It was a hot August day in the Derbyshire Dales. A young child greeted me at the door. “Hello! Fancy a cup of tea?” A more usual greeting than I was accustomed to. I grinned, and followed her inside, her fine wisps of strawberry blonde hair bobbing along in the dappled sunlight of the living room.
A shout drifted down the stairs –
“I hope Eden isn’t bothering you. We were ready, but the baby needed changing”
I could hear the stress in her voice – another hassled parent. “Take your time,” came my response as the small child handed me a plastic cup. The moment I heard the mother’s voice I knew that her anxiety about this session was my priority.
How did we tackle it?
Let me guide you through the my approach towards a stress free family photography session.
You want the memories, right? You want the details remembered.
The way you had to roll their jeans at the ankle so they could run without tearing them, the way their hand slipped into yours so easily when they needed a little security, the way their eyes lit up in wide wonder when they felt happy. This stuff matters, and it’s worth investing a little time to figure out how to get these photos, hassle-free.
You don’t want a morning rushing around to get to your session, only to find that your kids are bored and grumpy, and your husband doesn’t want to be there. You don’t want to be Shouty Mum.
You just want a set of photos that you’re actually in (because it’s usually you holding the camera, right?) and that shows how much you love each other, without having to grin and bear it as you contort yourselves into awkward poses.
Let’s look at this from a little kid’s perspective
Imagine you’re three years old. You like going to the park. You’re used to exploring, finding flowers and bugs, seeing who can run the fastest or find the biggest stick. But this walk is different.
And whenever you hide behind your mum, she tries to stop you. Furthermore, you’re cross because you’re on an important stick-hunting mission that’s been stopped in its tracks.
Can you see how this might be a recipe for disaster?
This is a totally normal situation for some kids to find themselves in at the beginning of a session. And it’s ok.
I have little kids of my own, and I’m wise to their antics. I never prise a shy child away from their parents.
Instead I might put my camera away altogether for five minutes, and just talk to them. My Peppa Pig patter is as good as any four year olds, and I’m not averse to singing the Bing Bong song. I’ll explain to them who I am and what I’m there to do. They can look at my camera and maybe take a few shots, and they’re usually pretty chuffed with themselves.
This little boost to their confidence is often enough to get them to trust me.
And if it’s not? I break out the big guns!
Let your kid be a kid – if you don’t expect too much of them you never know what they might show you. Think of all the times you’ve felt aware of someone who’s feeling edgy. You were walking on eggshells around them!
The same is true at your session – if you’re stressed then your kids will be stressed.
I’ve photographed dozens of kids and I learnt this lesson over time. Stay calm. Engage. It’s not for long. Let them do what they want for a little while. Experience had taught me that at any moment this child could change from her lovely, happy, helpful self into something else – every Jekyll has a Hyde, and that’s never more apparent that when you’re with kids.