8 Tips for Mom-a-raz-zo Photographers

8 Tips for Mom-a-raz-zo Photographers

n. pl. mom-a-raz-zi – A mom who doggedly pursues her children to take photos

Much like the paparazzi who have become notorious in Hollywood for stalking celebrities and making their lives miserable, I must confess that I belong to the growing community of parents who pursue, nay, stalk their children day in, day out, to take photographs. The thought of a single day, field trip or activity going undocumented simply does not bode well for me.

Photos of children are so vastly different from other types of photography. A photo of a child will always evoke emotion, no matter the quality, subject matter, composition – children are dear to every heart in some way or another so when I photograph them and approach a shot to edit, I handle each shot with sensitivity. Having taken about 30,000 photos in the past 7 years, it could be easy to become emotionless and robot-like in my approach to photography. Rather, I remain strongly connected and with deep emotion, particularly in regards to children.

Here are 8 tips I’d give any aspiring momarazzo to bump up your game:

{1. Point of View} Try a different point of view rather than the normal face-on photo. Wait until they’re doing something sweet and try a shot of what they are doing.


{2. Something to do} Hand them a toy or get them involved in an activity and wait until they’re engrossed before you start shooting.


{3. Back Off} Back up and zoom in. Children have a very good sense for when they’re being manipulated and as any parent knows, they hate to be controlled. Back up, get out of their space, zoom in and just wait.


{4. Cropping} When you crop a photo, give your subject a space to look into. If they’re facing or staring into a certain direction, give some space on that part of the photo to give the viewer a sense that they are present in the moment. It makes you wonder ‘what are they looking at?’ Don’t place your subject in the dead-center of a photo.


{5. Get sporty} Whether you use a point-and-shoot camera (the kind without changing lenses) or an SLR (the kind with changing lenses), I’ve found the sports mode the best for children. Kids move FAST and so to catch them in action requires a very fast shutter. Also on some cameras, the sports mode allows continuous shooting where you hold down the shutter button and it just snaps shot after shot in succession. Then you can pick the one that caught that perfect moment.


{6. Make them scream} Kids hate being forced to smile and quickly learn to just ’say cheese’. Tell them to scream or shout something like “NO!” or “PEE!” Anything is better than the ‘cheese face’ and shouting makes for interesting expressions.


{7. Get Down} Everyone knows that kids are little. Get down and shoot on their level. Don’t make them come up to yours. Get down on your knees or lay on your belly and see what the world looks like from there.


{8. Edit} Play with your photos. Every photo can be made a better with a bit of editing. Editing can consist of changing a photo to b&w, playing with colour levels or adding a glow (great for kids). More intensive editing can be things like texture layers, colour replacement, adding blur, selective colouring, etc. Professionals and pro-sumers use programs like Lightroom or Photoshop (you can get free trials from the Adobe website). I started out with Google’s Picasa (FREE!) program. You can download it and use to organise end edit your photos and even make slide shows to upload on YouTube or photo collages. There are quick and easy buttons to add a glow, transform the colour or bump up the saturation to make your colours more vibrant. Picasa is an excellent place to start if you want to experiment with editing your photos.


Most of all, have fun and make your own rules. Photography can be the most intensely enjoyable hobby for yourself and your fans. Get out there and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Want more tips on photographing kids? Check out the dPS Kids Photography eBook.

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Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • PaulB August 16, 2012 08:29 pm

    You are right when you say go out and enjoy!! That's the main thing and easy to loose sight of that fact.

  • Patrice July 27, 2012 03:14 pm

    Just make sure to put the camera down once in a while and enjoy the moment. My son pointed that out to me on our last trip to the amusement park. He said " Mom, you are so busy taking pictures you are not doing anything WITH us." Make sure you find a balance.

  • CameraTrader July 27, 2012 12:44 pm

    Great article Elizabeth! Two thumbs up. By the way, i'm sharing the link in my website. Thanks!

  • Katharine Davies July 27, 2012 06:00 am

    Loved this post, really nice to get honest practical tips on technique. I'm loving the challenge and inspiration of shooting in natural light. Totally get you on that idea that you need to observe them in their own space... Thanks!

