How to actually ENJOY a family photo shoot with young children!
One of the benefits of being a photographer with two small children myself is that I already know what most children are going to do during a photo session. Making silly faces? Of course. Staring off into space? Yep! Picking their nose? Oh sure. Breaking wind and then laughing hysterically? You bet. I think I’ve seen it all. (No wait….. No one has mooned me yet. That’ll probably be my son that takes that honor.)
I also know what it’s like to be a parent who WANTS a beautiful family portrait with their children, yet knows that “beautiful family portrait” and “children” can sometimes seem mutually exclusive. And even though it can be a lot of work to “wrangle” kids during a family session…
I still love it.
I love the way kids look at everything and see only what is good, and funny, and awesome. I love how they can laugh at nearly everything. (When was the last time you laughed hysterically because you burped, or because someone said the word “pickle”?? I wish I could laugh more often like that!) I love how much they love their parents. And how they look at their big brother or sister. It makes my heart happy.
I was so excited to make some long-overdue portraits for this sweet, silly, loving family. What’s so interesting to me is how we as parents approach something like a photo shoot with young children. Trust me, It is SO different from how your photographer sees it. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the camera, I can say that for sure.
When I got these two adorable sisters in front of my lens, it was nothing but giggles. Can’t you tell?? And I absolutely LOVED it. But I have a feeling that mom and dad were a little worried that they were being TOO silly, and that their one chance for a great family picture would be lost if they didn’t settle down. Can you relate? (I totally can!) The funny thing is, though, that their silliness- which I think made mom and dad a bit nervous about getting good photos- was the very thing that LET me capture some beautiful moments. I loved being able to tell their parents not to worry about the giggles and goofiness, because it was JUST what I wanted to capture! And i think it worked. 🙂
This family and these girls were a total blast to photograph- it was SO MUCH FUN. But it got me thinking of how often we as parents worry about our children “acting up” during family photos, and this this made me realize a super important tip that can ensure parents have a FUN photo session instead of a stressful one.
Ready for it?
Here it is.
My my super-secret tip for parents wanting to have great family photos…
Don’t discipline your children for that one hour of your session.
That’s right! Take an hour off of parenting and disciplining! Let your photographer do it. It’s part of their job, in a way! Since your photographer is an adult that trust (just like teachers and coaches) kids will automatically be ready to follow their lead.
As parents, let’s not worry about our children “acting up” or misbehaving during family photos- remember, if they can’t stop laughing and smiling, that means they are having fun!
So have fun with them. Be silly with them. Enjoy them. And relish how sweet and loving and silly they are at this age. What could be a better memory that that?!
(And I should clarify. I’ve never had ANY children “misbehave” during any of my sessions. Act like goofballs, sure! But misbehave? Nope. Not one. Maybe its because I’ve been lucky, but I have a feeling it’s because every family I’ve ever photographed has been a loving family with good, capable parents. If they weren’t, then I’d probably see kids that are screaming at me, hitting, cursing- who knows what! 😉 Remember, misbehavior during family photos is more of a parents’ FEAR than an actual reality. Trust me, you parents rock. 🙂
So, feel free to let your photographer be the “boss” and direct the kids– This should be your hour off from parenting and discipline! (And no, I don’t mean important parenting like teaching things like respect, manners, and kindness. I mean the typical child-wrangling that we do on a day-to-day basis.) Your photographer can direct your kids where to stand, how to be still when needed, how to settle down, how to be silly, how to be quiet. Let them worry about it and take a little breather for yourself! Ask your photographer if you and your spouse/partner can stand off on the sidelines, so to speak, and let them work one-on-one with the kids for some great photos. You don’t have to be far away- just going off 20 or 30 feet to have a conversation (or just pretend to) can be a game-changer with your children’s behavior! Also, if your children see that you’re not really paying attention to them, they won’t feel the need to “show off” in front of you, and will be more likely to focus on what the photographer is asking them to do. Also, it conveys to them that Mom and Dad trust this person, and expect them to follow their directions. (Just think of how well your children act for other trusted adults- like their teacher! Because really, any parent knows that their children can behave monstrously at home, but like obedient angels at school. Take advantage of this! And as a former teacher, I can attest to this as well!! 😉 Let your photographer be the mom/dad/teacher/principal/coach/boss for that hour. They can handle it. Then sit back, relax and let the gorgeous images happen.