The Bagg’s Square neighborhood of downtown Utica has been home to the Children’s Museum since the 1970s. The area has always been a great place to take beautiful photos with its rich architecture, cool doorways, alleys, our historic park and now some very cool murals near Utica Coffee and at Handshake.City. You can explore history while taking photos and enjoy a full morning or afternoon all within half a mile.

We compiled some tips for taking photos in the neighborhood as well as some samples to get you inspired.

We compiled some tips for taking photos in the neighborhood as well as some samples to get you inspired.

1) Plan out your shoot
Drive through the neighborhood ahead of time to plot your route. You know your kids best to determine how much they can walk or where you need to drive to. Also, take a look at some local photographer’s websites or search #baggssquare or #downtownutica on Instagram – many use our neighborhood as a background so you can get some inspiration.

2) We love sunshine, but…
Also take notice where the sun is during the time of day you plan to do your shoot and plan accordingly (or adjust!). Both sunrise and sunset shed beautiful light on Bagg’s Square and Downtown but hit the buildings and walls you might want to shoot by in very different ways. Also, an overcast day is going to be a better bet for a photo shoot rather than a day with direct sun which will cause harsh shadows and may overheat your young models. Clouds are your friends.

3) Let the kids pick their outfits and accessories
It just makes life easier AND it adds to the excitement of them getting themselves ready for a “big photo shoot”. Suggest they bring a few things or layer so you get some outfit options in your shots – hoodie vs. no hoodie, sweater vs. no sweater, switch out outer shirts, etc. Props are fun to bring along as well.

4) Feed them before you head out
Melt downs happen with hunger – we know this. Head out after they have eaten and bring some snacks and water as a back up.

5) Art Direction Tips
Your kids will take cues from how you direct them. If you start losing it because you’re hung up in getting “the perfect shot” and start getting short with them, their good mood will disappear and you will all become very frustrated very quickly. Go into the shoot with a good attitude and keep it light. Explore walls, doorways, murals, alleys and other nooks with the kids and experiment with shots. Have them try some poses – treat them like real models! Have them jump off things.

6) Losing the Fake Smile
The kids will be working hard during the shoot and you’ll know when you’re getting the infamous fake smile. Have them make a mean face for a shot, then a serious one for the next, look to the left for one, and then have them “rest their face” and smile on the count of three. Even better… bring jokes! Getting kids to laugh will capture their most genuine selves. We have a downloadable sheet of kid-friendly jokes all ready for you!

7) Embrace Imperfections
Twenty years from now, you might be most in love with the shot where a gust of wind came and sent everyone’s hair a flight. Grab the shots where it looks like your children are each other’s best friends (for those 10 seconds at least!) but hone in on un-posed moments as well and keep the outtakes.

8) Keep Moving
Don’t dwell over one shot, especially if it’s just not working. Move on! Bagg’s Square has tons of spots to explore and the kids will like the change of scenery and new challenges of posing in new spaces.

9) Technical Tricks
You don’t need a fancy camera to take great shots outdoors, but if you have one, by all means use it! Phones also have amazing options that make your job as parent/photographer much easier. Holding down the button while taking the photo will give you a sequence of many shots that you and sift through to pick the best. This is great for capturing jumping, running or big arm gestures. Also, portrait mode is amazing – it will put your child in focus and blur out the cool urban neighborhood backgrounds.

10) Get low
Get ready for a little bit of a workout when you do your photo shoot! The greatest photos can be captured by squatting or even laying on the ground – don’t be afraid to get low! The kids may find it amusing and you’ll get some good facial expressions.

Hope you have a great time in the neighborhood capturing amazing memories and taking in the most historic area of Utica. If you post shots, but sure to tag #baggssquare and #downtownutica so we can start a great collection of shots that celebrates the beauty of our city!

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