I knew this would be a difficult subject to address. Draft 1 kinda turned into a rant so it’s consigned to the WordPress ‘permanent draft’ folder.
So let’s start again.
My objective for all my family photo sessions is that everyone enjoys it. It’s simple really: if we can make sure that the whole experience is a very positive one then the photos will reflect that. As much as possible is done to make that happen – choosing a good location, timing etc – and from the moment we meet it should be obvious that this isn’t something that anyone needs to get stressed about: we’re just going to go out into the Park and take some photos.
I find that kids react to their environment. If everyone is cool and easy-going they’ll relax and be themselves. They’ll start playing and I’ll be able to watch them, encourage them, they’ll start to trust me and take some really lovely pictures of them.
It’s easy to go in to a photo session with expectations of how it’ll be. In reality you might not have done this before. I think some parents worry that they might not get the images they expect. Remember that all my work is shot with ‘normal’ people. The pics on the web site are kids just like yours.
I’ve done this before. You’re in good hands. I understand that kids need some time to get used to me, the camera and having their photos taken. They need time to feel comfortable, reassurance that they’re not going to get into trouble for doing or not doing something so they can relax and play.
So don’t panic. Relax and enjoy your kids and let me handle the photos. Don’t ask the kids to ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ because those terms mean nothing in the context of the photo session.
It’s not uncommon before or during a session for some parents to get so worried that their kids won’t ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ that they offer a reward for doing just that. I have found that overall that’s not helpful – mostly because it’s too easy to get wrong. Kids can become so focussed on the reward that it upsets the session.
Equally they can be so unmoved by the reward that they are impervious to it’s charms and parents are tempted to escalate the incentive (or even turn to punishments). In this case we’re now fighting and the chance of pictures of a relaxed kid smiling are reduced.
I’ll try to illustrate:
Dad: Now you be good for the man
Dad: Smile now
Kid pulls weird grin
Dad: Not that smile, your real smile
Kids weird grin just gets weirder
Dad: If you give me a big, real smile I’ll give you a treat
Kid just tries harder at the really big weird grin
Dad: No, that’s not it
Kid is now upset because they failed and won’t get the treat
Dad: Just smile for Daddy
A cycle of weird grins, Dad gets frusrated, Kids gets sadder cos Dad’s not happy. Eventually Dad notices Kid is sad and gives the treat to make it better. Kid thinks he did good and it’s all over. Until:
Dad: so where’s my smile?
Round we go again – Kid not sure what he did last time for the treat so goes through grinning-crying routine again.
But we still don’t have a photo.
Now these are hypothetical. In reality, most Dads are Messers at heart (for their own kids at least) and when they realise they you’re giving them the best excuse ever to just kick back and enjoy their family we get what we came for.
So, in summary:
- Treat the session as just a normal thing to do
- Don’t offer incentives or negative repercussions for behaviour
- You can reward once we’re done but don’t mention it during the session
- If your kids aren’t smiling then say or do something that will make them smile or laugh (just make sure I’m ready to photograph the reaction)
- Follow my lead for helping me get a good reaction from them