How to prepare your child for children’s portraits
Every year moms (and dads) sign up for the annual family photos. The family photos and the mini sessions are a tradition of updating the family photo. These sessions don’t always go well and I’m sure you can easily envision the screaming children and miserable spouse. But, there are some things you can do to help your session go smoothly. Before you session please read my post on Covid safety here.
Before Your Session
Before your session I strongly encourage you to make sure your children are at their best. Here are some things you can do to help ensure you have the best session possible.
Well rested kids
Sleep is extremely important for most children. It makes the difference between a cheerful or a miserable child. The night before your session I strongly recommend you follow your regular sleep routine and make sure your child is in bed with plenty of time for a full night’s sleep. It’s not a great idea to try new sleeping arrangements or to stay up late before your session. If your child will nap before your session make sure they get their full nap. This is the time to prioritize sleep into your plan.
Well fed kids
Hunger is the second most important thing for children and hungry kids (and spouses) are grumpy. Please have a full meal before you leave the house. It’s also a good idea to pack fast, snacks that aren’t messy, in case hunger creeps up you right before or during your session. Don’t bring sticky foods that take a long time to eat or which will stain your child’s face. Good snacks are cheese strings or mini naans, protein bars. A poor choice to pack would be staining candy, sticky chocolate chips and lollipops.
Give yourself time
Make sure you give yourself time to arrive a few minutes early for your session. My studio is located inside my home and I am unable to accept clients who arrive early. Mini sessions are done in time slots with cleaning time between sessions so sessions must finish on time and can not run late. Arriving late for your session will mean you do not have the full time slot for your images. Running late also leads to parents being stressed which is not the mood you want to be in while being photographed.
The topic of using incentives can be controversial and without diving into parenting philosophies I will simply give my perspective but ultimately leave the philosophical choice to you.
Sometimes children do not want to participate in photography sessions and for a typical shoot there is usually time to warm up to their photographer and get comfortable. For mini sessions you are running on a tight schedule and this does not leave a very long time for your child to become used to the setting.
For this reason I encourage the use of incentives to help coax an uncooperative child into the photos. The type of incentive will depend on the child, some children LOVE sweet treats, some younger children get excited about baby puffs, older children often love a dollar store toy or tablet time.
In my studio I have a treat drawer filled with small toys that the children can pick from. I also have a selection of colouring books, stickers and candy that are given to the children after their photo session.
Eye Contact and smiles
During your session your photographer will be working to get great eye contact with your child. I will be talking to and engaging with your children to encourage them to look to the camera. Many parents may feel that calling to their child will help but in most cases they causes the child to turn and look at the parent and not the camera. Try to let your photographer engage and they will let you know if they need help.
Smiles are always a priority and I know that you want that adorable photo of your child smiling at the camera. I do everything I can to encourage a smile but in rare cases a child will not smile for their photos.
A soft approach
During your photos you may feel frustrated and tempted to take a strict approach to managing your child’s behaviour. My suggestion is to start with a soft approach. Remember they are in a strange place and they are unsure of what is happening. Often the children I meet have just had their entire world turned upside down by the addition of a new sibling. I have seen many many children before and I’m aware of how children can act in new situations. Let me try to connect with your child and ease them into it before you taking a firm approach. Take a step back and see how it goes, I will let you know if they need your help.
Manage your expectations
Finally I always remind parents to manage their expectations. Children are independent and do not always behave how we wish they would. It’s important to remember that they may not smile for photos and there could be some moments of emotional expression. It’s ok! We are capturing who they are right now and it could be that right now they are 2 and not interested in photos.
For information on mommy and me mini session follow this link