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You see them at the holidays and displayed over the mantle places of friends — that family photo, the one where the kids are all smiling, everyone is looking at the camera and nobody has food stains. These photos are the pinnacle of perfection. Yet so many Upstate parents convey a sense of dread on family picture day, so I went straight to the experts for advice. Some area photographers shared how they get that miracle moment and how you can help your family be all smiles so you too can be the envy of the playgroup.

Jessie Walker of Smiling Down Photography, Amanda Blanton of Creative Balance Photography and Ashley Kirby of Ashley Kirby Photography are three talented Upstate Photographers that gave me tips on how to be the family photo champ. From babies to toddlers to families and pets, these talented photographers’ have seen it all.

Blanton encourages parents to have courage and get those pictures taken.

“We don’t always have the time, sometimes money is short, and we all want to lose weight before our photos are taken — but you will never regret having your family photographed,” she said.

Don’t have anxiety over a photo session where you aren’t sure your littles won’t be still enough to pose for pictures. The beauty of having a professional photographer is that they can capture the candid shots you weren’t expecting.

“Family sessions at a park or a garden tend to allow photographers to capture family as they really are,” Kirby said.

Those teasing moments you thought were just for getting your little one to cooperate sometimes end up being the best in the bunch, she said.

Sessions with babies are vastly different than those with toddlers. Newborn sessions are best done before the two-week mark. It often takes several hours with babies whereas toddlers handle shorter sessions better. Bring the toys and personal items that you would usually bring to the park. The photographer will typically have the blankets, stools and other props, but confirm before you show up.

As far as dressing for the event, Walker suggests “that mom pick something she feels great. The goal is to coordinate, not match.”

Definitely pick something comfortable; after all, you will want to get to the location early so your kiddo is comfortable at the site before meeting the photographer. Photo sessions aren’t always sitting either, they can be in a variety of poses and you want to wear something that you can move in.

These local photographers are skilled at working with your family and getting the best image possible, even the furry ones. Formal portraits have their place, but family sessions outdoors allow the personality of your family to best be captured. The only thing they can not work around is the rain, and for that they just reschedule.

More:5 tips for taking family photos

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