It was an abnormally warm December afternoon, but the sunlight was stunning…and the tears were falling. Lots of tears to be honestly. I was near the end of another family photo session, but nothing could console the sweet three year old enough to smile for one more photo. Honestly, her tears were just an outward expression of what we were all feeling. It was time to be done, drink some cool water and head into some much needed air conditioning. Although the tears might lead you to believe our photo shoot was an utter failure, the first 60 minutes of our interactions allowed me to achieve just want my clients wanted -happy interactions and real smiles caught on camera. Our time at the park was not a failure at all, rather a great reason to end it with some ice cream. Over my nine years of capturing the sweetest of families in front of my camera, I’ve learned some great tricks on how to achieve images you and your family can proudly hang on your walls.
Choose an environment and time of day that is the most comfortable for you and your child/children.
I don’t want you to feel limited to the walls of your own house, but think through locations your little ones truly enjoy exploring. Really hone in on what sparks their curiosity. It can be anything from splashing in the water and climbing trees to reading a good book in mommy’s lap. I just want you to jump into their shoes for a minute with me. The idea of a photograph has no value or worth to them at this stage of life. Therefore, posing for a picture is just nonsense. Beyond that, hanging out with a complete stranger that hides their face behind a huge box is entirely intimidating and uncomfortable. It’s best to find a location that truly makes them feel the most comfortable or distracts them enough from the camera. Time of day is important too as children can often have a better mood in the morning OR afternoon.
Allow the photographer time to interact with your child/children before the session starts.
You and I have a great understanding of what the end goal is for photo session. We’ve had time to communicate over emails or phone calls to set up a time and date that works best for everyone. You may have even followed my work and personal life on social media before our face to face interaction. These small things, along with your trust in my work, allows us to build the start of a relationship and a reason for you to feel more settled in front of the camera. It’s my job to then help you drop the nerves and have a great time! To your child, I am an absolute stranger! Can you imagine if someone just ran up to you out of the blue, tried to get you smile and snap a picture. I’d be freaked out too!
I had the privilege of working at Disney’s Magic Kingdom as a photographer for a time. Goodness, does Disney know children well! We were given great tips on how to interact with kids in order to get them to have fun in front of the camera. It all starts with our first interactions. Give your photographer time to build the start of a relationship with your little one so they too have reason trust them. This means the camera may not come out in the first five minutes of your session, but the difference is like night and day!
Save the bribery for the end of the photo session.
I often jump into capturing my first few images of a session and see parents pull out a ton of toys within the first few minutes. They will then go on to say that if the child behaves they can have ice cream like they promised them in the car. I know immediately that we’re going to have a lot of tears for most of the session. Toys are distracting, but not in a good way. They often take away from interactions with parents or the environment that surrounds them. It’s best to have just ONE toy that keeps them happy. Typically I will pull out that one toy near the end if I need them to look at the camera. Otherwise, it’s best they don’t even know it’s hiding in Mom’s bag. Bribery with goodies or whatever else really perks up your child can be useful, but only near the end. Promising them something sweet too early will only give them reason to let the tears fall if they haven’t seen it after 30 minutes. I mean, I would cry too if someone didn’t give me ice cream after talking about it for an hour. Complete torture!
Expect that your kids will NOT want to look at the camera and just go with it.
I find there is an expectation to have everyone looking and smiling at the camera for EVERY single photograph. Let me just give you a little run down of what typical happens while trying to create that image. Let’s say our little one’s name is Andrew:
Mom: “Andrew look at the camera”
Me: “ok everyone smile!”
Mom looks at Andrew to see if he is looking.
Dad: “Come on Andrew, we’ll give you ice cream if you smile”
Andrew looks at camera, but dad is looking at Andrew now to see if he is smiling.
Only Andrew is looking at the camera and the parents are looking at him to see if he is smiling.
I can not tell you how many times I actually capture a child looking at the camera to find the parents looking at the little one. Personally, I can’t stand the expectation of this style image as I feel like it doesn’t truly showcase a family’s real interactions with one another, authentic smiles or those looks and expressions that you know is unique to your family. Now, I want to make sure you know that I do indeed capture that formal photo as it’s important and treasured, but I only grab a handful out of the many images captured throughout the session.
What I often find is that parent’s like these images, but love images of seeing their child truly happy. Whether Dad is tickling their little one or Mom is twirling them round and round, these are the moments that end up as large prints on a family’s wall. The best way to create these moments is to…
Think of your session as a typical family outing. Have fun, play, and create special moments worth remembering!
I often give lots of direction to help you through any session, but the best moments are when parents and children interact as they normally do during family outings. It’s best to approach your session with the expectation that it’s simply another day. This creates ease for the child and doesn’t put too much pressure on them to preform rather than just having fun. Recall that children often don’t have any concept of the value of a photograph for many of their earlier years. They just want to have fun and posing for a camera does not fit into that category.
These are just tricks and techniques that have consistently worked well over the years. Having an enjoyable session with your children will make you fall in love with your images even more! Happy memory making friends!
To God be the glory!