My philosophy on photographing kids

January 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Photographing kids can be stressful. But it's nothing like being the mom of said kids being photographed. I get it, I've been there. You work to coordinate outfits, keep everyone clean, make sure your son's crazy cowlick is gelled into place, convince your husband that he will one day be glad you made him do this, try to make yourself look presentable, all while someone has a meltdown that their sweater is itchy and someone else spills jelly on their pants. You beg and plead and reason and bribe each individual participant to please just smile and be good. Sometimes they listen and it goes smoothly and your hard work is rewarded and then other times it all falls apart. That's when you need a good photographer. Not just someone who knows how to work a camera but someone who knows what it's like to be the mom on the other side watching her dream of one (just one!) nice family portrait going up in flames.

Let me say that I am that photographer, because I've been that mom and it has everything to do with my philosophy when it comes to photographing families and kids.

When my boys were almost 2 and about 6 months we scheduled a photo session with a local photographer (who shall remain nameless) for our annual Christmas card pics. I liked her work, saw that she had done lots of sessions with kids and figured we were good. We got dressed, made sure everyone was fed, happy, clean and drove across town for a quick half hour session. It was all good and all going according to plan until my 2 year old turned on me about 3 seconds into it. He simply decided that he didn't want his picture taken and was going to do everything within his power to make sure that we got no usable shots. Two year olds have a lot of power. He cried, screamed, refused to look where we wanted, tried to run away and generally brought to life my worst case scenario as far as how the whole session might go down. We bribed, begged, threatened, and finally out of desperation gave him his pacifier (yes he was probably too old to have one but I also had a 6 month old and I was TIRED) in an attempt to calm him down. Mistake - once he had it there was no getting it back and it wasn't exactly the look I was hoping for.

I was frustrated, overwhelmed, and disappointed. I needed our photographer to HELP ME! To step in and take control, give us a break, or an idea of what to do or at least a feeling of support, some mention that this was surely not the worst photo session she had ever had. She did no such thing. She seemed annoyed and in a hurry. She made me feel self conscience and hyper aware of the short time we had to make this work, which it was not. I felt that we were wasting her time (the time that we had paid for). I kept apologizing and left feeling like a crappy mom. Needless to say the pictures were not great and we never used her again.

Since I've been doing this professionally, let me tell you I've realized that my son's behavior was not so unusual and that while our session may have had the same results even if our photographer had tried to help, it would have made  huge difference in my feelings about the experience. Kids sometimes freak out in photo sessions. It can be a lot of pressure for a little guy. Sometimes they don't freak out they just act like kids instead. They don't always want to look or stand where you want them to. They don't always listen, and as a parent this can send you into panic mode. I've been lucky enough to stumble upon a few tricks that can sometimes make this better, and I figure that that is part of my job. That you don't hire me to stand there and wait for you to get it all together. Sometimes it means taking a break, putting the camera away and letting a child have a moment. Sometimes it means playing with a child or coming up with a pose or shot that they will feel comfortable in. Sometimes it's making a joke or just letting you know that this is not the worst I've seen and it bears no reflection on your parenting. I can not promise you that I can turn around a sinking ship of a session but I can promise you that I will try. I will use every trick in my bag. I will let your kid act like a kid and I won't judge you when they do. And if it still all falls apart then we will try again later.

At the end of the day it's just a photo session, and some of my favorite images of all time have been from "bad" sessions when kids had their own agendas. There is something just beautiful about a child just being themselves and isn't that what your trying to remember anyway, who they are at this moment in time? And besides I am a total sucker for a pouty lip! 



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