Creative photo sessions hold a special place in my heart. They also demand an immense amount of effort and preparation. This photoshoot with Ava-Jeanette took about 6 hours from start to finish.. that included child-appropriate makeup and hair styling (with various looks) by the talented Susan Donoghue, fresh flowers, gorgeous white dresses by Stella M'Lia (based in Greenwich), and necklace accessories from Ella & Henry (New Canaan).
One of the most important factors to looking good on camera is being able to feel comfortable when someone is taking your photograph.Now, that is certainly easier said than done, because I know firsthand the terror and anxiety that comes with someone pointing a camera in my direction. And when you're a tween girl, or a Mom to a tween girl, you probably hear all sorts of things about photographers, modeling, and the uncomfortable situations that might result. I certainly get surprised when I hear some of the questions parents ask, because I come from a background of photographing families, babies, and kids.
A photoshoot isn't entirely about the photographs that are captured. The experience of being photographed is actually a huge part of it. It's something I want the kids I work with to remember. I want them to not only enjoy our time together, but also get a sense of what it's like to be pampered, looked after, and feel a bit like a celebrity.
And it all starts with the hair styling.
Hair styling might seem like a trivial thing, especially for kids, who probably have pretty cute hair to begin with.. but it makes some of the biggest difference I've seen in photos by far. It's that extra bit of polish, and the ability to put in loose curls or waves, which provides movement and shine. But there's something else too. The feeling of getting ready. Of being taken care of. And of enhancing the beauty that's already there.
And it's important, when working with a 9-year old, that the photographs reflect who they are, too. So they get to wear their favorite clothes. They get to jump, and spin, and try on literally all the different pairs of glasses they own. And they get to have FUN. Because enjoying the experience of being in a photography Studio is something they will remember, too.
Follow your dreams.
Francesca (or Franny, as she likes to be called) is a ballet dancer. While most girls her age are at school, she is practicing dance. She has a collection of well-worn ballet shoes and most of her clothes are ones she wears while dancing. But if you think Francesca's entire personality is wrapped up in dance, it's not true one bit.
And she is not at all what I expected.
Franny is really kind of silly. She laughs wholeheartedly with an incredible openness. She's not the serious 10 year old I pictured, the one who toils with a dance teacher for most of the day. She can apparently nap anywhere, and at any time. She knows and can speak some Russian, as she dreams of dancing abroad. And her favorite movie is Austin Powers.
What started out as a photoshoot for a ballet dancer turned into one where Franny's personality dazzled and took over. And that is exactly what I love about her.
She is a role model for all the aspirational ballerinas out there. While still at the beginning stages of her career, but is already dreaming big and dedicating most of her time to working towards her goals. The work required is no joke. And I will endlessly admire Francesca for her incredible drive, determination... and her silliness.
Working with a 13-year old girl is very different than my usual round of babies and toddlers during family sessions.. even the 6 and 8 year olds I've had in the Studio lately are nothing like the sophistication and high-stakes that a teen brings to the table.
Millie is her own fully-formed person. She has personal interests (one of which is actually photography!.. and she loves abstract art), a defined style, and an incredible eye when it comes to what she likes and doesn't like.
For Millie, I really focused on the photoshoot experience as the main event. She understands and appreciates the fact that she is modeling for the camera. All the attention is on her, from professional hair styling before the session, to wardrobe selection, and finally the individual attention the photographer (that's me!) pays to all the little details within the image. Her image. Her appearance, expression, and movement are the building blocks of a beautiful portrait. And the fact that she actually enjoyed the process, is absolutely priceless.
Oh, and another thing about Millie is that she has one brown eye and one blue... which is simply incredible.. and gorgeous. Be sure to click on the images below to view them full-screen to really see how awesome her eyes are!
Photographing a family with two older girls (Morgan is 12 and Jessica is 7) is completely different from photographing one with a toddler or a newborn. I don't treat older kids all that differently because I address all children and babies with the utmost respect and consideration. But tweens have well-formed opinions at this point. They need to feel comfortable in front of the camera. They have rooms that are just full of personality and little treasures. And their preferences are both strong and willful.
This is also the least photographed age. For some reason the tween phase is known as the 'awkward' stage in kids' lives. Let me tell you something. There is nothing awkward about these girls. Not only are Morgan and Jessica so lovely to be around, but they are actually pleasant towards each other (I know, I'm as shocked as you are)! They spent a bunch of the session hanging out together, being themselves, and the portraits we got are absolutely stunning as a result.
My favorite part was afterwards, when Mom told me that the girls really enjoyed the wardrobe styling process (I spent some time before the session picking out the perfect outfit for each girl, especially since they needed something warmer for the outdoor shots). Girls this age usually have their own sense of style, but unlike with Mom or Dad, they're actually willing to listen to my suggestions.
And it all comes back to the whole respect thing. I treat kids with consideration. I ask them how they feel about things. I collaborate. And we work together to create something that is impossible without mutual regard. I credit my clients with the artwork we create just as much as I credit my own abilities.. and as you scroll through my favorite images from this session, I think you will agree with that statement.
Going to the beach at the start of October is very different from enjoying the sand and water in the middle of summer.. which is probably why it's one of my favorite locations for a creative photoshoot. Hoards of beach-goers are replaced with bundled-up dog walkers and the sandy stretch becomes almost deserted. Pair that with a lovely sunset and you have a fantastic combination of beautiful light and location.
But it's not without challenges, of course. Proving to have a true spirit of adventure, Gwen, (outfitted in a hand-selected dress just for the occasion) spent most of the time bundled up in her mom's arms as the wind whipped around us and the temperature hovered in the low 50s. Much like how I photograph children outdoors in the winter, the time I spend actually photographing is minimal. Mostly it's waiting.. followed by a mad rush of exploring the surrounding, posing, climbing, smiling, and yes, running around like crazy. Running, by the way, keeps you warm.
Towards the end, Gwen's shyness melted away, as did the layers keeping her protected against the cold. She ran with the wind, with wild laughter and joy, flying the blanket and spinning around on the beach. Working with older children is such a fantastic experience because they are fully conscious of their own personality. They can go on location and be themselves and let go. In turn, I am so grateful to be able to capture Gwen's joy and curiosity with my camera.
Gwen is wearing Tutu du Monde® Magical Fields Dress from JCrew.