by Tanya Boggs, Charleston Photographers
7 Ways to prepare your child for your family photo session (Family Photographers Charleston)
1. Talk about the upcoming session with them ahead of time and how much fun it will be.
Make this a special occasion and give them something to look forward too. “Next week we’re going to go to the park (or whatever location you’ve selected) and get some pictures taken with a photographer. It’s going to be super fun. We’ll spend some time playing with her and being silly.” Then remind them again a couple of days before, the night before and the morning of. I always find, as long as children know what the plan is and what is expected of them ahead of time, they’re mentally prepared.
2. Meet with your photographer ahead of time and tell them the secrets to getting your child to laugh or smile.
Families often have their “inside jokes” or things that make each other laugh. The photographer will have some ways of getting them to relax and have fun, but having the inside scoop with personal artillery makes it flow SO much easier.
Here at Tanya Boggs Photography, we HIGHLY recommend an in-person consultation with your photographer ahead of time! It is so important to get to know each other, to have your session tailored to your family, and it is a great time for you to share information about your kids so the photographer has the insiders knowledge to help put your kids at ease.
3. Don’t bribe them with a “special treat” afterwards for “being good.”
Brides often backfire. One, because it indirectly communicates that you expect they may be bad or may not have fun. But mostly because it distracts them away from the photo shoot, and it places their focus on the treat or the surprise. If you’ve promised them ice cream afterwards, 5 minutes into the session they’ll be asking, “Can we go get ice cream now?” And the battle to keep them focused and present becomes a very difficult one to win! Who can compete with ice cream? I mean, I’m pretty cool. And kids love to play and hang out with me. But I’d take chocolate ice cream over just about anything!
4. Avoid unnecessary power struggles or confrontations about the session, especially on the day of the appointment.
I highly recommend you don’t have a power struggle or fight with them about what shoes to wear or tell them they can’t wear their favorite hat, or can’t bring their stuffed animal. If the photo session begins with World War 3 at home, it is only going to continue when you arrive at the location or the studio. My recommendation is always to try to accommodate BOTH your wishes and theirs! If they don’t want to wear their nice shoes (or their blazer, etc.) but it’s really THAT important to you, bring that item with you. Then let the photographer know that you were hoping to have a few pictures of the child with the item on. The photographer can then find a way to work it in after everyone is relaxed and having fun. I usually say something like, “Let’s do a few more pictures with these nice shoes. I bet you look so handsome in these!” In my experience, the child is MUCH LESS likely to say no to a third-party, especially if they are having fun.
5. Make sure everyone is COMFORTABLE: Comfortably dressed, well fed, well rested, and you should try to relax!
Many parents want to buy a new outfit for the photo shoot, but it’s not always a great idea. That beautiful dress you want little Susie to wear may be itchy and scratchy, and not weather appropriate. If the clothes are uncomfortable, for everyone involved in the shoot, it will be reflected in the photos. If you do purchase new clothes, make sure they’ve worn them once before and it’s been washed, so that the itchy starch isn’t going to cause the child to pay more attention to the dress then the photographer. And make sure they are on board with whatever you’ve purchased or picked out (see tip #4 about unnecessary power struggles). Also consider whether it is appropriate for the weather. There is nothing like a cute little dress on a cool fall day to make the whole session into a teeth chattering mess! Or if it happens to be the height of the summer, you might want to skip the long pants. Comfort is KING! And Mom, try to remember to relax! It’s important that Mom and Dad don’t get too worked up about the whole thing. Kids pick up on their parents anxiety. So if you’re stressed or worried, the kids will have a tendency to act out more. It’s suppose to be fun, so keep it light and easy and playful. No need to stress. If you’ve hired a professional that has experience with children of all ages, they’ve probably seen it all so you can trust that they’ll get the job done!
6. Avoid the Rebellion Factor and let the photographer be in charge. Of everyone!
Let the photographer take control and give the directions. When parents AND the photographer give directions it only confuses the child, and they are not sure WHO to focus on and listen to. And you may have noticed that children just love to do the opposite of what parents ask of them when they are in public. So the moment a parent asks the child to “Smile”, guess what, little Jimmy does the opposite. “HA! Watch me aggravate Mom! I’m in control now, and there’s nothing she can do about it!” Then dad gets involved and starts in with a very firm tone, “Jimmy, your mother told you to SMILE!” You can imagine that little Jimmy really wants to smile now, because things are super fun when he is being demanded to perform for the photographer… NOT!
As I learned long ago when my daughter was little, she is always on her best behavior for others, more than she is with me. I call it the “rebellion factor”. So, if you can, give up control and let the photographer handle it. They can always solicit your help or give you suggestions on how you can help! For example, if you are in the photo, they might ask you to tickle the child or give them a kiss, or direct you to pick them up and swing them around. If you are not in the picture, the photographer may suggest you make silly faces or goof off. You can of course make a suggestion if you think it might be helpful, but I’d recommend you make the suggestion to the photographer. Again, you’re trying to let the expert do their job and set the example that EVERYONE is taking direction from the photographer. It’s all about teamwork and collaboration between an experienced photographer, and the parents who know their kids best. And hopefully at the end of the day, you’ll find that giving up control was easy to do and made it more enjoyable for you!
7. Most importantly… HAVE FUN!
Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s suppose to be fun! Jump up and down, make silly faces – whatever it takes to get comfortable and take the pressure off. Make yourself laugh if possible. You might have to start by faking it. But very quickly it can become contagious. Try it sometime. You’ll be surprised!
What has worked for you in the past? What do you think would be helpful to prepare your child for a photo session?
Call Tanya Boggs Photography, Family Photographers Charleston, for more information today – 843.647.6455!