If you're nervous about your photoshoot, that's understandable -- I won't sugar coat it. You've invested your money into a luxury service and you don't really know what to expect. Moods, weather, the hair color your stylist decides to try out on you... it's all unpredictable. I get it.
My job, however, is to negate that as much as possible by providing suggestions for how to handle the things you can control and leave the rest up to me with confidence. In 2015, I wrote about 5 ways to Sabotage Your Family Session, but I felt like it could use an update. Some of the advice is the same (cough, #2) but I've also gathered a few new suggestions that rose to the top of the list. With that, here's my current list of the worst things you can do during your family photoshoot.
Seriously, avoid them at all costs. I call them the "session-killers." Proceed with caution.
1. Give an ultimatum.
This may work in your discipline tactics at home, but in my experience, it's just a train wreck when it comes to photoshoots. Throw in a "hit your sister again and you're in time-out" -- during a photoshoot and you'll practically witness the crash and burn. Also, really? Are you going to put him in time-out in the middle of the session? Because chances are when he is done, even if the behavior is corrected, he's not going to suddenly bounce back in and be happy. On the contrary.
Keep the energy positive. We're together for an hour and a lot can happen in that time. Kids might push some limits, especially at first, since they're in a new situation with new attention. Be open to they're energy -- heck, meet them there! Let them know it's okay to run and spin and play-- I expect them to. If behavior is an issue, your discipline tactics are a family matter, but during your shoot, just realize that threatening and punishing will never = authentic connection and happy faces.
2. Bring out your phone as a distraction
Again, your decisions and tactics as parents at home are 100% your business and you will find ZERO judgement from this lady, but during this 1 hour session, I BEG YOU, please leave the devises away. Giving a device with result in only 2 scenarios: A. he will not want to give it back when it's time to start shooting again and we'll end up with a very begrudging child, or B. he'll insist on keeping his eyes locked on the screen even while shooting and we have some very lovely eyelids and an iphone in your final images for the wall.
If sibling one needs to do something while baby sister is being photographed alone, encourage other activities that involve movement and attention from YOU. This way, when it's time to get involved again, the transition is seamless and fun.
3. Try to make your kids say 'cheese'
I hate cheese. I mean, not literally-- nachos are the bomb. But the word cheese is a photographer's nightmare. It literally never produces a genuine smile, yet children are somehow conditioned from a young age to strain their mouths like they're either going to the dentist or pooping every time they hear it while facing a camera.
If I'm photographing your kiddo and you want to stand behind me and try to make them giggle, that's great! You're the parents, you know what makes them laugh and they feel comfortable around you. But let's keep it real with tickles and games and snuggles and peek-a-boo... If you like the images I publish, trust that I have my own toolbox for creating the personality-filled portraits you see and there is no cheese involved.
4. Be in a constant rush.
If you're worried about not using our time wisely so in turn, you try to rush through every pause and break in our momentum, you'll actually make the session less effective overall. Kids need time to warm up. Adults do too, for that matter. So trying to jump right in and expect the perfect Norman Rockwell photo is not gonna happen. In fact, it will only heighten the anxiety and make everyone feel nervous-- including toddlers.
Trust that even if you're not hearing my camera click non-stop, those moments of conversation I'm having with your 3 year old are completely valuable in the results we'll achieve. Time to connect with me-- the random lady pointing a camera at your face-- will allow everyone to feel more relaxed. Relaxed moods open doors for real engagement and real engagement opens doors to beautiful, authentic images.
5. Wear something that's not really you.
This goes for dressing yourself and your kids. Wearing clothes that are stiff and formal if you're casual and carefree immediately sets you up for awkwardness. "Dressing up" for photos is old school -- be yourself! A refined version... wearing your superman pajamas and fuzzy socks for your shoot downtown probably won't work either.
Find clothes that are comfortable to move in, that flatter the body, and that boast of coordinating color palette that's not too bold or distracting. Skip the khakis and white tees (do I really have to keep saying this?) - skip the solid crew necks and jeans, and wear what you LOVE.
Bottom line here folks? Let's keep it real, light, and playful. Prep your children with the idea that this is a fun thing you get to do as a family, not a scary expectation of perfection. That's setting you up for not only a good shoot in the present, but positive associations for the future.