June 29, 2012

Parents: What to Expect During Your Child's Portrait Session

Parents... You don't have to pretend anymore because I know the truth, and the truth is this: while portrait sessions for your child or children are supposed to be fun, they are a lot of hard work and stress on YOU!  There is so much for parents to do and to think about before the session even happens - choosing the perfect outfits, styling hair, keeping the kids from getting dirty on the way over to the shoot...  But then there's more stress once you arrive to the session.  Will your kids stay clean? Will they behave? And what happens if they don't?

Well, I have some good news for you - you're not alone!  I think all parents go through some stress when preparing their children for a photo shoot.  You want your kids to look their best because you want the photos to be beautiful.  Totally understandable.  Do try to not be so hard on yourself, and when in doubt, contact your photographer for advice on what is puzzling you.  For example, I want my clients to feel less stressed when prepping for their sessions with me, so I wrote an article titled Top 10 Tips: What to Wear to a Portrait Session.  This article takes a lot of the guesswork out of deciding on what the heck to wear for pictures, and my clients couldn't be happier for the advice...and their resulting photos!

But I also want my clients to be stress-free during their portrait sessions with me.  Whether parents are going to be in the photos or opt to just observe as I photograph their kids, I would love to share some insight as to what they can expect during the photo session.

1. I will take a few minutes at the beginning of the session to get to know your kids.  I will introduce myself to them, ask them their names and tell them we are going to have fun!  As we're walking to our first location, I'll ask them about how old they are, what their favorite hobbies are...anything and everything they would like to talk about.  My reason for doing so is two-fold: I want your kids to get comfortable with me before I even break out the camera, and I am also learning about their personalities that I will want to capture during our time together.  Comfortable kids, having fun, revealing their personality and being themselves.  That is a recipe for awesome images!

2. We will start off simple.  Now I will have my camera in front of my face - a new element - and your kids will need to once again become comfortable.  I'll start off by asking them to do very simple things for me.  If I have their attention, we'll try to get all of the pre-discussed shots out of the way.  But what if I don't immediately have their attention?

3. I will coach your kids on what I want from them.  And what I want is often times very different from what parents think I want.  It is very difficult on the kids to figure out who to listen to - and it makes my job hard - if I am trying to coach your kids simultaneously while one or two people behind me are giving directions at the kids to "smile" or "look at the camera."  Please trust me and my experience, and know that I can work with your kids to create incredible images.  All your kids need is one person coaching them, and by allowing that one person to be me, it will be less stressful for you and on your kids, and it will also be the best chance for me to create successful images I know you will love.  Which leads me right into...

4. Sometimes Plan A doesn't work...and that's to be expected.  At some point, your kids may have a mind of their own.  I mean, they are kids, right?  They may not be excited to be dressed up and having their picture taken from the very start.  Or they could be doing really well and then all of the sudden decide that standing up would be waaaaay more fun than sitting down in the grass.  They may pout, cry, hide their face from the camera, get a crazy case of the giggles, or decide that making over-the-top silly faces would be appropriate for photos at that very moment.  There's a saying I love and that has prepared me for every single photography job I've had - "When Plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters in the alphabet."  You and I have already pre-planned some great ideas for the shoot, but sometimes every type of image we hope to capture doesn't happen.  And you know what?  That's perfectly fine with me.  In fact, often times I can turn whatever your child is doing at that moment into a really awesome image.  Some of the best images are taken when kids aren't even smiling or looking my way.  I want to capture those moments, as well as moments where they are smiling and looking at the camera.

5. Sometimes, we just need to take a break.  A couple minutes to allow your kids to remove themselves from "portrait mode" is like a bonus for them.  Breaks are a great way to reward cooperative kids for their hard work.  But if they were not excited about having their portraits taken, then a break can be used by me to press the "reset" button.  I'm hoping after a few minutes of doing what they want to do, they will be likely follow that up with a few minutes of what I want to do.  Breaks are a great way for me to interact with your kids on a very casual basis, get them more comfortable around me, show them how my camera works, and more.  No matter the reason for the break, I will be capturing some great candid shots while they are having fun.  I'll also be observing your kids and taking mental notes of what they really like to do and will most likely try to incorporate it into our next portion of the session.

6. Hair doesn't stay perfect for long.  This is especially true for girls.  There are two things that happen often - breezes and humidity - and both are usually hard on the hair.  Please know that I'm really good with fixing hair to ensure my clients look their best, but I'll tell you what...sometimes hair blowing in the wind looks pretty darn good for a shot I'm trying to get.  Trust that my eye can tell if hair blowing in the wind looks good or if we need to do a quick fix.  If you'd like to bring some hairspray along for a mid-session touch-up, I'm cool with that.  But do know that I'm very hair conscious and will make sure hair never gets out of control to where it would ruin your photos.

7. At some point, your kids might get dirty.  In fact, I usually get dirty, too, if not dirtier than your kids!  I will start the session with shots that will hopefully keep your kids clean.  But by the end of the shoot, we'll be laying in the grass, sitting in the sand or dipping our toes in the water.  While I'd love for your kids to remain spotless from session start to finish, sometimes it just isn't possible.  Please don't stress over a little dirt.  There is this fabulous thing called "editing" that I do to all your final images, and I'm pretty good at getting rid of unwanted dirt spots in photos.  :)

8. I end all my sessions with hugs and high-fives.  Your kids were awesome, and they need a hug or a high-five for all their hard work!  While we're walking to your car, they - and I - don't care about or even remember the 5-minute meltdown that your littlest one had during the middle of the session, but we *do* remember all the fun that we had.  I've already shown your kids a few of my favorite images I've taken of them, and they are excited!  And parents get big hugs, too, because they made it through their session without getting stressed...plus I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity to photograph yet another beautiful family.

So, parents...I hope that you take comfort in knowing ahead of time that I come to every shoot ready for anything!  I always create a very low-key, enjoyable session for you and your kids, and I can always get some great shots.  No need to stress about something that is guaranteed to be fun!

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Jennifer Tacbas is a wedding & portrait photographer and proud owner of Jennifer Leigh Photography. While she is based in the Golden Isles along the Southeast Georgia coastline, Jennifer often travels across the country and abroad to photograph true love. 

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