Every session is different because every family, kid, person is different. Everyone brings something unique to their session. But some things remain the same in my children's portrait sessions. These 30 minute sessions are designed to be long enough for your child to warm up to me and their surrounding while being short enough to keep their attention. I aim for kids and parents to walk away enjoying the session. If the kids have fun, their photos will reflect that.
So here is what to expect before your child's next portrait session with me.
Time to Warm Up
Your child will likely be shy when we first begin and that is okay. Even kids I have photographed several times are shy when the session starts. The first few photos are usually a warm up, so there's no pressure to get your kids to smile. I also don't expect them to sit or stand a certain way, especially in the beginning. I like to give them a few minutes to get used to me, my camera, the location and let them know that our primary goal is to have fun.
Time to Explore
One way I let kids know it's okay to be shy, that we're here to have fun, and that I'm not going to force them to do anything is by letting them explore. I encourage them to run around, pick flowers, look at different features or wildlife at the location.
Not only do they start having a good time, they forget that this new person is there with a camera. They realize I'm not just going to make them sit and smile. Our time together also becomes fun and relaxed so by the time we are done with their session they look forward to the next time they get to see me. Plus, you get a lot of documentary style images of your little one having fun and doing kid things.
If you're seeing this and thinking "but my kid will get messy", I may not be the photographer for you. I don't want your kids to be covered in dirt or mud for your photos that you plan on sharing with relatives or framing for your home, but keeping them perfectly clean and unwrinkled is low on my priority list. I care more about their expressions and whether my photos of your kid capture who they are at that stage of their life. And kids usually have dirt on them. Or bugs in the their pockets. Or scrapes/bruises on a knee. And they're perfect.
Giving kids enough time to relax, have fun and be themselves means they are way more likely to smile for their photos. And they'll be natural smiles.
They're smiling because they are having a good time. They smile if asked because they now know that I'm the nice lady with a camera who lets them have fun. They smile cause I may be doing something silly.
Letting Their Personality Shine
And if your kid is shy the whole time, on the move the whole time, more inquisitive than giggly, that is okay, too, because that is them.
This little one was having photos done for her 3rd bday. She went from shy to expressive in our 30 minutes together. I've known her since she was a baby and her family is one of my first clients. She told her parents she was excited to see me for our photo session. And yet, was shy when we got started. Part of that shyness had to do with her being cold (it was colder than expected that morning). So we let her run around in the sunshine to warm up. And by the end she was a total ham: posing for photos, choosing where to take photos, giving orders about her walking sticks. I also got some of my favorite photos of her from this session.
Tips for Your Session
If you want to create natural looking smiles that aren't forced, don't have your kids say "Cheese". This word actually create a strained smile rather than something softer. Try saying "money" instead or words that end in a "ay" noise like "Sunday".
Bribing kids to behave or smile for photos is between parents and their kids. You know their behavior better than I do, so if you decide you need to bribe them donuts after a photo session, that is up to you. One suggestion for those who like to bring candy for motivation during a session: don't hand it over right away. Again, there is plenty of time in a session to get those desired smiles so no need to give away the snack too soon. Plus, if they get a snack early on they may even refuse to cooperate unless they get more. Another suggestion for candy bribes: make sure its not a messy snack like chocolate or crackers. Also, avoid snacks like lollipops or other candy that take a long time to devour. Those are best as rewards for when you are heading back to your car.
Rather than a bribe, talk up their photo session beforehand. Get them hyped about getting to see your friend, Laura, who is going to take some fun photos of them at a cool location. Make it about the time their going to have, rather than the photos you hope to get.
Don't plan too much on the same day as their session. If their session is in the morning, this won't really apply. But for evening sessions, the last thing you want is a tired, exhausted kid who thinks they now have to behave for photos when all they want is a nap. Make their photo session the activity for the day instead.
Book your child's portrait session! Let's capture some memories, not just poses!