One of the greatest compliments I receive as a photographer is when parents see their photos and exclaim “How did you get these?!” Often parents are hoping the kids will be on their best behavior and sit still long enough for a few smiling shots. This rarely happens.
Here is the trick.
Play with your kids. Bring them some treats or toys that will help them stay entertained. Those smiling pictures are often after a family tickle fight or being tossed in the air – not because they sat still and smiled wonderfully at (me) the stranger behind the camera.
Often I see parents pushing great levels of patience hoping not to have to discipline their child in front of me. They will offer treats and games and all sorts of bribes just hoping the kid will behave. This works only sometimes.
Pictures don’t show those moments. You know, the scream, the cry, the fight, the running off, or turning serious things into games… So maybe parents come to a session thinking that all these other families just had perfectly behaved kids. It’s not true! From what I can recall every single family I have photographed has had at least a few less-than-perfect moments with their kids during a session. It’s not just you, it’s not just your kids. It’s life. I expect this to happen and I sincerely promise that I hold no judgment about your parenting at all.
Don’t be afraid to hold the same behavior standards for your kids with the photographer as you would at home. If your child needs a 5 minute break, do it! It will make the rest of the session better. If they need to understand a consequence, that is ok too. I am 100% in support of you as a family. It’s not embarrassing. They are learning. They are in new circumstances and they are with unfamiliar people. In other words, they are probably going to act a little out of the ordinary.
Kids tend to push boundaries. They want to know who is in charge – hoping they are! When you demonstrate how to play with your child and correct your child in a way that works for you as a family, it actually helps me as the photographer! I can reinforce and encourage those same things. This way, the child learns that they can’t treat me (or another professional) disrespectfully because I am a stranger or treat you disrespectfully because a stranger is around. Nope. The parents and photographer can be a team and use the same rules you would use at home (even if I just learned what they are!).
When you have a photographer capture your family, it is more than just the photo you get at the end of the day. It is an experience your child will remember. All of us want your family to have fun and enjoy this experience because if you don’t… you probably won’t want to do it again. Getting those family pictures will be more and more difficult because you and your child will remember the struggle. The photo on the wall won’t quite make up for that – at least in your child’s mind.
This is why finding a photographer that understands and values children makes all the difference. We realize what is going on and try our best to put you and your child at ease. Let’s navigate the unfamiliar environment together.
Here’s the main thing: If you want your children to smile, let’s give them a real reason to smile! Nothing forced or coerced. The goal should always be genuine, playful, joy-filled smiles.
Then we all just might relax and enjoy the session.
And, you’ll get some incredible photos too.