A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing our good friends T. and D. and their son, J. We had scheduled the session for a particularly exciting reason – T. and D. are working on their adoption profile. For those who aren’t familiar, an adoption profile is a pamphlet that prospective adoptive parents create to introduce themselves to expectant parents considering adoption. So… no pressure, right? Luckily this was the second time I’d done profile images for T. and D. and I’ve learned a few things about adoption profile photography along the way. I thought I might share some of what I’ve learned for anyone out there navigating the process of adoption.
T. and D. have enlisted the help of Joanna Ivey, of Our Chosen Child, to design their profile. Joanna has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and was kind enough to help me flesh out this post with some of her own tips for creating effective profile images.
Joanna points out that the images in a couple’s profile can have a huge impact. Prospective birth parents often have a large stack of profiles to sift through and they’re more likely to actually read the profiles with images that pull them in.
So, how do you get high-impact photographs for your adoption profile?
1. Use a high-quality image.
Photographs that are grainy, poorly exposed or out of focus won’t grab a reader’s attention. If you’re submitting an older photograph, make sure you have a high-resolution scan or the original high-res file. Grabbing something off of Facebook won’t work.
2. Make sure the images are welcoming.
As Joanna puts it “capture fun, happy moments and your photos will dance off the page. Too many staged photos with family members standing shoulder to shoulder and people will begin to skim”. If you’re using a professional photographer make sure their style works with the tone you’re trying to achieve.
3. Keep the background clean.
Joanna recommends that for your cover image you keep the background neutral. Think the beach or park.
4. Tell your story.
The adoption agency that T. and D. are working with requires a more traditional profile, so I made more traditional portraits for the front and back covers. However, more and more agencies ask for what Joanna calls a “lifestyle profile”. These profiles have many more images (usually between 8 and 10) and feature the couple or family in different settings (at home, in their community, working on hobbies, etc.). Joanna recommends starting to gather these images as soon as you begin your adoption journey. Carry a camera with you and ask friends and family to record you in your everyday life. If this is daunting or if you are creating your profile and haven’t yet gathered these photos you can always arrange for a custom session with your photographer. Choose a photographer who specializes in lifestyle or documentary portrait work and ask them to plan a session that includes wardrobe changes and a variety of settings. T. and D. wanted a shot of them riding the miniature train, because it’s something their son loves to do. For this shot we did a partial wardrobe change, which helped to lend some variety to their final profile images.
5. Try to relax.
Relaxing in front of the camera can be a challenge in any situation, but when you’re creating images for a potential birthparent the stakes can feel pretty high. As D. told me during our consultation “The truth is there’s a lot of anxiety around it: look happy but not creepy, welcoming but not desperate, close but not so close that there’s no room for a new family member. So… it’s hard to not look basically crazy in every picture”. This is where enlisting a professional can help. Uncle Joe may have a great camera, but may not have the experience to help put you at ease and direct the shoot so that you look and feel relaxed in your final images. If possible, choose a photographer who will do a consultation before the shoot. It’s easier to relax around someone you’ve met at least once and talking through the session can help ease anxiety before the shoot.
I hope this is helpful for anyone starting on, or struggling with, their adoption profile. I’ve loved being a part of our friends’ adoption journey. And just think… next time I photograph them this guy might be a big brother!