Between the two of us, we have 10 kiddos and countless other nieces and nephews. Suffice to say: we are pretty experienced with photographing children at this point. Over the years we have learned that the most difficult part of getting amazing photos with kids, is actually educating the parents!
We get it, clients are invested in their sessions. You have poured so much energy and time and hard-earned money into the session, outfits, hair and makeup, bribery and begging. There is a lot at stake! So it’s no wonder that in your quest for picture perfection, sometimes the minor details become a little too major.
For example, on a recent session, we had a lovely family who showed up dressed to the nines! We photographed in the mountains and it was pretty spectacular. Not surprisingly, the kids acted like kids, immediately running full speed, throwing rocks, picking wildflowers, hooting and hollering. The parents went into full parent mode, yelling at the children, ‘STOP running! You will get dirty! Don’t pick up rocks, your hands will smudge! Tuck your shirt back in! 1, 2, 3…. Do you want a treat or not?’ In no time the kids were crying and probably thinking, Here is this big, beautiful world and we already messed up, mom and dad are mad, now we don’t get to play, we have to take stupid pictures, in scratchy clothes, and we don’t even get our promised ice cream! I mean, kids and ice cream, ya’ll.
And the whole while, we are trying to not step on parents toes and offend them about the way they are going about it, but we are bursting inside wanted to yell out the truth of how this works: The reason you won’t like the way your photos look is because you just squashed all the fun and zest and passion right out of your child! Who wants stiff, chain-store, glazed smile photos anyway? Kids will be kids! Set them free! Let us capture the laughter! (not tears) Twirling makes sparkly eyes, throwing rocks makes little egos poof, and a dirty knee never hurt anyone. HAPPY kids is what we are after. Passion, not Pinterest. We have built this entire business over the concept that life is art, and it is! The bandaids, dirty nails, goofy grins are all part of that. It has to be. Because what you are squelching in your child is actually what you will be grasping at to remember just a few years from now.
Here are a few things we would love you to consider when preparing for your session with children. Pretty please, with a cherry on top:
CLOTHING – Fact: kids don’t really care about your photos. So setting them up to be comfortable and have a fun time is pretty key in keeping things happy. Please, dress warm! We live in Alaska and even in the summer, mild days can feel cold when you are frolicking through mountains in a sundress. Make sure you bring accent layers that you won’t mind in the images, but will keep everyone warm. And since we know kids are kids and shirts will not stay perfectly tucked – plan on it ahead of time. Choose an outfit that you like the look of regardless of how the move and romp around. Hint: girls love dresses that twirl. So do we. Who doesn’t like twirling?
TIMING – The two things we consider most with timing your session is the age of kids and the lighting. If your children are still taking naps or have early bedtimes, then that pretty much trumps everything! We want to minimize natural melt-downs by timing it so they feel their best. That said, the second most important thing is shooting when the sun is soft and low in the sky. This is hard in Alaska because that means golden hour is very late in the summer and very early in the winter. Harsh light will mean harsh shadows, washed out skin and most importantly: SQUINTING. Kids will not be able to fake it. It just won’t happen, regardless of our skill, and they will look like they are in actual pain they are in. So let’s work together to time things optimally.
ENERGY – Mom, Dad and photographer: we are the mirror. Whatever we reflect is going to dictate the vibe and mood of your photos. Dad, if you are still bent that you are being forced into photos and you are bickering the whole way there: not only will your family feel the black cloud following you around but we will too. Mom, if you are yelling and have threatening tones with the kids, the session will feel volatile and tense. We promise to bring our full energy and positive dispositions to the session regardless of what is happening personally in our own lives and expect that from you as well. We are a team and we are consecrating an hour to get you the most stunning imagery possible. The more we can work together and provide a unanimously happy front, the better things will turn out with the kids! Promise.
PLAY – Play don’t pose is our mantra with kids. Asking a young child to stand still and smile for an hour is like asking a zebra to not have stripes. We will get some photos of you looking and smiling at the camera, of course. But most of the time we will be running, twirling, climbing, jumping, tickling, secret-telling, and just being silly. Why? Because it’s who they are. They can’t reach our level yet, we must come to them. When preparing your kids for the session, hype it up as something FUN, not something miserable that required bribes. By the way, we are NOT above bribery and incentives!! Those are just icing to the cake. Let the cake be the epic, super-duper rad time we are going to have playing pictures in the mountains!
EXPECTATION – If you have learned anything as a parent yet, it is probably that kids are crazy and wild and do unexpected things. In addition to your child’s mood, there are tons of other uncontrollable factors at play like location, weather, lighting, etc. We encourage you to let go of your Pinterest board and accept that what we are creating is beautiful, custom to you, and unlike any others. It won’t be the Jones’ photos. This is YOUR family, YOUR legacy, YOUR love story, YOUR art. Don’t put too much stock in having a specific location or sunset or pose. It won’t look like your minds eye anyway, because photography is variable and art needs room to breath. Your life is art. Embrace the look of it now, as it actually is!
Here are a few samples of kids’ whose parents let go of perfection and got something even better.