How to make your teenager (or “threenager”!) be happy and cooperative during the family photo shoot?
So you have made the decision and booked a family photo shoot with a local photographer?
You are excited, finally you are going to have some lovely pictures together! Some of them are going to be posed, and other more natural in style. You start thinking about where you want to hang the frames to make a stunning centrepiece of your lounge, you plan your photo shoot outfits and then… Facepalm, he is not going to pose! She is not going to smile. Ideally, you would take a picture of you and your husband only and then ask your photographer to somehow photoshop your children into it… Suddenly you feel like a rubbish mum, how the hell they all make their children smiling? Why your friends have them gorgeously framed sugar coated wall art pictures scattered around their places and making you feel envy? Are their children easier than yours?
The final effect depends on a few factors.
The first one is your photographer. You need to make sure they got the right attitude and experience with working with toddlers/teenagers/stubborn and shy people. The more relaxed and friendly they are, the more relaxed the session will be. Check their testimonials and see, what their clients say. You can also admit to your photographer you are worried about your child’s attitude during the shoot. They should have some ideas for you to try before and during the shoot.
When I work with teenagers I am honest with them and explain why it’s important to have few pictures taken. I make a deal like “let’s just take 10 snaps together with your brother so your mum is happy and then we are done, I am going to get more of his own only”. I also found out showing them some of their pictures on the camera helps. Your young lady does not want to have her pictures taken because she doesn’t feel pretty enough! Showing her how good her picture already is (before any edit!) can make her feel way more confident and cooperative. Promise her you are not going to force her to pose anymore while you take daily pictures with your mobile and stick to it.
Another thing which matters is the type of the session:
If you prefer studio style pictures when you have to sit at the front of a professional background, lighten with the strong reflectors it all may be a bit too much for your little one. Children are more outgoing when they are…out! So don’t be afraid to ask about an outdoor session, where your hyper-energetic toddler could run and play in between the shoots. This could be a wonderful theme to your session actually! Having fun with bubbles, balloons, playing with dad or picking the flowers…opportunities are endless.
Another idea is to have a session in your home. The natural environment for your child should help him to be a bit less rebel. Well…usually…
Next thing you have to think about is your own attitude! Sounds weird? I had a lot of stressed mums who would came over for a shoot and start the conversation with “he is naughty, he is not going to smile” etc. and I would never call their children difficult to photograph! It must be our mums-thing to worry in advance as we are afraid to be judged by having a “tantrum of the year” at the front of the photographer. Don’t forget I am a mum too. I got a “tantrum of the year” two times a day… So try to not pass your stress to your child before we even begin the session.
Smaller children can start smiling when we turn the photo shoot into a great fun. Of course this is what I always aim to do. Peek-a-boo games, songs and jokes are my methods and they really work! I admit though I allow parents to use a bit of bribery too. When the session goes well but little model gets tired and we literally need 5 more shoots to take, a biscuit or a promise about watching Paw Patrol afterwards works the trick very well.
With older children, I would not push them too much towards smiling if they don’t want to. And here is another thing for you mum: sometimes you need to adjust your expectations and change that “picture perfect” in your head. You may want your daughters to wear red tartan dresses and plaits, sit together and smile. I get it! But if one of them is over 10 (or under 3!) it may be rather difficult to achieve. And even if you “force” her to smile, her face just won’t look happy anyway.
Again, trust your photographer to do their job. They should make the session relaxed and funny experience, they should be able to make your child smile or to create a beautiful “serious face” portrait. Perhaps the smile is not as essential as you thought?