  • Amber July 27, 2012 04:39 am

    ...there's a word for what I am! I can stop calling myself freakish...lol

  • Guigphotography July 25, 2012 10:00 pm

    Love the simple concept of things to say and do to evoke a repsonse - the more fun you put in, the more fun the results. In terms of capturing childhood, don't overlook the other side too as they're fun to look back on. All those little moods and tantrums! Here's a moody...


  • Sam Docker July 25, 2012 01:34 am

    Does that make me a Dadarazzi?! - http://www.samueldocker.co.uk/the-betsy-portrait-sessions-take-2/

  • MsKirpi July 24, 2012 10:16 am

    I stalked my kids with a camera when they were young (and still do!). I'm a grandmother now (and I highly recommend it!); I have two grandsons I haven't met yet (though I will soon!) and we're planning a road trip to visit. I plan to take zillions of photos of ALL the grandies. Will use many of these tips (I can just see my 5-year-old grandson shouting "Pee!!!"). Thanks for the article.

  • Karen July 24, 2012 10:12 am

    @Jessica --- BAD form!

  • eJean1981 July 24, 2012 07:47 am

    I enjoy taking kid pictures, though I'm not very skilled. Thanks for the ideas.

  • Juan July 24, 2012 06:49 am

    I remember this post as one of my favorite ever, even though I'm not a father, just because of the candid thing behind it and the good results candid can deliver. Thanks for bringing it to the front line again.

  • Matt July 24, 2012 03:31 am

    I happened to get one like your first example when our family went to the beach earlier this summer. I have 4 kids, so I am always needing some fresh ideas when it comes to getting good shots of them. Nice tips.

    Here is the one of my son watching the seagulls - http://www.flickr.com/photos/killerfraug/7236530380/in/photostream.

  • amit jung kc March 14, 2011 06:53 pm

    great info and awesome click !!! Thank you !!!

  • Yvonne October 30, 2009 03:28 am

    I have to agree with the poster who said it would be nice to have some tips on photographing teens. How about some on photographing senior citizens?
    I really enjoy your site here Darren. Look forward to my weekly tips.

  • Tori September 1, 2009 09:12 pm

    I am a mom-a-raz-zi and a scrap-a-raz-zi so my kids (age 3 and 1) are photographed doing all kinds of things including potty training. They will not be happy when those photos come out in 10 years or so.

    Best tip from this article is waiting until they are engrossed in something to get some shots. When they have something new, I am so excited to get a photo that I'm probably distracting them. I'm always focused on capturing the moments while I can because they only last seconds. However, getting them when they are not paying attention may be worth the risk.

  • Yogesh Dahiya August 31, 2009 06:15 pm

    great tips.... i'm new to my passion..... but i know these tips will sure help.

  • Guillermo August 29, 2009 10:46 am

    Great tips!!! as a new dad I really enjoy this treasures I get with my camera and your tips will help to improve my shots and my passion for photography

  • Sarah August 29, 2009 10:23 am

    Danielle, "I had no idea that my condition had a name…and a following. :) I’m a major momarazzo"
    That's what I thought when I read the "definition" of the title! *L*

    Erica, I do that also, I just got some very interested photos of my son sitting in the grass inspecting his dirty feet. A couple of my favorites (him also) is having a massive tantrum, hands fisted, mouth wide open screaming "Don't take my PICTURE!!!!!". Another is him freaking out while they played in the hose because they went underneath the bushes and got covered in tiny flower petals. Sometimes the worst moments are the best later. :)

    I do the "mad face, sad face, happy face too" or for little girls especially ask them if they Dora, etc. and start singing the song. Or "Do you need Mom to tickle you so that I can see those dimples?" "Come on, you have to at least "act" like you like each other!" with a smile works pretty well for older people sometimes - getting them to lean closer, etc.

    My key with my own son is to just keep talking to him, not to interrupt while he's telling me thing and just keep taking pictures off and on as he does his thing. He starts to totally ignore the camera, and I get a lot of great ones when he turns around and grins at me, etc.

    Thanks for the tips and the great examples!!!!!!

  • sandra August 29, 2009 08:14 am

    What great info. I am just learning all the in's and out's of Picasa.
    This info has made me realize that I can do more and make my photos even better.
    Thank you

  • Amy H. August 29, 2009 03:27 am

    LOVE this article!!!!

