"Can you smile for the camera, baby?"
Now, this is what I get mostly with my almost 3 year old (I miss my easy going smiley goody baby sometimes, haha!)
"Come on, just give us a smile!"
"Look at the lady with the camera and smily, baby!"
"Oh come on! Just smile!"
In any photoshoot with children, the parents and I will almost always encounter "no smiles" or "grumpypants/crankypants" or "I don't want to take photos, mama!" hahaha!
Parents are also likely to be anxious, apologetic and left feeling quite frustrated. After all, they just want a fuss-free photoshoot and I get it. I totally get it as a mom myself.
Here's a few tricks I'll share with you when you encounter tough times with your children, whether you are a parent or a photographer.
Take a breather
After a few composition, I always ask my clients if they'd like to sit down and take a breather. It's so important to do this and not charge through. An hour photoshoot does not mean we will be shooting every single minute. An hour long photoshoot allows you and me to take mini breaks in between, recompose ourselves, sip some water and readjust ourselves again. I highly encourage my clients to take a break, even if for a minute or two.
This is especially so if you have young and active children. Let them explore and do their own thing. They probably had enough being squeezed, hugged, asked to smile, look at this lady with the big lens, all that 'click, click, clickety sound'. Let them stretch it out and let them go for a little while.
This is also a great time for the photographer to take candid photos of the little ones and the exhausted parents. It makes for some laughter, really!
Let them play and have fun
I lost count how many "it's fine" I will usually tell parents. I understand how important it is to some parents to capture 'perfect' moments as played out by some of our friend's social media but in reality, those are long and hard sessions. I'd advice parents to not "prep" their children in advance about "looking at the lady with the camera and smile". These expectations are hard on our little ones and rather restrictive for them. I totally advocate funny and silly moments.
What I like to do after we meet is to get you feel a little relaxed by chatting about your day and week (I know it's tough, I squirm in front of cameras too, haha!). I will then guide you to the spot for the shoot and then tell you I am preparing my camera (lights, composition etc). I am actually secretly photographing you already, haha! I will also assure you that if your child(ren) are running around, it's fine, really. They need to let their energy go before they can get into the zone
It's absolutely fine and its children's behavior to play. My take? Let them play in photoshoots. Once that's out of the system, they'll be okay to come and do a get-together photoshoot with the whole family.
Remember that cranky feeling when you're hungry? That's what a lot of young children experience when they are hungry for snacks or milk. This is why sometimes they may get a little off during the shoot. I like to ask my clients with young children or nursing moms after awhile if they'd like to feed their children. It's so crucial that we get food in our system to feel good. Bring snacks and toys they like to make it an easier photoshoot for everyone. After all, food makes everyone happy :)
Funny poses, everyone! Tickle, poke, laugh!
This is my favourite. Sometimes, when it gets a little dry or when someone doesn't want to smile, I try to encourage candid actions by tickling, poking or just random laughter. It helps to just relax and have fun in the shoot. The same with children, a little tickle goes a long way. Now I get that some parents feel tickling their young ones is not a cool idea, what about telling a joke or laugh or point out to something out there or better yet, my favourite with slightly older kids "let's do funny or zombie poses!".
The last one truly helps. Just look at this photo, haha!
Reschedule if it's really not "their day" :)
I am not sure about other photographers but for my full-length sessions (1hr or 1.5hr) and as a photographer who takes a lot of photos of families and children, I understand sometimes it's just not the right day or the right time or for one reason or the other, it's just very difficult for parents to remain cool with their children.
In those cases, I am usually flexible to reschedule. As a mother myself, I have been in countless birthday parties situation where I had no choice but to cancel going for it or leave halfway as sometimes parties or noise is too stimulating to my toddler, or she gets a little under the weather etc. Matter of fact, in all my time as a photographer, I had to reschedule a shoot with a client at 3am in the morning as my toddler suddenly had really high fever overnight.
Communication is key. Just speak to your photographer and vice versa if it's really not going well. I totally understand you'd like awesome photos and it doesn't bode on well with anyone if it's a difficult day.
So that's my 5 tips to having a successful family photoshoot. I hope this helps as a guide to all parents and photographers out there! If you'd like to schedule a photoshoot session with me, click the button below. I'd love to hear from you! x