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What’s the first rule of choosing a photographer for your family? Love the photographer’s website!

All of the photographers interviewed for this article agreed on the importance of selecting a photographer whose style suits your family. Your family’s session will mirror the photographer’s online portfolio.

“If you don’t like the other work on their website, chances are you won’t like the photos they take for your family either,” said Elizabeth Testa.

After 13 years of photography experience, she focused her photography work on children after the birth of her child six years ago. Testa, who ownsElizabeth Testa Photography in Greenville, said parents should decide whether they want studio photography or a natural, unposed look.

“Some families prefer to do photos in their own back yard; some like the look of a beautiful park or natural setting; and others want a more urban feel,” she said.

The photographer should also be great with children, “someone outgoing who doesn’t mind being a little silly to help ease your child’s anxiety.”

For clothing, wear something comfortable and well-fitting that was washed and pressed the day before the session, Testa said.

“My biggest piece of advice to parents is to just let your kids be themselves,” she said. “Some kids are great at following directions, sitting still and smiling, but others are free spirits who like to run, play and be silly. A good photographer will get great photos of your kids that show their true personalities.”

Melissa Adlrich operates Quiet Graces Photography, a studio in Taylors where she specializes in children under the age of 2 and especially newborns under 3 weeks.

Aldrich went into business six years ago and trained extensively in safety of newborns. Her biggest surprise was learning how much newborn photography is “actually Photoshop trickery,” she said. One example: photos in which adult hands appear to support an infant during the photo session, but the hands are digitally removed from the final image.

When untrained photographers imitate these poses, it can be harmful to the child, Aldrich said. Because newborn heads need support, some poses can obstruct airways.

Another example, Aldrich said, is the “froggy pose” where a baby is in a slouched, near-seated position and fists appear to hold up her chin. Parents find this type of photo adorable, but they should not attempt to imitate poses like this at home for safety reasons, she said.

Aldrich provides clothing and props, and typically families only bring heirlooms, like blankets. One family brought a cradle.

Tutus work for toddlers, but Aldrich does not recommend them for babies.

For parents taking photos at home, Aldrich recommends shooting from above, to avoid seeing the insides of nostrils.

Melissa Nocks, of Dear Lissie Photography in Greenville, was primarily a wedding photographer until shifting focus to newborns for the last four years, although she has watched many newborns grow into older siblings as they return for family sessions.

Nocks has a guide to help prepare clients for their experiences. Because babies like to be warm, adults may be hot in her studio.

Soiled garments are almost guaranteed, so bring extra clothes.

Nocks embraces a simple style, and backdrops and props are coordinated with attire.

“I don’t want anything to be a distraction from their faces looking at their baby,” she said.

Nocks’ studio offers comfortable seating, snacks and drinks, which helps keep babies from picking up on parents’ stress.

For outdoor family sessions in spring and fall, Nocks schedules based on sunlight, which can require altering a child’s normal routine.

When sessions disrupt normal dinnertime, she suggests avoiding crankiness with snacks, changing mealtimes or promising ice cream afterward. To entice babies and toddlers to smile, Nocks will play peekaboo with camera or hold a favorite toy.

“I dance, sing and make a fool of myself,” she said.

All three photographers said advance preparation leads to a better final product.

“Don’t forget to have fun and just let the photographer do their job,” Testa said.

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