  • Nat August 29, 2009 03:18 am

    Thanks so much for these great tips. I am a proud member of the mamarazzi. I follow my kids all around the house with my SLR and have my small Cannon Power Shot in my purse at all times. I'm always prepared for the perfect moment. I have found myself often times coaching them or asking them to smile a lot. As much as I love their smiles, candids tell a better story of who they are. Thanks for the tips. I know my kids will appreciate me giving them more personal space when I have the camera in hand.

  • Joel August 28, 2009 11:00 pm

    Great tips, thanks ! I am fortunate enough to have a nephew that loves to be photographed. He offered me his piggy bank the other day in exchange for my camera ! He's only 3. :-)

  • Martin Barabe August 28, 2009 08:27 pm

    I am a father of 3 so i think i fall into the category since my kids are my main portrait subject. I try whenever i can to put all of the above tips into practice and it works nice most of the time. Great post. Love the shots.


  • amir paz August 28, 2009 07:21 pm

    i love being the paparazi of my kids

    they also sometimes have the patience or even come ask me to photograph them, thats when i get nice

    portrait photographs of them, just posing and having fun with me and the camera...

    but the best ones are truly those i shoot when they are just playing about without realy noticing me round....



  • jinky August 28, 2009 02:22 pm

    wonderful tips for mamarazzis like me. . .thank you!

  • Menard Ambat August 28, 2009 12:52 pm

    Wow! this article is really great and useful. Thumbs up.

  • Corry Heinricks August 28, 2009 10:00 am

    Wonderful tips and photos........i'm a momarazzo of two teenagers (although my daughter just calls me the poparazzi to all her friends) and I'd love more tips on getting great shots of these older kids who do less "cute" things and who aren't so keen to be in the photos as time goes on.

  • Texas Susan August 28, 2009 07:25 am

    Good article! I'm a proud momarazzo and have been for 17 years!! One trick I like to use on my 17-year-old son, who doesn't like to smile for me, is that I tell him to say "horseradish." That ALWAYS makes him smile . . . and then I snap his photo.

  • Bull Rhino August 28, 2009 06:45 am

    This is way too much fun to get all technical, but for those that are confused on the "Momorozzo" thing. First of all it is obvious the author knows that since this is all based on Italian language Momorozzo is singular and Momorozzi would be plural, and for those who feel the deep seated need to get technical it really should be Momorozza and Poporozzo, because words ending in the letter "o" are masculine and ending in "a" are feminine. Momorozzi being plural is not gender specific. But if you've got time to worry about all that you've got too much time on your hands. I'm just glad she had fun with the word play.

  • George E. Norkus August 28, 2009 06:24 am

    It's funny that my mother has been a "mom-a-raz-zi" for over 57 years and still going, (when I visit her)!

  • Stretch Mark Mama August 28, 2009 05:39 am

    "Papa-razzi." (first commenter) Ha ha, never thought of that play on words before. It will now enter my vocabulary. As it is only appropriate.

  • Amy August 28, 2009 03:47 am

    I would LOVE to know the editing/post-production work on that last photo...that seems to be my block right not...I get the shot and I'm comfortable with my camera but I'm not getting the post-production steps to get the looks I see and love...off to the archives!!

  • djashish August 28, 2009 03:46 am

    Great ,the alteration of lights in last 2 photos is somewhat done with great care.
    @darren I think she followed one of your advice for breaking the rule,as in 3rd and 4th last photograph
    she doesn't give space to the subject and thus captures every minutest details of expression.
    @halford.great job..in 5th pic placing your subject rather in a non-comfort zone gives a nice shot..

  • Erica August 28, 2009 03:37 am

    Fantastic advice. I recently read "Photographing Your Family" by a National Geographic photographer and he suggests taking shots even when your kids are crying, whinning, complaining, etc. I feel I have to balance my sense of documenting their world with being sensitive to their needs of the moment with that one. ;)

  • April August 28, 2009 03:32 am

    Excellent post! Great advice and great pictures.

    But wouldn't "mama-razzi" be better, to match "paparazzi" a little closer? (Papa-razzi can be your husband! lol)

    My favorite non-cheese word is "BOOGERS!" Boys and girls alike either smile slyly or burst into giggles. Either way, great face. If you want one with attitude, tell them to say, "Snickerdoodle." No matter what the age (even teens) they'll give you a "What?" face. ;)

  • Christiana Aretta August 28, 2009 03:11 am

    Just that little bit of lens flare took that last photo from awesome to super-cheesy for me. Beware of over-editing!

