Portraits in the home give children a sense of belonging and reinforce their importance in the family. This is what drives my family and child portraiture.
So, how "Photo Session Ready" is your child? First, let’s consider your child’s personality. When you walk into a room full of people, does your child hide behind your leg or insist on being held, or does he venture out and clown around? I love all types of kids and during my 15+ years of photographing them I’ve learned a few tips I’d like to share to help you prepare your little munchkins for a photo session full of fun and natural smiles.
The discerning child. This child might start to cry when you walk into a strange room or when she meets new people. To her, new people and situations are scary, so for these kids it’s best to prepare them ahead of time for the photo session. Start early to introduce the concept of the photo shoot and give them sufficient time to digest and internalize the idea. Be super casual and upbeat with this type of child. Keep your tone upbeat and fun.
One idea is to introduce the concept beginning about a week before the photo session. Before ever telling them about the upcoming session, take out some old photographs and look at them with the child and talk about how much you love looking at them, how you love that cute little smile of hers, or how it makes you remember all the fun you had that day. Then the next day, maybe pull out some more photos and ask her to point to the ones she likes best; saying things like
“Remember when Uncle John took this picture at your birthday party, we were having so much fun; I’m so glad we have this picture.”
This child is great to work with. Although she may initially have some trepidation about the photo session, once she’s had some time to adjust to the environment, she will usually be very confident and often love it.
The shy child. Shy doesn’t necessarily mean your child has anxiety about new situations, but that they like to be prepared, understand, and get to know someone before engaging with them. I completely get this kind of child, because I was one. With this type of child, it’s best to prepare him for what’s coming, but giving them too much time to think about it can sometimes cause them to fret or worry needlessly. The day of the session or the day before the session, explain to him what we’ll be doing and why.
“We’re going to meet a nice lady who is going to take beautiful pictures of us so we can send them to grandma.”
“Me and Daddy want pictures of all of us together so we can put it on our desks at work so we can look at it every day; it makes us so happy.”
This child wants to please you. He’ll behave but may be timid at first and reluctant to smile. I’ll take my time and let him get to know me before pulling out my camera. I have fun little games to play. He’ll usually warm up pretty quickly and enjoy the attention.
The really outgoing child. Does your child run up to strangers to chat away about his new toys? I love these kids, but I’ve found it’s actually best to keep this child guessing about what’s coming up. Just be casual about what you’ll be doing that day, but be sure to make it sound like something he’ll love doing. This child will catch on right away, he'll want to ham it up and he'll play fairly early in the session, so you don’t have to worry about him being anxious or shy. However, he may have trouble sitting still and taking instructions. That’s okay. Just have confidence that as your photographer I’m going get great photos of your family. It’s my job to get your child’s attention. Your job is to smile even when you want to scream his first, middle & last name at the top of your lungs. 😉 I have lots of tricks up my sleeve and will work to get a great shot of your child and your family.
Remember, if you're having fun, they'll have fun and your photos will show it.
Obviously, there is more than three kinds of kids, but I hope this article will give you some tips to help your child have fun during their photo session.
... And here's some tips on What Not to Do.
Don’t let ‘em see you sweat. It’s hard not to, but try not to project stress on the morning of the session. I know it’s super hard to get the whole family dressed, hair combed and out the door, but kids can sense any anxiety and it will increase their own. I strive to make my family/child sessions relaxing and fun. I have worked with many families and have scheduled plenty of time, so there’s no need to worry if you’re running a little late.
If you Smile for the Camera I’ll let you live. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t say THAT, but I’ve heard a lot of funny threats over the years. With all types of children… don’t cajole, bribe or threaten them before or during the session. It can add pressure and doing so can cause them anxiety if they’re unable to control their emotions. Remember, photographs are memories, so if you don’t have a beautiful memory of the session, you won’t love the photographs. It won’t matter that everyone looks perfect, and is smiling at the camera, if you (and they) remember how stressful the event was, you won’t love the photographs
and they won’t want to do it again. Let me handle the details; you just relax and enjoy your kids being kids.
Best day ever! Afterwards, be sure to tell your children how much fun you had and how proud they made you. When the photos come in be sure to share them with your children, giving lots of compliments and hugs and telling them how much you love the photos and will look at them every day and that they will make you happy.
Now show them off! Of course, then be sure to display the portraits where the child will also see them. Little kids aren’t on social media and may not get the message that you love the photos of them. Be sure to display your photos in the home. Every time I photograph a child with a parent, I can see in their face how much they love it. It means more to them than you realize.
The experience of being photographed as a family is so rewarding. It's not like anything else you'll do together.