ST. LOUIS — As parents send their kids back to school, they’re likely trying to capture the perfect moment of their first day.

Shana Watkins, owner of Shana Watkins Photography, has five tips for getting the best photo.

  • Don’t tell your child to smile. Instead, get them to laugh

Watkins said using words like “cheese” can force a fake myself, which isn’t good. She suggests if moms take the picture, then dad can stand behind her and do something funny.

“If you say the expected then you’re going to get the expected result,” she said.

  • Wear solid, neutral colors indoors

Watkins has been a professional photographer for 15 years. She specializes in family and individual portraits. She tells her clients to wear timeless colors if the photo will be in her studio. If it’s outside, clients can have more flexibility. Also, don’t wear green if you’re going to be near green leaves. Subjects should stick out.

“I do find solids or brighter colors work best,” said Watkins.

Find even lighting. Find a shady spot if it’s outside

Being in studio, Watkins has more control over the pictures because she can set up as many lights as she needs. Outside, however, it’s harder to control the lighting outside. Watkins recommends finding a shaded area.

“At home that could be under a covered porch or an awning something that keeps the bright light out of the kids’ eyes because their eyes can get kind of squinty,’ she said.

She also recommends taking the photo by the door or the gate, something that shows their height, so parents can compare how their child has grown over the years.

  • Stand in a natural pose

Watkins said boys should put their hands in their pocket. If a child is wearing their backpack, have them hold their backpack.

“Giving people things to do that are very natural helps. If you have a bench, putting some kids on the bench. Or if there’s a step, kids can sit on a step. They can lean on something,” she said.

  • Set your cellphone to ‘burst’ so you can take multiple photos, quickly

“If I can get a child to laugh, then I’ll take three in a row because there might be the laugh coming on, the actual laugh, and then coming down because they might have a really nice smile in their eyes from having just laughed,” said Watkins.

If you'd like to contact Shana, click here to find her website