I sat by the adorable Miss Lyra yesterday at our church's stake conference. As she very sweetly shared her books with my daughter Clara, I realized that I still haven't blogged about this photo session we did back in the fall! It was sooo perfect in every way, and I would like to share why I think it went so well, and how you can apply these things in your future photo shoots... (Once again, please don't mind the double watermarks... I was trying new things, and failing with Picasa that day! Sorry.)
First of all, have adorable kids. No, but really... She is so stinkin' adorable it's not even funny.
We had lots of props for Lyra to play dress up and interact with. When your kids have something to think about, other than the crazy lady with the big scary camera in front of them they are so much more relaxed and just themselves! Let your kids bring their favorite toy, even if you don't want it in all the pictures. The beauty of digital is that we can take a few of them with their "prop" and then get some without as well. They feel more comfortable and it's just something to break the ice with.
We would get set up in a "pose," I'd take a few shots, and then I wanted them to interact with each other...
Lyra would give her mommy kisses and whisper in her ear...
They'd make faces at me...
They'd tickle and laugh and play around just as if I wasn't there... Very little of this was prompted by me at all!
Here's the toy that Lyra brought and just had to get a picture with. Whether you (as a mom or dad) actually want to print this picture and hang it up on the wall is up to you, but it sure did make for one happy Lyra during our photo shoot that she got a picture with her dear kitty. (I think it's an adorable picture, by the way!)
They were just walking down the path to our next location and I had Lyra turn around... And bam! Another great and natural shot from the session.
We had some chalk to play with... (And recreate an idea seen all over the internet) ;-)
A family blanket to play on... (I love it when clients bring props that mean something to them)
More tickle fights led to some mommy-daughter adorableness...
Lyra dancing, jumping, playing, and just being happy because she isn't being restrained or threatened into "posing" for the camera. Her mom even turned on some tunes on her phone for her to dance around to.
And of course we had to get one of just Becky. Because she is just so beautiful!
And the puppy, who behaved so well for us even being tied up most of the time...
And there you have it. A fun, lifestyle photography session. Kids are happy because they got to have fun and play with props and show off, mom is happy because we got a lot of good pictures to choose from, and photographer is super happy because (all of the above) and it just makes for an all around enjoyable shoot! It totally shows when you're comfortable and natural in pictures. I believe that the less posing and direction I give, the better you will look, so really... just have fun! It should be fun!!!
So to just go over a few pointers and add a few more (and this is from the mom's perspective... Seeing as I am a mom myself and I think moms are the ones to organize the family for photography sessions 99% of the time anyway):
-Let your kids bring something that will make them happy and comfortable (especially if I have never met them before) like a favorite toy or snack. For little ones I love marshmallows because they don't turn your lips blue and they disappear faster than... say... a big 'ol graham cracker in their hand.
-Dress for the weather! I cannot stress this enough. As adults, we can "fake a smile" well enough when we have to, but if your kids are freezing it is really really really hard for them to be happy.
-Bring other props for them to interact with.
-Never threaten with negative consequences, instead go for positive reinforcement (and yes, even bribery!) but be sure they are old enough to understand that the positive consequence (whether it be a sucker you brought with (an awesome prop by the way!) or whatever else comes when we are all done with the shoot.
-This is one I have a hard time "correcting" during a shoot, and I know it is just pure habit to tell your kids to say "cheese" but please please please for your own photographic sake and mine try and break that habit now! Look at yourself in the mirror when you say the long "e" in cheese. Almost any other vowel would give you a lovely smile, but the "cheese" smile is just not the most flattering. It's a hard one to break in kids (and parents!) Instead of outright asking for a smile, try a joke you know they will laugh at, or with littler ones a good game of peek-a-boo behind my back can often bring out some great natural smiles.
-Prepare your husbands. Grumpy dads give the kids an excuse to be grumpy too. Yes dad, you will get to be in more than one picture, and yes dad, you do have to wear that outfit that your wife picked out, and yes dad, the shoot may last as long as an hour and a half (the horror!) but your cooperation is so key to the success of a family photo shoot! To all the dads out there... You are awesome. Thank you for understanding! ;-)
-I will put you in some more formal poses, but then I love to see interaction! I may just give you a prompt and go with it. I may ask you to do something again because it was really cute. Don't feel like you always have to be looking at the camera and holding a smile. You don't always have to hold still. Don't be afraid to just be you!
-Along with the threatening, please don't make me out to be a bad guy. Saying things like, "do this or Alea is going to be mad at you!" only make kids more scared of an already big scary camera in their face. I promise I am nice and sometimes rather goofy and I am not mad if things don't go perfectly. Trust me, I have kids. I totally understand if it's an off day. I understand spit-up and blow-outs and tantrums and being scared... If things are really just not working out we can reschedule. Really.
Thank you Becky and Lyra for doing this shoot with me.
They were a great example of exactly how much fun a photo shoot should be!
I just love the natural lifestyle genre portraits and I hope for my sessions in the future to lean more and more towards this style.