Yep, your read that right. You will never here the phrases "smile big!" or "give me your biggest smile!" or "smile for the camera!" or ANY variation of that request.
In fact, "Say cheese" is on my top 10 list of phrases that make me cringe.
(Right up there with "there's no more cereal" or "I've never seen Parks and Recreation").
But here's the thing. Those phrases are engrained in us - it's like whenever we see a camera emerge, these words just blurt our of our mouths.
And they NEVER. WORK.
Seriously, when was the last time you forced your children to stand still and "say cheese," resulting in a lovely photo that make your heart swell because of how sweet and natural it captured them?
So here's what I will do.
I will talk to them like humans.
I will ask them about their day, their interests, their favorite subject in school or what they were for Halloween. I'll sing songs from Frozen at the top of my lungs and spin in circles. I'll take them on an adventure, capturing the wonder in their eyes as they pick blueberries or sword fight with sticks.
I'll let them to run, play, jump, and wiggle. I'll laugh at their jokes and let them tickle me. We'll play hide and seek and peek-a-boo.
I'll encourage them to show love. To snuggle, give butterfly kisses, hold hands. I'll always advocate for a good tickle fight or staring contest with siblings, and I'm a huge fan of sneak attack hugs.
And if someone falls or needs a break, I'll capture the gentle hug of comfort or whispered secret. Sometimes it's just laying together on a blanket and looking up at shapes in the clouds.
I do it because I want them to trust me. I want them to have fun.
Because when they're comfortable and having fun, I get to see their true personality.
And when I can see their true personality, I can capture it.
And when I can capture it, you can savor it, share it, and remember it.
And one day, they will too.
Children have so much to share, so much about them that is unique and wonderful. It's just a shame to make them bottle that up for the sake of "perfection."
What IS that anyways? "Perfection?"
I say perfection is being yourself.
And I want the children in front of my camera to feel like when they are being themselves, it's worth capturing.
That we LOVE to see that side of them, not squash it. I want them to feel and know that they are beautiful and valued just the way they are, instead of how they "should" be according to some undisclosed standard.
With guard down and quirks in full display. From silly to shy, grumpy to goofy.
It's childhood in all it's emotional roller-coaster glory -- isn't that why you want photos to begin with? To capture all that wonderful wildness of life in this season?
So let's try this a new way. Do you trust me? No cheese allowed, okay? Now we're on to something real.