As we head into the official Christmas we are overwhelmed with the need to update family portraits and to get the obligatory child Christmas photo. Coming from a child photographer of 6+ years I feel the need to share some words of wisdom from not only me as a photographer but from me as a mom.
Not all children are happy to sit and pose for a family session, or even a session of their own. My studio is inside my home, in the very front of my home, so a family and their children only have to walk in my front door. But once inside, I have found that not every child runs to sit on my stool or my chair. My home is new, the sounds and smells are new and I have a room with a great deal of props and colors that can be overwhelming when put together. After introducing them to my studio, they have to meet and talk to me, a stranger. I wish that my camera was not black, as it is a cold and unforgiving color. This big black object, although I love it to no end, is not a fun object for every baby, child or even sometimes a parent.
My last studio session with my children when they were little was a disaster. All three of my children have ADHD and standing still is not their best feature. Needless to say, ten or fifteen minutes into the session everyone was in tears and not one good smile had been captured. We left fighting, screaming and frustrated. That is not what the Christmas season is about, and it’s never a good way to try and capture it.
So I thought maybe I should share some advice or some words of wisdom, not only as your possible photographer, but as a mom that has been in your shoes.
Not all children are outgoing
If your child is shy or slow to warm up to strangers, give them time and please don’t hide this fact from your photographer. Let them know ahead of time and ask for a few extra minutes to sit down and talk or play with toys before the session starts. A professional photographer should thank you for the heads up, and should be willing to accommodate you and your child the few extra moments. Take along a favorite toy or something that your child enjoys to use as a way to break the ice.
If you as a parent begin to stress or become upset or frustrated, your child will feel it and become even more agitated. Portraits are suppose to be relaxed, happy and show the best of your child at that moment in their life. Children gather much strength from those most important to them and believe it or not, if you act like Christmas portraits are a chore or a burden, your children will act exactly that way in response.
Special need children deserve portraits as well
Almost every child that comes to visit my studio with special needs come after a story from a parent that express concern about how that session will go. I’ve heard one too many times “my child is a special needs child and it’s just too much on us to try to have portraits taken”, and although I understand the concern and worry, I feel that every child deserves to have their portraits taken, for both themselves and for you the parent. Reach out to the top photographers in your area and be open and honest about your child and see if you can reach an arrangement that will help a session happen.
Have fun, after all it’s Christmas
Children have a way of loosening up when they are having fun, and they also have an uncanny way of remember the good times as well as the bad. Laugh, tell jokes, and make good and positive memories. Enjoy watching them drink milk and eat cookies, let your photographer capture them as they are at that exact moment in time, even if that means they are shy, bashful, a little loud or a little hyper. You’ll look back soon enough and miss them being small … and remember that after it all it’s Christmas.