How to stage a cute and timeless photoshoot

When knitting for children we all know that chances are one of two things will happen; it will sit in a drawer and never be worn, or it will be worn close to 100 times and start to pill and fray. This makes it that much more important that you take a photograph of it. After all, you spent all that time knitting it, why not spend a little bit of time getting a nice picture of it so that you may always remember it as it was? I bet that 20 years from now, you will very much enjoy looking at that photograph.

Don’t Avoid It

Location is incredibly important to a photograph. It sets the tone, and it can tell a story. A proper location can become the perfect backdrop for your photograph. When it comes to kids you are only limited by your own imagination. It’s easy to say “well I don’t want to try to take a child here, it might be too stressful and too much work!” I find myself often avoiding really wonderful locations and opportunities simply because I didn’t want to deal with the ramifications.

Find a Helper

This is why having a second person or assistant is also very important. I wouldn’t take a 2 year old next to a bridge with a large fall, but I might take a 2 year old to IKEA if I had my husband with me to help guide her.

You can’t see it in the photo of this adorable pattern by Susan B Anderson, but my friends hand was holding it in the branch and she let go for about 3 seconds so I could get the shot before it fell.

Find a Location

If you want to tell more of a story, then you need to find locations that tell one! For the Summer 2011 Issue of Petite Purls we thought that a very sweet looking antique shop would be the perfect location to photograph little toys. It had all sorts of wonderful little nooks and crannies to shoot around, and a load of different antique furniture located outside in a covered area that would be perfect to pop a kid into and take a shot. Not all antique shops are created equal, I visited five shops before I found the one that we liked.

I asked permission to shoot in an outside area of an antique shop. I got an easy yes to do it when the shop was closed, and they had loads of interesting old furniture including this wooden table.



Architectural elements are pretty wonderful when taking photos and are attractive as a backdrop. I’ve been dreaming about going to the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta for some time now to get photos of a knitwear designs in front of the giant Bradford Pear and Magnolia Trees, with all the old beautiful houses in the background. There are a few roads in that area that have some of the prettiest old houses I have ever seen.

Many people have old barns within just a few miles of their house. Gigantic old tractors are fairly popular with kids, when you can find a good one to climb onto!

Do you love modern design and simple spaces? IKEA has loads of rooms all set up, all pretty and clean. Don’t just shoot in one of those rooms, shoot in several of them! Take some photos with your flash and some without, if your going to bother you might as well go all the way. Ikea is wonderful for a modern photo, but what about a timeless photo? Nature is almost always the answer in this case. Don’t just go out into an empty field or into the forest. Find a unique rock formation, or a pretty bridge on a walking trail, or a small little stream that the child can skip across or toss rocks into. The edge of a lake might work if you have one nearby.

Ask Permission When Needed

The next step would be to ask for permission. Don’t ever just hop onto someone’s land and try to take a photo. Always ask permission. Some places you may not need to, such as in IKEA or outside of a beautifully designed museum, or an amazing looking door in front of a Temple or Church (assuming these photos are for personal use and not commercial). Remember to pick a time of day that will be the least crowded, during the week probably being best.

In my everyday life, I pass an old gas station that is no longer in use and is for sale, every single day. One day I asked a local shop owner if he knew who owned the land, and he told me the name of the owner and which house they lived in. So off I went one day as brave as I could be, and I found the owner to be a wonderful women who was quite willing to let me photograph that old gas station. I loved the idea of the abandoned space. I even found the perfect old gas can to go with it, and then found some college aged models that worked well with the theme.

This particular idea would not have worked as well with kids, and by having that gas-can handy my model took the pose here durring a break, and I quickly took advantage of the unplanned moment! I would never have gotten such fun shots of a unique location if I had not asked for permission, and then found a good prop that added to the story but did not distract.

Safety Note: Always make sure if you are photographing kids at a new location, that there is nothing dangerous around. I’ve seen old barns with giant jagged metal just lying about.

Find Props That Add To The Story

Props can be very distracting when used improperly, but they can also be the perfect element to bring busy little hands to a stand still. I like shopping at antique shops for props, or finding unique items on Etsy. I don’t like picking something from big box stores because anytime anyone looks at your photo, they may recognize the item and focus on that instead of everything else. Vintage buckets or baskets always work well, or a lovely old quilt placed on the ground. If using a quilt, have the child lay on it and shoot from above for a nice upper torso shot of a cardigan, or even a hat.

The doll in this particular shot is a Bamboletta Doll and is handmade, way more cute then regular old big box store dolls!

It took a long search to find the lantern featured in this photo, which was published in Petite Purls. I found loads of big ones and kept looking at the dimensions because proportional to a child, smaller would be better. We found lots of red lanterns but while looking for one in the right condition and size I stumbled upon a little yellow one on Etsy. The yellow was so unique and fun, that we had to snag it up straight away.

It was recorded as being in working order (and it is!) and it is about 8″ high which was perfect for my 4 year old model. Often times antique shops will buy the item back (though you will take a loss but its better then keeping it if you don’t want it) or if the prop is something you really love, it may go perfectly on a shelf in your craft room and you will think of that sweater or cardigan, every time you look at it. You may even want to set a little framed version of the photo right next to it.

Don’t forget with props you don’t always have to buy the prop, you can go to the prop! It might be a wonderful rocking chair on the porch of a local restaurant, or a wonderful fence along your neighbor’s backyard. The spools to the left came from an antique shop and matched this particular crochet fairy perfectly. The wood of the spools complimented the architecture of the older building behind, and the lace curtains added the perfect touch. I purchased the spools for $3 but the table, building and lace curtains didn’t cost a dime.




Look For The Light

Last but not least, you always want to take your photo when you have the best lighting. This may be on an overcast day, just after sunrise or a little while before sunset. It’s possible to shoot in full sun but it will be a lot harder to get a nice photo in those conditions, so I suggest aiming for the former!

Leave a Reply