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So you've got the date saved, the outfits all coordinated and even scheduled a hair cut for the hubs. Now you're just hoping that when your family photography sessions begins that your precious (and rambunctious) kiddos will just behave long enough to get a handful of decent images. You love your children and all the personality that comes with them, but you can't help but worry that their true selves (and true smiles) won't be reflected in your gallery.
Hey, sister...I hear you and I've been there. Grab a cup of coffee, take a breath, and let me help you out. Contrary to what the title suggests, most of my tips have more to do with you than your kids. (Great news, right!? You're in control of you!)
Tip #1 - Tell your children what will happen at the session. The day before is great. Kids don't typically have great short-term memory unless it's related to ice cream. Tell them who they will be meeting and where they will be going. (Ex: "Tomorrow we're going to take some family pictures with Jamie at the park. She can't wait to meet you!") You could pull up your photographer's website and let them see a picture of the person behind the camera and some images from other sessions. You could also bring out photographs from previous family sessions to help them understand.
Tip #2 - Allow time for everyone to get acquainted. Arriving to a new place in their best clothes makes kids excited, and sometime apprehensive. Whether they arrive with enthusiasm and smiles or hiding behind your legs - they need time to adjust before stepping in front of the camera. Let them have 5 minutes to show off new shoes, explore the new landscape and get comfortable. If they have this time, I promise it will make the rest of the session so much easier.
Tip #3 - Stay positive. I can't stress this enough. As much as we would love to become puppeteers and control their every move - it's just not reality. No matter how they are feeling or behaving, kids will always respond better to gentleness and positivity. Keep from shouting instructions or threatening punishments. This stresses them out and they don't have the coping skills that you do.
Tip #4 - Let there be one voice. As a parent, you are used to being the voice of authority and instruction 24/7. I also know that it is every parents intention to be helpful. My advice is to allow my voice to be the one they hear instructing them. Kids can very quickly feel overwhelmed when several people are guiding them at the same time. When the session begins, take some time introducing me to them and letting them know that I will be helping them know what to do. This way they expect my help and know they have your permission to listen.
Tip #5 - Share any specific behaviors, disabilities or difficulties your child may have. I know that these things are very personal and you want your child protected (especially from judgement and misunderstanding). If your child has ADHD, Sensory Disorders, physical or mental handicaps, or may be negatively triggered by certain words and touch - it is very helpful to know this in advance.
You have my promise to keep this information confidential and to be sensitive to your family's needs. I want to make sure that your child feels comfortable and doesn't have to overhear you discussing their personal struggles when everyone arrives.
Tip #6 - Let them have some freedom. This is where we work together the most. It doesn't take long for kiddos to become exhausted with posing (even though there isn't much posing involved). If they get distracted or become unwilling to participate - don't get upset. Allow them to wander a bit (not too far) and feel a little control for a moment. I usually use this time to get candid images and play along to let them know this is a fun time. After a few minutes, both you and I can work together to redirect attention back to the next part of the session.
More than anything else, I want you to know - you're children are AMAZING! As a mother, my strongest desire when introducing my children to new people is that they would see them and love them like I do. I want you to know that I think you're kiddos are awesome and all the silly, sassy, bashful and curious parts of their personalities are as well.
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Hi! I am Jamie Smith, owner of Oak Tree Photography in Southern Oklahoma.