ten things to know about portraits or headshots for your child

When you’ve hired a professional photographer to take photos of your little one, there are a few things you can do to make sure your child is well-prepared for the experience.

As any parent already knows, sometimes it can be really difficult to get your child (or children) to stay still long enough to pose for one picture, let alone dozens. If you follow a few simple rules though, you’ll have happier child, better pictures and plenty of them!

1: LOTS OF REST. For children under the age of 6, one of the most important things to do is to make sure they’ve had a nap before the photo-shoot. Even if they don’t normally sleep during the day, in this case, make an exception. A tired kid is usually an impatient and cranky kid. Difficult enough for a parent to deal with; nearly impossible for a photographer to manage.

2: A FULL TUMMY. Feed your child first and have food ready in case they need a snack during the photo-shoot. For kids of any age (and lots of adults too), a full stomach makes a lot of difference to improving a mood and improving the ability to focus for more than a minute or two.

3: NO JUNK FOOD. Don’t give your kid food or drinks that are proven hyper-energy boosters. No sugar and no caffeine before or during the shoot! This means no pop, nothing with ketchup, no sugary cereals, no cookies and so on. Hyper kids are even more difficult to photograph than tired or cranky kids.

4: EXPLANATIONS: Be sure to explain clearly to your child about the photo-shoot before you even meet up with your photographer. Tell them the photographer’s name; explain what will be happening and why the pictures are being taken. Very important to explain, is that they need to listen to what the photographer is asking them to do. (Such as how to pose, or to look at the camera or to hold still, etc.)

5: STAY WITH YOUR CHILD. Never, never leave your child unattended with a photographer, unless it’s someone you already know and trust. Other than the obvious safety reasons, it’s just common sense that a child in a strange or new situation should be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian.

6: OBSERVE QUIETLY. During the shoot, unless the photographer  asks you to, try not to direct your child too much. Although it’s instinctive that you’ll want to, it really is best to let the photographer be in the one in charge of the situation as much as possible. Assuming you’ve hired someone with experience photographing children, you should be able to relax and trust that they know what they’re doing. That includes how to direct your child for the best possible results.

7: DON’T RUSH. Before your shoot, be sure to take a few minutes to let your child get comfortable being around the photographer before the camera comes out. Again, an experienced child photographer knows it’s important to establish a rapport with the little ones before starting the photo-session. Even ten minutes of your photographer talking to the child – or with very young children, just getting them used to the sound of a new voice – will make a big difference in the quality and tone of your child’s session.

8: TAKE SOME BREAKS. Be sure to give your child a few breaks during the session. Bring a few of their favourite small toys with you. If you’ve booked more than half an hour (most sessions are 60 to 90 minutes at least), then take them for a 5 minute walk halfway through. If you’re somewhere outdoors, let them run and play for a few minutes. If you’re in your home, let them play in their room or in your yard for a short while. A good child photographer not only won’t mind, they’ll encourage you to do this. Again, a happy child is much easier to take pictures of than an unhappy one.

9: MAKE TIME FOR THE WASHROOM: A simple thing but sometimes an overlooked one, is to be sure your child has gone to the washroom right before the shoot. And if they haven’t, then be sure to take at least one washroom break, even if your child doesn’t ask for one during your session. Many children are too shy to ask to go to the bathroom if they’re around a stranger or in a strange situation.

If your child is still in diapers, make sure they’re clean and dry at all times during the shoot. If they need a diaper change, don’t hesitate to take the time. Child photographers know to expect this, so don’t worry about taking the time to do it.

10: BE OPEN TO CHANGE: If, despite all your best efforts, your child is in no mood for a photo-shoot and is fussy, or crying non-stop or just won’t be still or calm, don’t try to force the situation. Reschedule. Your photographer will still need to be compensated for their time, even if they can’t take the photos you hired them for. The sooner you decide it’s better to reschedule, the less time you’ll need to pay the photographer for being in a situation where they’re unable to do their job.

Although it might end up costing you a bit more than you’d bargained for, if the photos of your child are important to you, rescheduling with the same photographer will be worth it.

Tamea Burd is an eco-friendly photographer based in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in portraits, headshots and wedding photography. Her website: Tamea Burd Photography

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