Things that Spark Joy: Making Memories In Color

Why it’s important to shoot your kids (with a camera!)


While we may all be in a decluttering frenzy, some things are worth keeping, the longer the better in fact, for the simple joys that they bring. Your children’s photos, for one thing. But how to get the best shots that last a lifetime? Mommy Mundo Contributor, Stef Juan, interviews professional family photographer and incidentally her sister, Sheila Catilo.

The Elusive Perfect Shot

Gone were the days when people were forced to stay still and smile for the camera because film is limited and expensive. With the advent of the camera phone, it’s so easy to shoot from the hip and keep on taking photos until we finally get the right one. Our cameras are literally with us all the time and only their memory sizes are the limit. You know what I’m talking about. Our first reaction to something cute/funny/unusual/annoying/extraordinary is to shoot first and gawk at it later. And with children, these things seem to happen nearly every minute. It’s just a matter of getting that elusive Perfect Shot. Professional family photographer (and our family’s official photographer) Sheila Catilo, knows how difficult it is to get that perfect shot, and she’s had a lot of practice getting it.

The first tip to getting that perfect shot of your kids is, “Make sure your camera is on.”


She’s half-joking, but that’s actually not a bad advice. But this one is even better:

“Kids have to be interested in whatever it is that they are doing,” Sheila says, finally getting serious.

“That’s what I learned. If they are not interested in you and in what you are doing at the moment, they won’t cooperate. The key factor is to engage them and not just take their picture. They have to feel that they’re involved, that you’re genuinely interested in them for them to be interested in you… I think anybody, when they’re not in the mood, they’re not going to enjoy whatever it is that they are doing.” This is why, she explains, most of her family shoots take at least a couple of hours each. The family — from the parents to the kids and babies — have to get used to the camera. Warm ups are allowed.

Get in the Moment

But for everyday phone camera shots, Sheila encourages parents to get in the moment with their kids.

“Don’t underestimate the value of photos where the kids are not looking,” she says. Whether your child is looking and smiling at the camera, or too busy doing something to look at you, take the shot.


“We take pictures because we want to keep those memories, those moments. We want to document their childhood. So be in that moment.

“Don’t steal that moment by forcing them to look at you, by forcing them to smile the way you want them to smile.”

Yes, capture even the weird smiles. “Just shoot them with that smile because that’s who they are at that phase in life. They’re not going to smile like that forever… Of course you want to capture their beautiful smiles, like when the camera is not there. So, just make them feel that the camera is not there. Shoot them in the moment that they’re in.”


Go Beyond Digital

One last, but very important advice to parents (and Sheila feels about this very strongly):

Print your pictures!

“I still recommend printing pictures. Because where are the photos now? They’re in the computer, on Facebook, our phones… kids don’t really have access to those photos,” Sheila points out. One of the key elements of memories of their childhood are photos. So unless they see the pictures that you took of their childhood, it would be a distant memory versus ay ginawa namin ito nung bata ako.” Create albums for your kids so they can flip through them any time they want or even for them to show their friends when they come over to play.

“Photos are not just for the parents to keep or to display at home,” Sheila concludes. “It’s also for the kids to see all the time and to remember when they were in that moment.”

About the Contributor


Stef Juan is a purveyor of baked goods and a hoarder of books, yarns (wool, cotton, and rigmaroles), and sundry information about anything. She likes learning and listening to purveyors of said sundry information, and hanging out with fluffy animals. She currently holds the title TitaNinang of the Year.