  • donna August 28, 2009 02:56 am

    Great Post!

    I actually like the lens flare on the 2nd edit of the photo.

    Never thought of having a child scream "PEE!" but I'm gonna try it.

    I also appreciate the comment about trying to take a photograph of something other than your child instead of trying to make it fit into the weekly contest. How about their bowl of leftover food or some crayons and paper they recently played with? maybe their shoes they just tossed off while outside playing? just some ideas of ways to represent your child without actually photographing the person.

  • Jennifer Elton August 28, 2009 02:19 am

    Great tips. Thank you! I especially like the "yelling" tip and can't wait to try it.

  • Danielle August 28, 2009 02:13 am

    I had no idea that my condition had a name...and a following. :)
    I'm a major momarazzo. Thanks for the tips and the fun!

  • Ayudha August 28, 2009 02:01 am

    Thanks for the Excelent Tips.

  • Thais August 28, 2009 01:19 am

    I just loved these photos. Thanks for the tips and Congrats!

  • Jacqui Watson August 28, 2009 01:00 am

    I learned more from your article than I have in weeks searching other internet sites. You and DPS are my favorite teachers! I can't wait to read through your BLOGS and have added your site to my "Favorites". Thank you for sharing your gift with me. This is going to be great Fun! Keep adding more lessons for me!!

  • vbee August 28, 2009 12:06 am

    Wonderful post and brilliant pictures. Thanks so very much for the tips.

  • Elizabeth Halford August 27, 2009 10:19 pm

    Memoria, Hi thanks for the read! It's called Momarazzi because I'm a mom :) But you're absolutely right that dads also love to photograph their children. Hence, the first paragraph addresses the 'growing number of parents' rather than just moms :) In fact, if anything, there would be more POParazzi as men outnumber women in the field of photography!

  • Ifthikhar August 27, 2009 06:01 pm

    Hi Eliz,
    Very useful tips....Thanks for sharing...grt photographs also!...

  • Bull Rhino August 27, 2009 02:35 pm

    Very Clever creation on the name Momorazzi. I'm going to send the link to this to both my daughters. They already take great photos of my grandkids but who can't use some new ideas??? Thanks!

  • Julie August 27, 2009 01:49 pm

    I am going to be a grand-mom-a-raz-zo any day now and I can't wait.
    Great tips.
    Thanks so much.

  • Memoria August 27, 2009 12:56 pm

    Although the term "Mom-a-raz-zo" bothers me since there are guardians of both genders who pursue their children to take photos of them, I found this post very educational. I thoroughly enjoyed the examples presented.

    Also, since the definition at the beginning of the post is in the plural form, shouldn't the definition refer to more than one "mom". I cannot wait until you break these gender stereotypes. When will it happen?!

  • Mei Teng August 27, 2009 10:50 am

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. Photographing children is a real challenge as they are a bundle of energy and they just don't like being still. I don't like getting children to pose as they tend to look rather stiff in the photos. Having them just being themselves is the way to go.

    Love all the photos.

  • Jonathan August 27, 2009 10:08 am

    Great tips here, inspiring stuff.

  • Elizabeth Halford August 27, 2009 09:42 am

    Aninha: Hello! Thanks for the message. I edited that photo using Lightroom and Photoshop (my first comment details my steps). However in Picasa, the closest you could get would be clicking sepia and perhaps bringing down the saturation a little? It's been so long since I used it. But Picasa was an excellent introduction for me to the world of possibilities and I loved that I could upload them to my Picasa online albums straight from the program.

  • Bran Everseeking August 27, 2009 08:22 am

    ok i am going to be a PITA about something tangential to the article. SLR's are not defined by exchangeable lenses and can in fact have a fixed zoom lens offering parallax free optical viewfinders as the early "bridge" cameras. The defining feature of an SLR is that one views the image through the lens that the image is taken through in the same orientation.

    Exchangeable lenses can be found in rangefinders, a couple models of twin lens reflex cameras; even large and medium format view cameras have lens options. While not strictly lenses pinhole cameras can be made to have exchangeable apertures.

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey August 27, 2009 07:51 am

    Great post. I always yell POOP! when I am trying to get kids to laugh. And make them do their MAD face, then SAD face, then HAPPY face, and usually they are laughing and relaxed by then.

