Tis the season! For mini Christmas shoots…. Having done mini sessions for several years now, there are a few things I have learned. The main idea is, I believe to learn to let it goooo, let it goooo !!!(I have put the song in your head now, haven’t I?!)!
Just make sure you prepare adequately – not too much, not too little- and when you are there, just breathe. Relax. Be fun. Leave your worries behind and just be a child for a minute.
Do not pre work your child too much.
Whether extrovert or introvert there are some pitfalls to over preparing your children for a session. The shy child might grow anxious and get upset even before the session has started. At the other end of the spectrum, the extrovert child will give the photographer a succession of forced smiles that will look well…. Just a little bit on the freaky side. We’re looking for authentic, so just tell them about the shoot in a positive way and of course answer their questions!
Visualise the session and ask all your questions before.
If you, the parent, have some questions about how the mini sessions will run or anything, do not hesitate to contact your photographer (emails are always easier, as your photographer might be on a shoot or just not really available to talk. Everyone has their emails on their mobile phone nowadays). As the mini sessions are quite short, any time spent answering those questions means time that the camera is not in action!
I have notes with me for special requests and making sure things go smoothly but do remind me if you have anything special we have discussed.
Get them dressed at the last (convenient) minute.
Now this is kind of typical, and this is something that I have learned from my own kids really. The later, the better. Obviously, before the photoshoot is scheduled, so you do not waste any precious session time! The ability children have to get messy when they are not supposed to really, really impresses me!
Keep them safe and comfortable.
A kid who is not comfortable is a kid that will struggle during a shoot. So ideally they should be watered and well fed, and don’t forget that potty visit!
You can bring water, tissues for runny noses, maybe toys and comforters. I often start shoots with little ones with their own teddy, and we slowly interest them in what is there rather than just throwing them in front of the camera by themselves.
Children will do funny things such as grimaces, funny poses and this is fine! This makes for funny pictures too. But there are a few things that will be off limit on the day. In particular anything which would potentially injure them – this is the only thing that I am strict about – lighting equipment can fall if you bump into them, there’s cables on the floor too that they can trip on (they will be taped as much as possible) and the background stand is pretty tall and heavy too. And of course there’s my camera equipment.
Most children do not go for those at all, so that’s not a problem. I am just mentioning it so that you keep it in mind in case it comes up!
The rest is just about letting them be kid and trying to get an authentic, lovely photo of them!
Do not tell them to smile, make them smile!
In my experience, if a child is told to smile, there’s maybe a chance out of two that he/she will execute (the other possibility being the child who freezes or cry because he feels inadequate). If the child execute there is then about 99% chance for this smile to be slightly awkward/creepy/cringey/a mix of all of those.
Giving them a row because they are not smiling (yes this occurred to me in real life) is about the worst thing that can happen to a photographer as it is most likely to end up in tears and this is something that is close to impossible to recover from in a real session and definitely impossible in a mini.
So if you ever have a mini shoot done, just use all your patience, even if the clock is ticking! Look up a few jokes before you come, polish your best fish impression or work on your pickaboos, but try to not yell at your kids “cheese” or “smile” – or maybe just in a last resort.
PS for full disclosure my kids say cheese as soon as I point my camera at them, so I am absolutely guilty of this. It was actually one of the first words of my second born!
Stay calm (even if you are anxious!) and smile.
Try to keep your anxiety over their performance for yourself and try to the maximum to smile and make them see that there is nothing to be afraid of. Let them bloom into the beautiful self they are. If mum and dad are relaxed most of the time, the kid will follow.
Support your photographer.
Your photographer has very little time to adjust camera settings, get to know your kids, chat to them, get them to look where they should, keep them happy, snap the right shot. So a lot of the entertainment duty will fall upon you in a mini session.
With children over 3 years of age, I would usually try to chat to them first so I can try to get the child relaxed but the photographer might still need your help – as time is a bit tight in a mini and they might be a bit shy with a stranger.
However, if the child is under 3 years of age, it is likely that in a mini shoot most of the work of making your child look happy naturally will fall upon you for the same reasons.
If you have to assist, think about standing behind the photographer on the side of the light (but not in front of the light so as to make a shadow) so the child’s face stay in the light and not in the shade.
And finally, believe in your child and in the photographer
I think this is the kind of thing where you just have to believe really! With children you have to go with the flow and they are going to give you their real self, and this is going to materialise in the little pixels!:-)
Now I have given you so much info, spoken about so many bad case scenarii that I have managed to stress you out! Just put this info somewhere in the corner of your brain and go make yourself a cup of tea. Or of tequila. Whatever floats your boat! It will be fine, just go with the flow…
See you hopefully soon,