How to Take Heirloom Portraits | For Professional Photographers

Heirloom composite of 5 vignetted images of a little girl in blue dress teaching photographers how to take heirloom portraits

Have you been wondering how to take heirloom portraits of children and add this offering to your business? This traditional style of children’s portraiture has made quite the comeback in recent years. Many families, particularly in the southeast, have multiple generations of these vignetted portraits in their homes. It’s important as photographers and artists to approach these with an appreciation of their history and commitment to continuing them with skill and craftsmanship.

I hope you find these tips helpful in creating beautiful, heirloom portraits! You can also grab my free masterclass for photographers HERE.

NEW and now available —> The perfect vignette Photoshop template includes the PSD file and a video tutorial for how to use it! Pair it with my Lightroom Base Preset and you’re on your way to creating your own Heirloom Portraits!

How to use my Heirloom Vignette Photoshop Template
How to take heirloom portraits of children with white vignette

How to Take Heirloom Portraits | Camera settings for natural light

Proper lighting and exposure is EVERYTHING and will help you nail the shot in-camera first. The larger the light source, the better. I create these portraits in my natural light studio using a large, double window with white curtain sheers and a simple white backdrop with stand.

My camera settings are always within these ranges, depending on the weather outside and/or time of day. I use a Nikon Z6ii with 35mm f1.8 lens (a 50mm would be great, but my studio space is tight, so I need the wider lens).

ISO: 640-1000

Aperture: 2.2-2.8

SS: 1/320

How to take heirloom portraits of children with white vignette

How to Take Heirloom Portraits | Preparation

Educate your client well ahead of time how to prepare for the session. Use a Canva template to create a client guide to send to them. Things to include:

-Tips for happy baby/toddler

-Where to shop

-Specific styles/colors to choose for their child’s heirloom outfit. For a true heirloom look, advise them to choose clothing that has details like ruffled collars, lace, smocking, etc. 

-Expectations for length of the session and processing time

-Artwork display options

how to take heirloom portraits : classic vignetted children's photos

How to Take Heirloom Portraits | Editing + White Vignettes

To start with, edit the overall photo like you normally would.

Start with perfecting your edit. For me that process starts with applying my base preset in Lightroom, adjusting white balance and exposure, then correcting any blemishes + skin smoothing. 

Want my Lightroom base preset that I always start with? I just released it and you can grab it HERE! This thing is magic friends ✨

This next step will be up to you! There are multiple ways to achieve a vignette. You can either use the Lightroom or Photoshop to apply your vignette.

Be mindful to not obscure your subject with the vignette. The vignette should blend smoothly into the background. When not done well, a vignette can make a photo look just plain amateur. So perfect your process to achieve the refinement and consistency needed build an elevated portfolio of these timeless portraits.

How to Take Heirloom Portraits | Offer Custom Artwork

Heirloom Portraits are the epitome of luxury among children’s photography. Offer your clients both an experience and finished product that align with that luxury mindset. These images don’t belong on prints from a drug store or discount online lab. Offer your clients the luxury of custom artwork AND uncap your earning potential!

How to take heirloom portraits online course for professional photographers

How to Take Heirloom Portraits | Learn More in Kristie’s online course

The Art of Heirloom Portraiture is an online course for photographers that will simplify creating vignetted heirloom portraits with natural light. INSIDE, YOU WILL LEARN EXACTLY HOW TO CREATE AND SELL HEIRLOOM PORTRAITS THROUGH 5 CONCISE, ONLINE MODULES. Inside we cover:

  • Gear & Lighting
  • Posing
  • Editing and Composites
  • Artwork
  • Marketing & Sales

So, if you have an existing photography business and want to add these Heirloom Portraits of Children to your offerings, this online course is exactly what you need! Take advantage of the FREE masterclass HERE.


Kristie is an experienced Nashville Family Photographer and Nashville Newborn Photographer. Her work has been featured in places like Nashville Baby Guide, YOUR Williamson, The Kindred Path, and Maury County Living. Plus multiple other local online and print media sources.

Her clients enjoy a luxury portrait experience from start to finish, which includes Kristie’s assistance in planning every detail. Clients are drawn to her use of natural light, bright and natural editing style, and her unmatched attention to detail. If you would like to learn more about the KLP experience, let’s chat more!

For Photographers

October 14, 2023

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Since 2013, Kristie is a Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin published photographer who specializes in motherhood, newborn, and family photography.