I recently posed a question to my Facebook followers.
"What’s the most overwhelming thing about having your photo taken?"
Majority of them stated, getting their children to cooperate. One of my long term clients wrote this: "Mine use to be child behavior, but now that you do my pictures it's so easy. Sometimes it's better just to walk away and let you do you thing. They always come out better that way!"
Now honestly I didn't pay her to write that (even though it sounds that way), but I am going to share the advice that I gave her many moons ago. This is one of my biggest tips, even though I have a ton, but I'm leading with the biggie.
Children are very sensitive beings, which I'm sure you know. If you're happy, they get happy. If you're sad, they get sad. If you're excited, they get excited. If your stressed , they get stressed. Let me repeat that last one again, for effect. If you're stressed, THEY GET STRESSED.
So lets touch on this one a little bit further. Mom's train of thought :: Oh My Goodness Bobby better sit still in one spot and listen to this photographer. He better smile. He better not embarrass me. What if he is rude? What if he just ignores her? I'm going to take away his iPad time if he's not good, I swear:: Or, well, something along those lines at least. So the day of your session arrives and now these thoughts have been rolling around in your head for a while, the scary fuzzy purple monster, known as stress, is growing. You can feel the anxiety expanding. You hit my studio doorway or our meeting place at the park and it's oozing from your pours. I can feel it and so can your child.
Let's first address what "good" means for a portrait session with Wonderland Portrait Boutique. For me, I want your child to be him or herself. Every kid has their own unique personality, and I want to see it. All normal rules go out the window during a session. For example a few weeks ago I told a child put their feet on my couch with shoes on! Eek! She looked at her mom for approval as I said "I'm sure this is a no no at home, but that is why I bought a faux Leather couch, I can wipe it down." Mom nodded at her with approval, she happily popped her feet up. The only times I will really expect parents to correct a child is if they are doing something dangerous. If your two year old wiggles out of the pose I put him in, you don't need to correct them and threaten to take away their post session treat. That is just how a two year old is, and I know that I will have to continually put them back into a pose. When a kid is having a good time at a session they get silly and wiggly, it comes with the territory. On the opposite end are shy children. Shy kiddos generally just need a little bit of time to open up and get comfortable. With these children I find that I just need to speak softer to and play some silly games to gain their trust. All children go through stages, they just hit them at different times. I try to always be adaptable to each child's personality.
So now let's talk about that scary purple monster mom (or dad) has been carrying around for the last two weeks. When it comes to children's photography you can't have any lofty expectations of Gap Ads. All the children on my website and facebook page are normal kids, I never work with professional models. All these children are showing off their own authentic personalities. I've learned that asking a bright bubbly child to pose with a serious face doesn't always work out. Same thing with a shy child, they aren't going to be comfortable being photographed in a very populated location. You know your child better than anyone. Who are they? Do they love books? Would they like to show off their action figure collection? What is it about Bobby that make him who he is?
Once my long term client (mentioned above), realized her son is just a little funny man she was ok with the silly banter between he and I. He is allowed talk back to me during a session. Obviously, all parents want their kids to be respectful to adults, and he is, when we aren't shooting a session. When he's in front of my camera, he knows it's ok to call me a poopie head and he loves it, of course taking full advantage. Honestly, he makes me laugh so hard during sessions now, the things he comes up with are hilarious. That is him, that is his personality.
I am by no means a child psychologist, I've just seen a lot of kids in the last 12 years, and I've picked up on the trends. I've seen parents loose their cool way too often and I've found most of the problem is the parent's expectation. Most folks are on Pinterest now and see these amazing fun poses and images. The thing that non photographers have to remember is you can't compare your everyday to someone else's highlight reel. That is exactly what Pinterest is, a Highlight reel, it's the best of the best. I'm not saying that Pinterest worthy sessions aren't a possibility, what I'm saying is that expecting to duplicate an exact pose and expression isn't always a realistic goal. Letting your kids be themselves is going to yield your best result.
Parents striving for a "perfect" portrait often stress themselves out, which the child feels and acts appropriately to something they feel is now scary. They want to grab mom or dad's leg or be held. Every one of those parents says to me "I don't know why he is acting this way, he's never done this before". It's that common, I honestly hear it often. I don't want to come a across as I'm telling people how to parent their kids. I want my clients to have the best possible portraits. I know what it takes to have a successful session and I realize that parents want this information.
A successful session starts with getting your child involved and excited. Since this post is already pretty long, I've decided to make this advice the subject of my next newsletter. I'm going to send my top tips for a successful session directly to you. Click here to sign up for my Newsletter to ensure you will receive all these tips.