Oh, welcome to our world! Parents are always worried that their kids are going to cause trouble during the Seattle family photo shoot. They're nervous that they'll cry or scream or refuse to look at the camera. We deal with tantrums and moods everyday at the Happy Film Company and we don't bat an eyelash. Here is our philosophy on photographing kids; how we help them stay happy and how we work around the tears.
- "Say Cheese" Doesn't Always Work: Instead of forcing kids to smile, we believe it works best to entertain kids so they have a genuine reason to be happy. We sing, dance, play with toys, search for cool things in the surrounding environment. If they don't want to smile, we focus on something else that will hopefully make them smile naturally. After working with hundreds of families we've learned letting kids run a little wild during photo shoots leads to a much happier experience for everyone.
- We Make Friends With Your Kids: We're not just photographing your kids, we're actually playing with them. We want them to feel acknowledged and listened to. When they feel that, we always get better pictures. We'll run around and be silly and play games and make sounds - whatever your kids find fun. Once we break down this wall and they realize that we're just here to play, kids sometimes even start playing with the camera and giving us silly poses.
- We Hide the Camera: When kids start freakin' out, we put the camera away for a moment. We remove the camera (usually because it's scary and unfamiliar) so we have a chance to meet your kids face-to-face, to interact and explore together. We search for interesting things in our surroundings - cool rocks, birds, flowers...whatever we can find that turns attention away from the camera. We bring out things that are familiar and comforting like favorite toys and blankets. When the kids start to relax and trust us, then the camera sneaks its way back up to our eyes. We do this as subtly as possible so kids never feel like they loose connection with us and we'll hide it again quickly if the tears start to return.
- We Give Them Space: Sometimes the camera is just over-stimulating. So when possible we give the upset kiddos their space. We'll take pictures of just mom and dad or other siblings so they crying kids can play on their own for a bit and calm down. It's all about respect and never forcing them to engage or be happy. If kids are feeling overwhelmed with us as strangers, then we'll have the family hold hands and take a little walk away from the camera or cuddle on a bench. We'll remove ourselves from the situation so they can have a cool-down moment. When we walk away we use this as an opportunity to take some pictures from far-back and show off the pretty scenery (and the family looks tiny and cute in the bottom of the photo).
- We Let the Kids Lead the Way: This is one of my favorite techniques for helping kids enjoy photo shoots. I ask them for suggestions. I ask things like..."How should mommy & daddy pose? Should mommy & daddy kiss? Would that be silly? Would that be gross? Yucky!!" At first they hesitate but usually they relax and start giggling or shouting out instructions to their parents. I also let kids come behind the camera with me and take pictures. I'll let them look through the view finder and press the shutter button. I ask them if they think it's a good picture or what we should do to make it better. This is a great way to help kids trust the camera and be more comfortable in front of it.
- We Capture the In Between Moments: Even crying babies have to stop for a breath or two. We take pictures so quickly that we can capture the millisecond in-between two big screams when your baby takes a breath and it ends up looking like a little smile. I tell parents this ALL THE TIME - as parents, all you saw was a temper tantrum, but as a photographer, I saw a million little moments of calm in between all the screams...and I caught them all. Parents are always amazed when they see how many pictures look totally tear-free! Woohoo!
- We Embrace Reality: When all else fails and we have nothing but tears for THE ENTIRE shoot (which rarely happens), we believe it's our job as adults to put on our positive thinking hats and embrace the emotion. Some of our regular clients are amazing at this. We'll hear them say things like "Oh baby, let it all out. We feel your pain. Life is tough, huh? We're gonna remember this day forever with some special screaming pictures because this was how you felt today, right? This is a part of who you are these days - a little bit moody. That's ok. You're cute when you scream..." hehe
Here are a few words from the Weaver family about their experience with Owen crying during their photo shoot:
"I can't tell you how much I love these pictures!! With Owen and I being sick for the photo shoot, I was so worried about how the pictures were going to turn out. He was so fussy and I with my coughing fits. I thought, "oh no, this is so sad that he's going to be crying in a good amount of the photos," but it turns out they are absolutely amazing!! As I anxiously looked through the sideshow, I couldn't help but laugh and think to myself he's so cute with his sad little face!! I love that these are real life! This is our true family. And you amazingly got some great shots where he wasn't crying. Thank you for working with us through the cranky tantrums, tears, and snot. Both experiences with you have been awesome!!" - Holly Weaver
Check out our last blog post: How To Take Family Photos that Aren't Super Boring