Remember a few months back when I shared a picture from Miss C’s photo shoot in Memphis? Today I’m handing over the reins to the lady who made that happen – my friend Melissa! You’re in for a treat. Enjoy! -Emily
Hello to all of Emily’s wonderful readers! I feel like I know so many of you from the comments section, so I know that a lot of you have kids. Emily asked me to guest-blog today about the kid-related topic nearest and dearest to my heart: the family photo shoot. Whether those words give you post-traumatic flashbacks or make you say “aww,” it’s hard to discount the power of a great snapshot of the happy moments in your life. I’ve been photographing families for almost four years now, and I’ve picked up a few tricks for ensuring that I never take a shot that ends up on Awkward Family Photos.
My own earliest photo shoot memories are of my mom desperately begging my brother to sit still for a “decent” Christmas card photo, because everyone else in the park was staring. As her desperation grew, his incentive to act like a wild hyena only increased. Year after year this happened until I finally stopped agreeing to participate.*
* He was 19 at the time, and I was in grad school. At that late age, we probably both shouldn’t have been acting out.
So where did we go wrong? Photo shoots are about energy—everyone feeds off each other. So if Mom and Dad are worried that the kids are misbehaving, that they’re embarrassing themselves in front of the nice photographer, or that they’re not making the “good” cheese face, the kids are going to get grumpier and grumpier. There are many expressions that lead to fantastic, moving photos, but “stonefaced death glare” is rarely one of them. Which brings us to…
The Number One Rule of Surviving Photography with Kids
Unless it’s a safety issue, there are no rules.
Photo shoots are pretty much a discipline-free zone, unless someone is contemplating doing something like hurling rocks at their little sister’s head. Don’t worry about the kids getting out of control and running amok—that’s often when they make the expressions that are most “them.” Kids can blow bubbles in my face, chase me from here to kingdom come, pull my hair, spray me with a water fountain, or tell me to lie in a pool of mud. My motto: “If I don’t come home filthy, I didn’t work hard enough!” On a related note:
It Is Okay if Your Kid Pees on Me. Really.*
If your heart is set on the classic naked-baby pose, some pee (or its smellier cousin) is probably going to make an appearance, and it’s probably going to get on either my hands or some of my blankets. This is not a big deal. I was going to wash them anyway.
* Preferably, we’re talking infants on this one and not 9-year-olds. If a 9-year-old is making like a Calvin decal during the photo shoot, we’ve really gone off the rails.
Drive Them to Distraction
As anyone who’s ever watched the proverbial birdie knows, distraction is key. Ideally, a family is so busy interacting with me, and with each other, that they forget all about that bulky contraption in my hand. Especially if you have very young kids, it’s good to come armed with some favorite toys so I can catch their wandering eyes. Horrible singing also is generally good for a laugh. My best weapon to date, though, has been the chase scene. I have yet to meet a kid who was unwilling to chase me for 10 solid minutes, and who didn’t loosen up and laugh while doing so.
Yes, You Have to Be in Some Photos.
I think this is one of the most important things I can convey, and if I know my subjects well enough, I will push them around about it. iPhone cameras are fantastic for capturing everyday life, but my guess is that you’re in about 1% of those photos. Your hard work, your overwhelming love, your joy at being a parent…that’s something that deserves to be preserved.
The older I get, the more I realize how fleeting life is (not to mention youthful skin!). I know you’re tired, you’ve been doing 3 a.m. feedings for what seems like forever, and you feel like you’ve seen better days. I can’t guarantee that on the day of your photo shoot, you’ll look the best you ever have in your life, but I can promise you a couple of things: you will never be any younger than you are today, and you will look back on this time with your children as something so precious. Take photos with your kids. If only so they can look back on them in 20 years and ask, “OK, Mom, WHAT are you wearing?!”
Melissa’s Bio: Melissa is based in Memphis, Tennessee. You can follow her photos at www.melissamcmasters.com.
Emily’s Bio of Melissa: Melissa is awesomesauce. She’s as good (if not better) a friend as she is a photographer, and that’s saying something. Love you, Friend.