  • --Deb August 27, 2009 07:42 am

    I LOVE these tips ... I don't have a two-legged child, but I do have a dog who (usually) doesn't like to cooperate when I point a camera his way, and most of these should work for him, too.

    Oh, and the illustrative photos are fantastic.

  • Mandy August 27, 2009 06:37 am

    Great tips, I've been stalking my kids for nearly 7 years now and dread to think how many photos I've taken! After all you have to build up a few 'good' ones for blackmailing purposes for those teenage years!!!

    We used to try and pose them for photos with the old 'look at the camera' idea, that died a death after about 5 minutes. Just shooting them naturally has caught some fantastic images, and now my son has gone from complete camera shyness to 'hey mum take a photo of me doing this!' and this, and this and this...

    Oh and I have to shoot the kids equally or my daughter (3) hauls me up over it! Think I'm going to need a larger hard drive...

  • Sam Norris August 27, 2009 06:18 am

    Good tips, however I can't help but notice this general trend in your photos;

    Square crops and rounded corners.

    I think this recurrence dectracts from the photos themselves, but otherwise youve got some nice shots.

  • Aninha August 27, 2009 06:13 am

    Hi, I loved this article!
    Just one thing, what's b&a? And did you achieve this colour effect just using picasa? How did you do that? Thanks.

  • Annette Leone August 27, 2009 05:30 am

    I am huge fan of Ms. Halfords' work! She has an amazing talent for capturing the personality of the child without compromising the moment. I found her article to be most helpful as well as inspiring! Well done!

  • Danferno August 27, 2009 04:43 am

    Thanks for answering my question :)

  • gato August 27, 2009 04:14 am

    cool article, and some great photos here!

  • Jennifer August 27, 2009 03:51 am

    This is a really great post. Every image included in this post speaks volumes the tips provided. The photos defiantly evoke emotion and would look awesome printed on canvas. Having personal photos printed to canvas is a great way to preserve memories and create custom art. Check out CanvasPop for canvas enlargements/a>

  • Natalia black August 27, 2009 03:09 am

    Amazing tips and work Elizabeth!
    I like how you break it down into steps that way someone who's not a photographer can learn to shoot some shots as well. Keep up the good work! You've got an amazing gift!!!!!!

  • Tasha Meyers August 27, 2009 02:51 am

    These are great tips! I love taking pics of my 10 month old so I will have to use these ideas. I really like that there are so many "looks" to be achieved. Thank you!

  • Kristen August 27, 2009 02:46 am

    Wonderful article!!!

  • Elizabeth Halford August 27, 2009 02:45 am

    Hi Danferno! First, I applied a couple of my presets in Lightroom. Then I separated the layers in Photoshop, bumped up green in the background, desaturated the subject a little, added two texture layers and lens flare. When the sun is bright in the sky and I get bright spots (like the sun shining on his head) I just go with it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em and add a little more flare!

  • Danferno August 27, 2009 02:31 am

    It's been a long time since I liked every photo in a post, so congrats for that ^^

    I really like the last one, (apart from the lens flare), what did you do to it? I'm guessing changing white balance mostly and brightening is up a little?

  • Rick August 27, 2009 01:57 am

    Love the photos and the suggestions. Can't wait till my grandson comes over again.

  • Jessica August 27, 2009 01:46 am

    Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful tips! I loved the examples you gave. Your tips about making kids say funny words is brilliant. I am going to head out to the backyard to make my kids shout "Pee!"


  • Eric August 27, 2009 01:35 am

    This is going to sound pretty insensitive, but a tip I have for the "Mom-a-raz-zo" is to try and take pictures of something *other* than your children. The Weekly contest is littered with snapshots with a weak explanation of how their child represents the challenge.

  • Jesse Kaufman August 27, 2009 01:26 am

    Ironic timing on this article ... just last night I went out and took some portraits of my son, who is a great poser (in the good way lol) ... he's natural at posting, but he forces his facial expressions, so i'd randomly make farting noises or tell him "ok, now whatever you do, DON'T laugh", which got natural smiles from him :)


  • Brian Taylor August 27, 2009 01:21 am

    Great suggestions. I guess I am a Poparazi though since I am the shutter bug in the family.

    I found the Sport setting on my D60 shortly after I got it and started using it for all of my pictures of the kids when they are out playing. I really enjoy getting the camera out after they have started playing and taking candid shots of them. They truly are better than having them sit and say "Cheese".