All Smiles!

During her 10 years as a nursery school teacher at the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School on the Upper East
Side, Heidi Green was the
kind of devoted educator who kids enjoyed seeing every day and parents counted
as a big blessing. In 2006, Green left Park East to pursue a career as a
full-time family photographer, specializing in both portraiture and birthday
parties—and has since become one of the most popular local photographers in the
family market. “Teaching, like photography came straight from my heart. It was
never a “job” but rather, like photography, more of a passion.” But
the roots of her success go right back to the classroom, where photography was
something fun to do with the students, capturing them in naturally joyful and
candid moments. When parents started clamoring to buy the pictures she was
taking, a friend of Heidi’s joked that she might be in the wrong profession—and
a dream was born.

“I have always loved kids
and working with them came very naturally to me,” says Green. “If I hadn’t
[gone] into photography, I’d probably still be teaching but with a side
business or two, because toward the end my entrepreneurial juices were really

Behind the lens, Green
started out photographing children’s birthday parties. And among parents
planning very festive fetes, she still has a reputation as one of the go-to
photographers in the city. “I’ve photographed parties for new clients, where
the relatives all assumed I was the host’s best friend,” says Green, a
self-described people person. “By the end of the party, it’s sometimes the

It didn’t take Green much
time to establish herself as a popular portraitist as well. For the last two
years, in fact, she’s been a finalist in the “Best Family
Photographer” category in Nickelodeon’s local Parents’ Picks Awards. She’s
also been featured on the TODAY Show in a segment on holiday cards.

192a.jpg“There’s something so
rewarding about capturing special moments for people, knowing they’ll treasure
the photos forever. Since having my own kids, I’m even more in-tune with how
important this is, as each developmental stage seems to fly by,” says Green, a
single mom whose twins, Harry and Rose, recently turned three.

Like most professional
fields in the city, family photography is competitive, and of course parents
gravitate to photographers whose aesthetic appeals to them. The not-so-secret
key to Green’s popularity is images that look genuine, friendly and naturally
vibrant. “It’s all in the way you approach the children,” says the former
nursery school teacher. “Kids are very smart and intuitive. They can sense when
parents are tense about getting the holiday card shot. When you put them at
ease, you get a natural smile.”

Green also looks for
unusual places to take pictures, shying away from the archetypical Central
Park-posed shots. Her 2011 holiday photos of her own children, for example,
were taken on a playground at the backyard of an older school, where Green felt
like the colors and chipped paint give the shots personality and a vintage

“And they love it!” says
Green of her children’s participation. “The only challenge is that whenever I’m
taking photos or videos of them, they know to run up to me and look in back of
my camera to see their pictures.”

Much like her decision to
pursue photography full-time, Green’s choice to become a single parent evolved
over time. As she explains it, “There’s no expiration date on falling in love
but there is on fertility. The fear of not being a mom was much greater to me
than the fear of being a single mom. I didn’t ever want to look back and
feel that I missed out on being a mom, as this is something I’ve wanted all my

For single women (or men)
considering the path of solo parenthood, Green is a role model of someone with
evident love for her kids and pride in how she makes it all work. At the same time, she’d be the first to caution
that doing it on your own is not for everyone. Having a strong support system
and being financially and emotionally secure is essential, she says. Her
parents were encouraging from the start and live close by. Green also has
a nanny and a photo assistant to help bridge the gaps. “My kids are at an age
where they’re starting to realize that our family looks different from some
others,” she says. “Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, I emphasize what
we do have when we list the members of our extended family.”

Looking back at the
uncertainties in her life when she first took the plunge to become a full-time
photographer, Green notes: “What has surprised me the most is that I don’t feel
that anything’s missing. I’m so fulfilled with my kids and my growing business
that I’m in a much better place than I was before. All of the pressure is gone
to get married and have kids. I still think you can have everything, it just
might not be in the order you thought. If I meet someone special now, it will
just be icing on the cake. Any great single dads out there?”

Robin Saks Frankel is a mother of two
toddlers and a freelance writer, editor and social media addict.

Heidi Green‘s Top Tips On Photographing Children

1. Know
your subject.
Choose a location where your child feels
comfortable and at ease. If your child loves to run, photograph her in the
park. If he loves to curl up at home and read his favorite book, use storytime
as your setting.

2. Use
natural light.
A flash can frighten babies and young children,
add harsh shadows and produce red eye. Try to use natural light, preferably
sunlight, when possible.

3. Focus
on the eyes.
A sharp, tight shot of your child’s eyes is like
looking into their soul. Keep it simple.

4. Get
down low with your child.
The photos taken from their level and
perspective will be more unique and personal than those taken from up above.

5. Fill
the whole frame.
Don’t be afraid to get up close with your
subject. But more active kids may be tough to capture, so keep your distance
and use a zoom lens for the same effect.

6. Experiment with compositions and angles. You can get a little artsy by focusing in on different body parts: hands, ears, lips, belly buttons, etc. Have fun with it!

7. Take tons of photos. Don’t be too concerned
about getting that one “perfect shot.” If you’re patient and relaxed,
there will always be some great options to choose from.

8. Include other people and family pets. Sometimes
it’s a good idea to include your child’s favorite doll, ball or toy in
the photo—or even the family cat or dog. Use something you associate
with your child for when you look back on the photos in the future.

9. Choose non-distracting backgrounds. Some of the
most picturesque settings are wide, green fields and well-lit rooms
with simple walls and floors. If something in the background doesn’t add
to the photo, remove it so that the subject remains the focus.

10. Be playful so that your child has fun. Make
sure to engage with and capture your child doing something fun like
running, jumping, swimming, laughing, or playing with favorite toys.
Even simple activities like coloring, watching a favorite movie, eating
or sleeping can produce beautiful, intimate photos. When you connect
with the child, it makes a world of difference in the final product.