortable, their mothers are right next to them at all times, and Tampas uses a sheepskin rug and pillows covered with black fabric for extra comfort. Sometimes, the mothers themselves become an invisible backdrop, with black fabric draped over their legs while holding their child. A simple collection of children's chairs and primitive stools, a tricycle and a Thai rocking horse are the extent of the props she depends upon for older children.

3. Ensure that there’s time to have fun

Hurried scheduling may result in an image that doesn’t capture the children’s true personality or individual attributes. Tampas suggests working with photographers that will allow children time to relax and enjoy the process. At the Jessica Tampas Photography studio, toddlers enjoy playing in the large loft space and chasing Luna, her 80-pound lab mix, who serves as her number one assistant with children (unless they are scared or allergic).

“For toddlers and older children, we all get down on the floor with them and play. We use bubbles, play games with balls and balloons, play music and dance.”

4. Engage the child in the process

Tampas encourages the children to express themselves by suggesting poses and their own ideas about how they want to be photographed. Tampas explains that by letting children get comfortable as they interact with the camera, their family, or their surroundings, one can capture a natural image that let’s the child’s true spirit shine through. She favors black and white images because she feels they best portray the emotion in each portrait, and offer a classic or timeless image. Beautiful color images, however, are available.

“No two sittings are alike,” said Tampas, adding “I truly approach every subject with a new curiosity and strive to capture real emotion in my work with children. It’s not about perfection. It’s more about honesty.”

Private sittings with Jessica Tampas Photography begin at $200, with prints from $75 each. Every order is customized to the clients’ specifications for framing and presentation. To schedule a session, call 312-942-1905.

About Jessica Tampas Photography, Ltd.

Jessica Tampas Photography, Ltd. is a fine art portrait studio located at 312 North May Street in Chicago. Hung against exposed brick walls and beneath timbered 20’ ceilings, 4’ x 4’ black and white images provide stunning visual impact for all who enter her 2500 square-foot studio. Captivating eyes, tiny noses and adorable lips, and even the swirl of hair atop a newborn’s head are the memories that parents seek to remember as their children grow. For more information, or to review her recent portfolio, visit


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