As a family photographer I’ve learned that every kid is different, but all parents are the same. Okay, that’s not really true, but sometimes it feels like it. Whenever I do a consult for a family with young kids I hear the same worries surfacing… “I’m not sure he’ll sit still for you”, “I hope she’ll cooperate”, “We’re hoping to catch him on a good day”. Well, I have two small kids and we both know you’re fooling yourself. Good days do happen, but these are usually gifts bestowed on us when we have nothing to do and nowhere to go. We all know that the days we have something planned – a party, a special outing, a photography session – are the days when our children wake an hour early and skip their nap for the first time in weeks. It’s just how the world works.
And that’s okay! Your child probably won’t cooperate in the way you’re dreaming of, but they will collaborate. Or rather, they’ll force me to collaborate. And I’m 100% on board with that. I always start a session with a rough idea of what we’ll be doing and where we’ll be shooting based on my consultation with the family, the light, etc. Sometimes we roughly follow that plan from beginning to end and sometimes, more often than not, a pint-sized creative director takes over. Of course, they don’t run the whole show, but a strong-willed child (or a shy one, or one that won’t stop moving) will certainly change our charted course. We may have to move on to plan B or C or scrap the word “plan” altogether. And you know what? Those shoots are my favorite. I always end up shooting in ways I wouldn’t have come up with on my own and without fail those images are my favorite from the shoot.
Here are a few images – with a little behind the scenes info – from 2 recent sessions with kids in the 2-3 year old range.
This one was from the very beginning of the outdoor portion of our session. This little girl just wasn’t sure what was going on or whether she was up for it or not. Instead of trying to get her to smile or engage I decided to make a portrait of her just as she was. This ended up being one of her parents’ favorite shots because it’s a face she makes all the time.
This one was taken minutes after some tears. I don’t remember what I had planned for that segment of the session, but Dad throwing her in the air was what cheered her up, so guess what we did?
This image is from one of my favorite series. I probably wouldn’t have thought to put a 2 year old in her crib, but she was happily jumping on a bed in a room with very little light, so we moved the party into her very well-lit room. See what I mean? Free creative director!
One of my favorite images from this shoot. You know what she’s standing on? A pile of all the clothes that she refused to put on.
This is from the same session (after we jumped the clothing hurdle). I call it “no, I DON’T want to sit on the couch with my family. Thanks for asking”. We rolled with it and this is her mother’s favorite because it’s one of the few images she has of her daughter being still and calm.
This is probably the one that got sent to Grandma and Grandpa. It’s adorable, but I think I like the two unplanned images a little better.
So, no, your child will probably not cooperate for every moment of your session, but your images will be better for it.