Let your children be

Story highlights

  • Photographer Jennifer Blakeley has a new photo series, "Let Them Be"
  • She wants to show kids just being kids: relaxing, screaming and laughing

(CNN)Jennifer Blakeley knows a thing or two about celebrity.

The photographer's clients include Vince Vaughn, Megan Fox, Donald Trump Jr., Simon Helberg and Ian Ziering -- and their babies.
Yet this mother of two worries about parents raising their children in an age of social media.
    Under the microscope of Facebook, Instagram and the ever-recording smartphone, parents feel pressure to raise the perfect child, brag about their children's accomplishments and read up on every single way they could shape their children into self-confident, empathetic, brilliant, creative, polite individuals who can speak for themselves and work well with others.
    It all sounded exhausting.
    It's also the inspiration for Blakeley's "Let Them Be" series, her pictures of children who show their emotions, make fun and silly faces, laugh and act goofy.
    "I created these images with the intent of showing kids being kids: free from pressure, free from judgment and just allowing them to express themselves in a safe environment," wrote Blakeley, who lives on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, in an email to CNN.
    "I wanted to showcase childhood in a natural and raw form, kids screaming, laughing, being silly, pulling faces and just letting go. Kids just being kids," wrote Blakeley, a co-founder of www.NewbornPhotography.com.
    Take better pictures of your children
    Want to shoot better pictures of your own children, but don't know how? "Often times I will take them to a location that I love, dress them intentionally, and step back and photograph them just 'being,' with very little direction or prompting. This, for me, is the best way to photograph them while capturing their personalities and genuine moments. It is also a fun, easy and stress-free process that the children enjoy."
    Here are more of Blakeley's suggestions.
    Avoid saying "cheese." The "cheese" smile is always fake. Instead, interact with your children, tell them a joke, blow raspberries at them or do whatever it takes to get a true laughing smile out of them.
    Capture movement. Movement tells a story, and you will relax your children by asking them to run, jump and play. You will be able to capture true genuine emotion, and they will enjoy the picture-taking process much more.
    Don't make them look at the camera. Just let them be and photograph their genuine expressions. Once parents let go of the need for their kids to look right at the camera -- and stop yelling at them to look at the camera -- it will open up a world of true emotion and more beautiful images.
    Put the camera down (sometimes). If Blakeley is going to the zoo or beach with family, she will photograph moments as they arise, she said, but she's also very aware of actually enjoying the moment with her children. Parents sometimes need to put their cameras down and live in the moment, enjoy it, and not turn a fun family outing into a photo shoot.