June 12, 2012 05:00 PM

Cuddling with EstelaM. Design

Thanks for welcoming celebrity blogger Ali Landry!

A former Miss USA, the model and actress, 38, most recently starred in and executive produced Hollywood Girls Night on TV Guide Network.

Landry is also the founder of Spokesmoms, a product review platform for mothers, and is a supporter of SafeKids.org, which works to prevent childhood injuries.

Married to director Alejandro Monteverde since April 2006, the couple are parents to 4½-year-old daughter Estela Ines and 8-month-old son Marcelo Alejandro.

You can find Landry on Facebook and on Twitter @alilandry.

Like any doting parent, I love taking picture after picture of my two little bundles of joy. It feels like they grow up so fast and their childhood slips by so quickly that you want to capture every smile, every funny moment, every milestone for posterity.

And of course grandparents and out of town relatives want to stay up to date on the little ones’ development so they are constantly requesting recent pictures.

I love taking casual pictures at home and on vacation, but it is also nice to have professional pictures done every once in a while. That’s why I decided it was time for family portraits when I was down in my home state of Louisiana for a visit in April.

Snuggles in bedM. Design

Now, as you can imagine, having portraits done with a toddler and an infant can be absolute chaos, and as if that weren’t crazy enough, I decide to include their cousins (all under age 5) in some of the shots. Yeah.

Thankfully the photographer, Michelle Thibodeaux from MDesign Photography, had some really great tips to help us prepare beforehand and to make sure that everything ran smoothly during the shoot.

Cousins!M. Design

First and foremost, we planned the photo session around the kids’ schedule to make sure that everyone was fed and had had their naps, thus ensuring they would be in good moods.

Next, we opted to have the shoot at home. Since it’s a familiar environment to the children, it puts them at ease so they are more relaxed and less likely to be distracted.

Since she is aware of the fact that no one knows better how to tickle a child’s funny bone like their parents, Michelle encouraged us to share with her some of the secrets to getting a big laugh out of the kids.

Let me tell you, she was not afraid to sing funny songs or make animal noises — anything for a smile! She said it’s important for a photographer to know these things so they can do their job properly.

Me and my babiesM. Design

For the pictures involving the cousins, Michelle set up a ‘tea party’ scene with props and everything. It was a hit! We just set up the stage and let them play and interact freely, which made for some beautiful shots. Having those kinds of active sessions is great for young kids because it makes them more comfortable and gives them something to do rather than just sit around and pose awkwardly.

That’s another thing I learned — sometimes the best pictures are the candid ones. Instead of giving us too much direction, she just sat back and let things happen naturally, and the happiness and true emotions of the moment really come through in those shots better than the ones where we’re sitting there with pasted-on smiles.

Tea party!M. Design

Finally, I asked her what her thoughts were on how often we should have the kids’ pictures taken in order to make sure we get all the important milestones on camera. She said that because all babies reach milestones at different times, it’s not necessary to do it at specific ages but rather when they’ve reached a milestone you want to capture such as smiling, sitting, crawling, etc. Birthdays and holidays are also good times to do a portrait.

I hope Michelle’s advice is as helpful to you as it was to me, because it really made a difference in the way we take pictures in this family!

Until next time,

— Ali Landry

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