A few weeks ago, I went to J.C. Penney’s portrait studio for a couple of school photo supplements, and I was shocked that despite the fact that a rainstorm ruined the kids’ hair and they hadn’t had their afternoon snack and they were on strike from standing in one place, the photographer got some cute shots.
I tend to be a frazzled mess during photo shoots of my kids. I feel like I want to capture something priceless and the clock is ticking, so I am basically asking the photographer for an instant miracle. I know I am not helping when I constantly fuss over their hair and hiss, That’s not your real smile! Just sit by your brother for one minute! What are you doing with your hands?? I know I need to just get out of the way. In an effort to convince myself to chill and trust the pros, I asked two photographers for their best tip for a photo shoot with kids. If you’re preparing for family photos, these experts have some golden advice for you.
Katherine Harris of The Jadeite Shutter and In Joy Mint Studio (Minneapolis/St. Paul) did a mini-session with my kids for Easter this year. Gabe had taken the dreaded car nap on the way there, and Alexandra is slow to warm up, so I was worried. I gave them candy and I advised her to tell fart jokes! There was no need to worry, though, because the kids responded immediately to her warmth while she snapped several images I treasure. As a pro, she has much more in her bag of tricks than fart noises. Katherine’s best tip:
“Give them an activity (put flowers in a vase, count little pumpkins, or make chick noises with a stuffed chick). It works really well for preschoolers who aren’t content to just sit there but aren’t old enough to get into doing different poses. You also end up with just darling shots of kids being themselves, expressions are natural, and smiles are totally organic.”
Anna Harrison of AnnaAlyse Photography (Utah) and founder/president of the photography non-profit Your Light International, took Alexandra’s 1-year photos five years ago when we lived in Utah. (That’s not Alexandra above, but what a cutie.) I’ve followed her work in awe over the years, so I knew she’d have great advice:
“They get told what to do all day so having them step into the session and demanding them to smile is not effective. Let them play in the area a bit. Ask them to show you different faces like their scared face, excited face, lion face, then happy face. I also like to say, “whatever you do, don’t smile!!” And usually they break. For extra shy and nervous kids I let them come sit with me and learn to take a photo and then view it so they know what the camera is and what it’s doing. They are more willing to cooperate when they know what that big gadget is. And lastly, the most important thing you/parents can do is to RELAX. Kids feel your stress and when you care more about their outfit and hair style they will shut down.“
I’ll be re-reading these tips next time I schedule family photos, or even before I try to snap more formal photos at home. Thanks, Katie and Anna!