Need to photos of your kids? Get ready for an adventure. They’re busy, they’re squirmy, they’re fast, sometimes they’re cranky, but guess what? Comparatively, all of that stuff is a total piece of cake. The real challenge? Not only is approaching sessions from this space a million times more satisfying for me as an artist (and a human being), but it completely changes my subject’s experience (for the better) as well.
Don’t Say Cheese!
The word “cheese” is to authentic photography what a bell is to Pavlov’s Dogs. The MOMENT a kid hears it, they obediently put on their “picture face.” If you’re looking to create real, timeless images, avoid that word like an open field in a thunderstorm.
Relax & Chill
Just relax. Kids respond authentically to normalcy. If you’re chasing them around, desperately trying to pull smiles out of them, you’re going to get exactly what you’re asking for: strained, forced, inauthentic smiles. If you’ll just be patient and quietly go with the flow, your subject will warm right up, and you’ll eventually get what you’re looking for.
This point is probably more important than all the others combined. You’ve got to keep mom and dad under control. Often parents are tempted to engage to try to help force get their kiddos to cooperate. At the beginning of a session, I explain to mom and dad that I’ve got them covered. They are free to sit back and relax. They are allowed to hang around, but they aren’t allowed to intervene between the kids and I unless I specifically as for their help. This not only ensures I have the opportunity to connect with their kids the way I’m hoping to, but it also alleviates a lot of pressure from Mom and Dad. “You mean, this experience doesn’t have to be a hellish circus for me?!” Cue huge sigh of relief.
Let Them Go Nuts
Instead of trying to contain children to a specific backdrop, allow them to explore. They’ll be a thousand times more cooperative when you do try to get them to do something specific if you haven’t spent the entire shoot calling to them “look over here” and “look over there,” and “stand up, sit down. . . fight, fight, fight.” Remember, your subject doesn’t have to be looking directly at the camera (or even facing the camera at all for that matter) in order for you image to tell a powerfully authentic story.
It’s not easy for everyone to connect with little people, and if you can’t authentically connect, how can you hope to capture an authentic image? I have a clear advantage after nearly 10 years of practice . . . day in and day out . . . 24 hours a day. . . 7 days a week. No, I’m not complaining. . . just counting. That’s what moms do. We practice our math.
Also remember, kids love being treated with respect (just like every single adult I know). If you respect them, breathe deep, act like yourself and have fun, you’ll be a big success. Guaranteed.
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