As a photographer one of my favorite things to do is to photograph families. Especially families with little ones. But if you have ever spent anytime with any munchkins under the age of 4, you know that getting them to cooperate with your plans can be challenging, to say the least. These little humans are on their own agenda. They march to the beat of their own drums. This is not any different when it comes time for family photos. Uncooperative toddlers and frustrated parents are all to common during a photo session. I have even been told by a few parents, that they would rather not even bother trying because they know their child will not cooperate.
So in the hopes that I can help calm the frustrations of a few parents, I decided to share a 5 tips on how to get the most out of your photo sessions with your little ones. I hope this helps a little.
1. Think Like a Toddler
Small children are actually a lot more predictable than you think they are. Just think about it. They are curious, they want to touch everything, they want to explore, they have a short attention span, and they want you to let them do it. While the details of what they are getting into might change by the minute, those facts remain true. So while you are planning your photo session, those things have to be kept in mind. If you already expect your toddler to behave like a toddler, it will alleviate the stress of expecting something supernatural to happen. You know what I mean by supernatural. Basically that prayer you say beforehand, in hopes that they will sit completely still and take a perfectly posed picture (because 9 times out of 10 they won't). And there is nothing wrong with that. It's ok! Your photographer knows what to expect and is prepared to handle it.
2. Location, Timing, and Wardrobe are EVERYTHING!!!
Kids are more likely to behave as expected when they are in a comfortable setting. Many times what throws them off is actually throwing them into an unfamiliar setting. Example: Expecting a small child to wear a fancy 3 piece suit in stuffy portrait studio, during nap time will probably not yield the best results. Thats not normal for them at all. First things first, NEVER schedule photos during nap or lunch time. That is the absolute worst idea and a meltdown should be expected. Your child does not care about cooperating when they are missing one of the most important things in their little lives, food and sleep. So do us all a favor and pick a time when they are well rested and full.
The reason that location and wardrobe are important is because when parents decide to take kids to a place where they can not be kids (running and having fun) and aren't dressed to be a kid (in clothes parents don't want them to mess up) everyone gets frustrated. Again imagine being a toddler who just wants to run and touch stuff, but Mom and Dad keep yelling at you to stop because they don't want you to get dirty. Or because they want you to sit on the backdrop and not move. Would you want to smile? My suggestion is lets go to a outdoor park, dress them nice but not in anything you can't stand to get dirty, and let them run, jump, fall, and play. The stress will be alleviated and the smiles will be genuine.
3. Remain Calm and Be Patient
Kids are typically reflections of their parents. This applies to temperament as well. The more frustrated you are with their behavior, the worse their behavior will probably get. So while in other situations you yelling and making demands might get them to reluctantly cooperate, you have to remember that the end goal of a photo session requires them to be a happy participant. You want your child to be happy so that your photos reflect that. Speak in calm tones, smile, be affectionate and most of all be patient. Yes, your photo session is on a time frame but any photographer who works with kids knows that when there are little ones, they have to have a little cushion room. So if it runs over a little, it's ok. We were expecting it to.
4. Trust Your Photographer
I know, I know, nobody knows your child like you do. And I am not suggesting a stranger will be better with your child than you are. But I am suggesting that you choose your photographer because you like their work. That means they have some experience with kids. And trust me, your child is probably not that much different than other children. We have seen it all (I have actually been kicked and bitten before). So when we offer a suggestion or we ask you to let us interact with the child for a few minutes without interruption, give us a chance. We are doing that because sometimes kids actually cooperate with a stranger differently than their parents. You are still a parenting geniuses. We are just good at getting kids to cooperate long enough to snap a good photo. So remember we are on the same team.
Last but not least....
5. HAVE FUN!!!
This is actually the most important tip for me. Fun is what takes a good photo session to a memory worth capturing. I can not stress enough the importance of having fun. You know your family better than anyone else does. Think about the last family outing, where you all had blast. Where were you? Whatactivities were you doing? Who all was there? Those are the things, people, and places we should be trying to recreate. If your child loves to swim, lets go to the beach with his/her best little toddler buddy and let them play in the waves. If you and your family like to ice skate together, then lets go to the nearest ice skating rink (I'll stand on the sidelines with my camera of coarse lol). Just think about what would get the most joyful response from your child and your entire family, and lets do that.