Sometimes I forget how stressed out parents can get before and during a portrait session with their children. A parent myself of young kids, it shouldn't surprise me, because after all, whenever I want or need my children to peform on command, it rarely goes as anticipated. And that stresses me out.
What does surprise me is that a) parents often delay booking a portrait session to avoid this stress, and b) when we are done photographing a young family they often smile and say "That wasn't so bad!".
Since we are in the height of fall and holiday portrait season, here are some tips to get your chldren to behave for professional portraits.
1. Accept the fact that they will do as they please, and the more you cajole them to be model citizens, the less likely they are to be one.
2. Know we've seen it all. I guarantee you that your children will do just fine, and it comes with the territory. If they were all easy peasy, what fun would that be? Besides, the kids who often give us the most challenges, often have the best results. There isn't a challenge I enjoy more than chasing a cranky toddler around with a load of gear around my neck. Truly! Well, that might not be EXACTLY true, but as I said, it comes with the territory.
3. Realize that if you push too hard, you can actually make it worse. Kids love to stress their parents out, so please let us deal with it. We have our ways.
4. One of the most stressful aspects of a family portrait session with young children is when the child becomes overloaded because 5 or more people are giving him directions at the same time. We know you are anxious to have them be good and know you want great pictures. However, think about a morning when everyone in your house is clamoring for your attention and calling out for you to do something for them at the same time and how crazy that makes you feel. That's exactly how your child feels when everyone is shouting "Smile!" "Sit down!" "Stand up!" "Don't do that!"
5. It's okay to step away. We often ask parents to walk away, go stand around the corner, or in desperate times, go sit in the car if need be (we never ask them to go where they cannot see their child with us). It's amazing how true "out of sight out of mind" can really be for kids of lots of different ages.
6. Bring refreshments to tide them over, but no fruit snacks or chewy things that will get stuck in their teeth, please!
7. Take a deep breath, relax and smile. After all, that's what you're here for.