Friday, February 28, 2014

5 ways to have an amazing custom family photo session with young children, and 3 ways to make your experience difficult and stressful

5 ways to have an amazing custom family photo session 

1. Meet with the photographer ahead of time, or at least talk on the phone, so that he or she will know what to expect from your family. Fill them in on your family, your kids' ages, and a little bit about them, and you and your spouse. Be sure to mention any special needs or concerns you may have so that your photographer can be prepared.

Professional portrait of a happy big family in Rio Rancho

2. Build up anticipation before you go. Start earlier in the week - tell your kids how fun it's going to be, tell them about where you're going (or if your kids are older, you could involve them in choosing a location). Don't make it too big of a deal, but a little pleasant anticipation can really help.

Professional portrait of girls running down a path in Albuquerque

3. Have a suitable reward - I always want my sessions to be fun, but your kids don't know that ahead of time. It can help from the start if your kids know you're going out for ice cream afterwords. Especially with younger children, a reminder about the coming reward can help them refocus if something doesn't seem to be going their way.

Professional portrait of children playing in a park in Albuquerque

4. For young children a snack or little candy incentive can be a good thing. But be careful not to bring anything colorful or dark that is going to get dripped on their shirt or tint  their mouth bright blue. No chocolate! (Save it for the reward when we're done!) I don't like goldfish either because of all those sticky orange crumbs. My favorites are mini marshmallows, sparingly doled out.

Professional portrait of a baby playing with an airplane in Albuquerque

5. Sometimes you need to step away and let the photographer work with your child alone. This is true from baby age up through teenagers. The photographer will want to build a rapport with your child, especially if he or she is not happy, or perhaps even worse, has a fake cheesy grin. This is much easier if you give them a little space. I find that kids get stressed because of all the pressure to smile just right, sit right here, don't do that with their hands, etc. A good photographer can make them comfortable and capture their real smile, and they will ask for your help if they want it.

Professional vintage portrait of a little girl in Albuquerque

3 ways to make your experience stressful and get frustrating results 

1. Tell your child to "say cheese!" Very few children will have a real smile while saying cheese. Your photographer will have something in mind that will be more effective.

Professional portrait of two happy sisters in Albuquerque

2. Schedule your session during nap time. Don't do it! As a photographer I would much rather have a session at a less convenient time to myself if its not going to be when your child would normally nap. Same thing goes with the 5:00 witching hour - if this is a part of your life, don't schedule a sunset session! Wait a couple of years; then it will be great.

Professional portrait of a baby laughing in the grass in Albuquerque

3. Stress out over little details. I know it would be nice if everything went perfectly. Sometimes it does! But in my family, someone usually has a dirty shirt when it's time for pictures. Or someone played with markers and drew on their hands and it won't wash off. Or someone poured glitter in their hair. Or that perfect hair bow got left in the car, and it's a 10 minute walk back.

Professional portrait of a happy family in Rio Rancho
Try to relax and remember that your relationship, your love, is the important part of what your photographer is trying to capture. The little details aren't a big deal. If you stress, if your smile is clenched, your children won't be able to relax, laugh, giggle, or play. And you won't love the results. Try to enjoy your time together even if it's not perfect - often I find that parents end up loving the little quirky details the most in the end, because it's their real life. Like the picture (above) of my son taken right after he did a little hair trimming in his room. Hopefully that won't happen to you (and if it does, I hope it's just a little trimming - we will reschedule if it goes down to the scalp!), but now it's one of our favorite pictures, because it's a perfect depiction of our real life at the time.

I have a ton more ideas for how to get the best results from your family photo session here! Click and check it out!

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