It happens at every single family photoshoot. Often, parents ask me to capture that elusive photograph of their family together, looking at the camera. Or an image of all the kids together, smiling.. and looking at the camera. As you can imagine, the "looking at the camera" is the hard part...
I have a variety of clients. Some families I see every year and some I meet only once (more on that below). I also have clients who get family photographs every 3 or so years. There's no right or wrong way to do it.. and the decision is a highly personal one for each family. So how do you know which one is right for you?...
There is only ONE thing that really determines whether a family photoshoot is successful or not (and I mean once you get past the basics like hiring a good photographer who knows what they're doing). Happy children. That's it! If your kids are happy during our time together, we will get GREAT photos. It doesn't matter if they're running around and being crazy! We can't really control most things in life.. but when it comes to our kids, we can, actually, make them happy.
And that's exactly why I love Zara and Neali's family session so much. They had FUN!
There was no concern about sitting still and smiling for the camera (you can never expect that with a 3.5 and a 2 year old anyway). Their parents were relaxed and accommodating. We took a break for snacks. The kids were excited. And the entire process was really enjoyable for everyone.
So why did that happen? It's the same things that create the environment for happy children with every family. It's not a mystery and it's not a secret. All it takes is a bit of open-mindedness from the parents and being in the right mind-set for what's about to go down.
Which bring me to...
5 tips for a happy family photoshoot:
1. Say "Yes" instead of "No"
We are all doing our best to raise well-behaved and obedient children. But there will always be times when kids misbehave and have to be told "No". The more your kids hear "No" during a photoshoot (or instructions like "Sit still", "Smile", and "Listen to the photographer"), the more they will lose that carefree happiness we're looking for. So instead of "No", say "Yes"!
I often offer two choices, so the child I'm working with can make their own decision. If they want to sit instead of stand, that's totally fine. If they want some water or a break, they're welcome to it. If they don't want to be in front of the camera or need to some time to adjust to the surroundings, "Yes, absolutely!". Keeping a child in a good mood is always more important than getting your way.
2. Be active and silly
Younger kids really respond to their parents being a little bit silly during the photoshoot. Jokes, raising them up in the air, turning them upside down, and general roughhousing are all awesome! That interaction is exactly the kind of thing we want to capture on camera.. and guess what, it doesn't happen unless you allow yourself to be a little giddy. Trust me, I won't mind!
This is the secret weapon to getting fun family photos. For some reason, when little kids sit down with their parents, they start giving fake smiles and crazy face expressions. So to get those natural happy smiles, parents can do a little tickling (we always ask the kids if they're ok with that first). It takes a few seconds, but completely changes the expressions on those little faces!
4. Dismiss discipline
My rule is that anything goes as long as nobody is getting hurt. This is not the time for a power struggle, enforcement of house rules, or doling out punishments. You don't want your child to cry, do you? Because that's usually what happens when parents try to discipline (and not just in the Studio). And if we want happy kids, discipline kind of goes out the window for those 1-2 hours we are together. Once again, that's totally fine with me! And I will step in and stop any misbehavior that's dangerous in any way (in a calm yet firm manner).. but most of the time, small transgressions are part of the process.
5. Go with the flow
Things will go wrong. Kids will get upset, or all of a sudden will develop a distaste for the outfit you really wanted them to wear. You have to be okay with that. Moods shift up and down with lightning speed. This is when we can take a break, have a snack, look out the window, or play with a toy instead of worrying about the photoshoot. The kids are "the boss" in the Studio. We want them to be happy.. which means we follow their lead! Always.
It feels like it's officially winter! My family took the opportunity this past weekend (first snow of the season!) to get our Christmas tree. I also finally ordered our holiday cards. Being a photographer, it's my own family that gets forgotten about when it comes to photographs, especially this time of year...