Why Children Thrive in Longer Session Times

"We don't really need a full hour, there's no way my kids will last that long for a session..."

The short answer is yes, they will. But allow me elaborate. 

This is a fairly regular comment I hear from parents when scheduling their portrait shoot. After all, past photography experiences at the local mall studio or random holiday mini-session are scheduled between 5-20 minute sessions. By the end of such a session, parents are likely exhausted from making funny faces behind the camera, scolding Johnny for trying to push his brother off the sleigh prop, and begging little ones to sit still and please for the love of God just smile nicely...

No wonder people fear the photo session. 

But trust me: a Firefly shoot is much different.

Benefit 1: Built in Time for Adjustment

A one hour session time doesn't mean I'll be shooting for an entire hour. In order to get natural shots, we build in time for kids to get to know me and trust me - I'm a stranger after all. I want them to feel comfortable and want to be there. I position myself as a playmate, which grants less pressure to perform and more opportunity to capture real personality. 

In general, the first 15-20 minutes of every shoot are more warm up than anything. The chances of getting a variety of heart-melting images in that time are very slim because everyone is still adjusting. Even I'm adjusting - I need a chance to see how kids behave in front of the camera, too.

  • Do they like to be tickled or hate it?
  • Are they clinging to dad more than mom right now?
  • Do they like to play games?
  • Are they more shy or outgoing?

All of these questions take time to unfold but they help me make decisions about how I can ensure that everyone is having fun -- because ultimately, having fun translates to beautiful, natural images. 

Benefit 2: Time for Energy Breaks

That hour also consists of taking short breaks throughout our time. When given a chance to relax, explore, walk around, do some jumping jacks, whatever it takes every 10-15 minutes, kids are much more likely to listen to direction and participate in the shoot with enthusiasm. Breaks reduce the risk of meltdowns and acting out, just like in school.

When kids feel rushed or pressured, they often display that nervousness which can end in tears, anger, or just plain wild energy. A relaxed timeline takes the pressure off, allowing and encouraging them to just be kids. 

Benefit 3: Utilize a full location

In short sessions, you're mostly confined to one small patch, backdrop, or area of a location because there's no time to go walking around. In a longer session, however, we're able to explore a location to a greater extent. This is considered a "break" too, as we reestablish a new environment for the kids. Not only will it keep them engaged, but it will add variety to your gallery and opportunity for more creative shots. 

Benefit 4: Breakdowns

When you have more flexibility with your time, we're able to build in the opportunity to shoot breakdowns. We'll photograph mom with the kids, mom with individual kids, and vise versa without the kids (when was the last time that happened!?), just the kids together, individuals of each kid... you get the picture.

You can't squeeze all that into 15 minutes, and even if you try, it won't probably won't happen well. 

Moral of the story

Don't be afraid of a long session time! The thing to remember is that when you've hired a professional and like the work you've seen from that person, you can trust that the methods in place must work. So just get excited about the fact that with a Firefly session, you get to spend an hour having fun as a family, without any electronics or distractions, and you'll have awesome images at the end of it to cherish for generations.