I wanted to compile a resource for my families who are preparing their children for a photoshoot. It can be quite scary thinking of what your child is going to do during this time. But, I have found with a little thoughtful planning, things run extra smooth. Here are my tips:
1. Clean faces, ears and fingernails. Kids can get incredibly dirty in a day’s play. Make sure to wipe their faces paying special attention to their noses and ears. Fingernails are also important because you never know when you might get a detailed shot of some cute chunky fingers in your session.
2. Let them wear what is comfortable for them. For instance, my child does not do overalls. As much I would love to take pictures of him in some classic Osh Kosh’s. He whines and complains and is very unhappy. On the other hand, I have met some children who love dressing up. Remember happy kids = happy photos.
4. If your child is wearing special shoes, ties, boots, hats, suspenders, etc., have them wear them around the house first so they are used to them. In the middle of the photoshoot is not the best time to figure out that something is too big or too small. Also, let them know how much you love the new clothes on them and make sure that they approve.
5. Tell your child that we are going on a photo adventure. I can’t tell you how important this is for getting your child ready to take photos. I always start out my sessions with connecting with your kiddos and letting them know that this is going to be a very fun day for them. Taking pictures is just part of the play time. A lot of children are burnt out from our overuse of cameras these days. Taking pictures is not really the funnest thing for kids but actually can be more like a chore. We need to remove this stigma of photos for our children. After each session, I will ask your kids and confirm how much fun we are having. This is not just for me but to help you enjoy the process with your kids. Now…. my son asks ME to take his picture. Nothing makes my heart skip a beat more than hearing my child WANT for me to take a picture. I swear I don’t bribe him or anything. I just make it a fun way for us to spend time together. If you are on a Dream Focus Studio Model shoot, make a big deal about them being a model ahead of time.
6. Location is key for keeping children engaged. Every time a parent calls me and says they have a “difficult” child, I have a little chuckle. “O.K. well we will just pick a spot that will keep little Johnny engaged,” is my usual response. And that is when I go through some of my favorite locations. This is not so much about the actual locations as it is about environments where there is much to look at and play in from a kid’s point of view. Remember, we are on an adventure!! So our journey must begin and end with stimulating points of interest for kiddos. For example, when I first started photographing families in parks, I saved the playground for last. This keeps my kiddos excited about the next thing that we are going to do. It works like a charm and they are good because they want to see the next part of our adventure.
7. Plan your shoot for when your child is most happy. For younger children, usually after a nap is the best time. Even though we try to plan our outdoor shoots for close to sunset; some children become complete grouches come nightfall. In this instance, you may want to consider a studio session or early morning shoot. Another option is planning a lifestyle session in your home which could happen at any time of the day.
8. Consider the weather. Some children have a very low tolerance for very cold or even hot weather. If you know that your child will not be happy under these conditions, I would consider a studio or lifestyle session in the home. Remember our most important thing is having happy children during our photoshoot.
9. Be flexible!! This is more a tip for parents DURING the photoshoot. I’ve noticed that when your child is not doing what you want him/her to do, you may think I’m upset about it. But, I am not. In fact, I’m expecting your child to test the boundaries and see what they can get away with. I’ve learned that I have much less struggle with children when I allow them to think they are in control. So asking your child to smile and look at the camera is not always the best practice. I’ve also noticed that sometimes children misbehave much more when you are present. For that reason, I may ask you to step back for a bit. Do not be offended. Your children sometimes turn into complete angels once you leave the area. ;) It’s pretty amazing and I have witnessed this with my own child – which is fascinating. So just relax, and let me do the hard work of keeping them happy. Now let’s play!!