"Say CHEESE!" Sessions Tips - Parents, Tips For Your Child's Photography Session

If you're not sure what to expect when having a portrait session with young children, here are some tips I've put together. I usually try to tell all this stuff to parents before the sessions starts (or as much as I can of it before the kids take off!), but I thought I would wright it up and post on the website for anyone who might be curious or apprehensive about having photos done by a private photographer. If you're only familiar with studio photography, on location photography can seem like a big leap. In the end, it's actually not much more involved than going to the park for an hour or two with the kids. My goal for on location photography sessions is to keep them easy going and fun. I find that the kids are usually only as relaxed as the parents, however. Hopefully, by reading these tips you'll be totally at ease and can just relax and enjoy spending time with your kids - while I photograph it. :)

Tip #1

One of the biggest things I notice - almost at every session I have with parents and children - is that somewhere along the line the parent starts to comment, "oh, I hate that cheesy smile he's got on his face, it looks so unnatural." Before long I hear the parent say to their child, "stop smiling that way," or "smile this way!" The kids inevitably react by...... smiling much better? I wish. :) The usual result is either an attempt at a "better" smile than before, which looks REALLY fake, or (and this is far more likely) the child gets flustered and begins to throw a tantrum or cry. Then the whole mood is broken, little faces become red, and children become much less likely to cooperate.

One of the best things you can do in a situation like this is just let it go. It's much better in the end to have a slightly cheesy smile than a frown! Or a child who refuses to have his picture taken at all. In the end, the smiles I've seen on kids that parents call "cheesy" usually aren't as bad as the parents seem to think at the time. Also, the cheesy smiles tend to come out at the beginning of the session right after they see the camera. After posing deliberately for a while, the kids grow tired of it and just want to play and talk.  Kids under 10 don't know any better and can't really regulate posing into something more natural like older kids can, so rather than upsetting them - trick them. ;) Rather than telling them "stop smiling that way!" ask them to talk about something that you know will bring out a genuine smile. It also can help if you don't mention to little kids beforehand that they're going to have pictures taken. It's better to tell them that they're going to meet a new friend and play in the park for a while. Otherwise I notice they tend to really start hamming it up right from the start! They've already got it in their heads that this is picture time so smile BIG (which equals cheesy).

Tip #2

Bring comfort items for toddles, things like blankies, stuffed animals, etc. These familiar items will help your toddler feel more at ease in the situation and also add extra interest to your pictures. Don't worry about trying to hide the item or take it away from them once I'm ready to take pictures. It doesn't bother me one bit to have things in my pictures. :) I just want the kids to be happy so I can get good shots for you.

Tip #3

Don't worry about making the kids stay in one place for the whole photography session. I understand that kids need to move around and play to stay happy. They're not at the age yet where they can stay interested in something like having their picture taken for long. I'm definitely willing to give them little breaks whenever they need it. Don't ever feel like you have to force a child who is growing tired and frustrated with a situation to stay in front of the camera for me. It won't interfere with the photography process at all. What I like to do is work on individual portraits one child at a time. That way the other children get a break and also aren't there to egg each other on (I was a child with siblings once myself, I know how it is *wink*).

I tend to work fast when shooting with children so that they don't get too tucked out. I generally get all the shots I need in about an hour with children, which is pretty much when the allure of everything is wearing for them. Portrait sessions include up to two hours of shooting so we do have wiggle room if needed. Generally though, your children will not have be taking pictures for more than an hour.

Tip #4

If you don't feel like you'll be able to handle everything on your own, be aware that I bring along my mom and sister to photography sessions that involve children. They help keep an eye on everything and engage the interest of the kids while we're taking pictures. They can also help carry diaper bags and toys if needed. If you're still feeling uncomfortable, feel free to bring along Grandma or a friend who can help you during the session. There will be no fee for bringing along extra people as long as they are not in the pictures (portrait session sitting fee covers up to 5 people; $25 for each additional photographed person).

These are tips for some of the most common situations. If there is still something you're unsure about or something you would like to ask me, feel free to! I do not mind one bit if it takes 20 emails to make sure you have all the information you need. Whatever helps you to be comfortable and relaxed and enjoy your photography session! :)
Ashlee Lauren Photography is a professional photographer specializing in on location family, children, maternity, baby couples, and high school senior portrait photography in Fort Wayne, INDIANA and surrounding Allen county. Sessions start at $50. To book your own photography session, email me at ashlee@alaurenphoto.com or give me a ring: 260.418.1110. Please be sure to leave a voicemail if I'm not able to get to the phone. I will only return a missed call when there is a voicemail. Thanks for your interest - hope to have a photography session with you soon!

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