I work with children all the time with or without their parents in the photos. I’ve found that parents, as they head out for their session tell their kids to be good and smile and do what the photographer tells you to do. For many kids that puts too much pressure on them to “perform”. My theory is to make it fun, who wants to sit still and smile! With small children I am able to get the most amazing shots while they are just being themselves. No expectations other than fun fun fun.
Parents are encouraged to bring along some props. Maybe a favorite doll or book. Sometimes we play with bubbles. A favorite dump truck for a little guy at the beach makes for great pics. I like to play with the kids and if they are really shy I encourage them to come over and check out my camera. It’s funny but sometimes that can be the ice breaker we need. When I’m photographing kids I make a total idiot of myself. I make funny noises, I sing songs (I’m really bad but they don’t care), I make fish faces, I play peek-a-boo behind the camera. After all that playing and getting awesome shots of them they will usually cooperate and settle down allowing me to get beautiful photographs of the family.
The most important thing for parents to remember is to relax. It’s all going to turn out great. You just have to trust me. Because when it’s the parents turn to join in a tense irritated face is not going to work so just go with it and have fun fun fun. Kids are the ones that have life the right way around, it’s us adults that ruin it. Let them be kids, let them have fun. I will be ready to capture it when it happens.
Now teenagers is a another thing! Often they think this family portrait thing is “lame”! They too have probably been told to shape up and smile, darn it!
I like to find out what they are interested in and work from that angle. By talking to them and letting them know I am interested in them as people really helps a lot. I will play along take a shot of them dancing on the sand or jumping off the cliff (make that a short short cliff) whatever floats their boat and in that way I gain their trust. Trust is what it is all about with a tween or teen. Sometimes I have to ignore them and work with another family member until they do something that gets me to turn my camera on them and then they are mine as we have made that connection. Sometimes I will have a stubborn one help me out by holding a reflector for me.They usually get interested in what I am doing and then I have them! I never ever want to force someone to pose because it will fail every time. So let’s get out there, have fun and make some magic!