Photo Tips From The Pros – Tiia Norsym

Professional photographer shares how to capture the best light in the eyes and make them look really big

Today on Photo Tips From the Pros, Chicago Family Photographer Tiia Norsym shares how to capture the best light in the eyes and to photograph your children with the biggest eyes possible.

Meet Tiia

Tiia-Norsym-chicago-family-photographer-croppedHi! I’m Tiia…mom, wife, photographer, and teacher… probably in that order.

One of the more difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in life since becoming a mom, is that you can’t do EVERYTHING 100%. Something’s gotta give. So while I would LOVE to be a full-time photographer and a teacher, raising my two small children, ages 3 and 5, is the most important thing that I’ll probably ever do in my life. This allows me to breathe and forgive myself for not giving my business all the time it deserves and for throwing my hands up at a sink full of dirty dishes.

What I’ve found is peace, happiness and balance with where I’m at in life right now. I hope all of you have that and use photography to help bring creative joy into your life.

I’ve been in business for almost 8 years and started out photographing pets in Boulder, Colorado. Then after having my first child, my interest shifted to babies and toddlers. I think I naturally gravitated towards subjects that you can’t really direct and loved the challenge.


Since then, I’ve found posing families to encourage ‘natural’ moments to be a specialty of mine and a niche that I think a lot of photographers are not comfortable with.

I photograph with natural light for the most part but love using my Alien Bee 800 strobe or speed light flash. Learning these has given me the confidence to go into ANY situation, knowing I can light it properly.


I shoot mainly on location but have recently opened up my home studio to clients, which is a little scary!

I’m a firm believer in capturing beautiful moments between family members and true expressions, but what I’ve learned over the years, is that these ‘moments’ are often gently guided and the subjects are thoughtfully placed for the best light.


I think this is often what we need to do with our own children to get THE portrait that you will hang on your wall. You can have the most beautiful moment in front of you, but if the light is wrong, then you don’t have a shot.

Photographing your own children is definitely the biggest challenge, so make it fun!

Favourite Photograph

I’m going to share some of the few photos that I’ve taken of my children that I love, because as I said, photographing our own children is HARD! I certainly don’t do it ‘consciously’ enough. Of course, I snap away with my iPhone like everyone else, but there are only a few times when I’ve set my kids up in a certain part of my home with good lighting and then just played with them, ready with my camera.

This is one of those times…and I adore the expression that I got of my son because this is so ‘him’, gazing off with a little mischievous twinkle in his eye, preparing his next move or daydreaming about knights and shipwrecks.


I also love the light and how it’s falling from two directions adding dimension to the photograph with the white comforter bouncing light back onto his body.

How This Photo Was Made

This is shot with my Canon 5D and an 85 mm lens at an f2 aperture and 1/200 shutter speed. The wide aperture (low number) softens the background and lets in the light and I try to always stay at 1/125 shutter speed or faster when photographing children to avoid blur from their constant movement.

The windows are east and north facing but since this was shot midday, I did not have the challenge of direct light streaming in the east facing window, but soft light all around the room. I think what adds interest to the image is the light coming from behind him and off to the side, creating the rim light along his head, back, and arm.

I knelt down so that I was slightly lower than him, giving a different perspective. While we definitely were playing, with the kids jumping on the bed, at this point I did ask him to lay down on his stomach and directed him into this pose slightly, but then the expression and where he’s looking is all him.

In general, I never ask kids to ‘say cheese’ but rather tell a story or joke, or sing to get a genuine look.

Best Photo Tips

One of my favorite photo tips to capture the best light in the eyes and to get big eyes (since it’s ALL about the eyes) is to have your child sit on the floor and then shoot from above with them looking up at the camera.


I do this all the time with my kids and on every shoot and it’s almost always the ‘winner’ shot that every parent loves.

If you’re outside, that brings their face up towards the light in the sky (especially on an overcast day), eliminates the dark shadows under the eyes, gives you even light across the face.

This pose is also great when you are in a situation where there are distracting surroundings. The background becomes the ground or in this case, the dark hardwood floor and tutu!

How This Photo Was Made

This was taken with the Canon 5D, Tamron 24-70mm lens at an f2.8 aperture and 1/160 shutter speed.

I placed my daughter on a 45 degree angle to our sliding glass door, on her knees on the floor.

I thought this pose would also work great given she was wearing this outfit and the bright colored textured tulle material would frame her nicely.

Where To Find Tiia

Website  /  Facebook   /   Pinterest

Want to be Featured?

Are you a children photographer who have some great photography tips to offer and want to share your knowledge? Email me at amy.lee (@) and we can have you featured =)

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