How We Handle: Cranky Kids

There are certain unexpected things that can happen when you’re taking family photos. One such thing is the weather (which we’ve discussed here). Another is cranky kids. We love capturing children while they’re learning who they are and how to interact with the world, but young children can be as unpredictable as the weather. One moment, they’re happy as a clam and the next is pure chaos.

Naturally, we’re all about not being perfect. You don’t have to be in the best mood ever to have a successful family photo shoot. We believe in capturing the full range of your child’s emotions. We also believe that candid photos are some of the best photos out there. They express the memory of the day and how you’re feeling, not just a pretty pose featuring the family in white polo shirts.

So, we are thrilled to say: bring on those cranky kids! Not in a sadistic way, but in a, “Let’s give you a complete representation of your family,” kind of way.

Through the years, we’ve learned what can help calm the storm. If you’re unsure of how your child will react on photo day, here are a few things we do to keep the peace when things get grouchy.

Prepare for Photo Day 

The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed you are. We’ve found the same to be true for your kids. Take some time to do a little prep work for your family so they’re comfortable when we come with your family to take photos.

Here’s a full post on 5 Simple Steps to Have a Great Family Photo Shoot, and we encourage reading the full thing, but the highlights are:

Be well fed and well rested.

If possible, schedule your session after naptime or in the morning after a good night’s rest so everyone is in a happy, excited mood. And for the love of dog, eat something! Having a good meal beforehand that’ll stick with you throughout the shoot will keep everyone’s energy up. It may be helpful to pack some granola bars, just in case. We’ve found this to be a non-negotiable for ourselves, too!

Wear something comfortable.

Make sure that your clothes are easy for you to move in and make you feel relaxed, confident, and comfortable. Be sure your kids are also wearing an outfit they feel good in, too. If they’re wearing something they don’t like, you will be able to see it in their faces.

Schedule an activity that you enjoy doing as a family.

Little kids are creatures of habit (well, to be fair, we all are). If you do something with them that they’re used to doing, they’ll naturally get into the routine of whatever that thing is. They won’t have time to think about Nathan clicking away with a camera, they’ll just run or play or read or whatever they normally do.

Mix Things Up

Like we just mentioned, kids are super-expressive. If they aren’t enjoying an activity, it’ll come across on their faces. When we see this happening, we like to mix things up and offer an alternative activity for them to do. This tends to head off a tantrum before it happens.

Nathan doesn’t “direct” a shoot, but he does suggest different scenes and ways to interact for everyone to warm up. Kids especially take a little warming up, but even adults take time to get into the natural rhythm of the camera.

Just Roll with It

Sometimes the best thing you can do is roll with the punches. Nathan is a master at figuring out what interests kids and how to make them feel comfortable. He’ll do his best to listen and chat along with them, despite having any hope of understanding what’s actually being said.

He’ll also take the time to familiarize them with the camera. Occasionally, he’ll stop and show a kid a photo he just took of them so they start to understand what’s happening (it’s that comfort thing we just talked about!)

If you want to know what it’s like to work with Nathan, Sam wrote this unique perspective!

That said, temper tantrums happen. Kids are unpredictable! When that happens, we’ll continue taking pictures. Cranky, crying faces are hilariously real. We’ve had parents say to us, “Tom looks like me when he’s happy, but he’s a duplicate of his father when he’s upset.” If we stopped the shoot for a fretful face, you wouldn’t be able to remember that duality present in your child.

We’ve found that the more familiar kids are with what we’re doing, the day is happy and goes down without incident. From your end, you can make sure your child is comfortable. From our end, we’ll make sure your kid has fun and is familiar with us before we begin. And when cranky kids happen, it’s okay! That’s life and it isn’t perfect. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Supporting the Community through Photography

We’ve had a busy fall season with event photography. We’ve had the honor to photograph two film festivals, the 2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party, the Pittsburgh Glass Center Art on Fire annual auction, Bridgeway Capital brand photography, and Swissvale Fall Family Mini-Sessions.

While we can’t pick a favorite, and we’ll soon be sharing photos from these events with you, we love working with community-focused organizations. Here are a few of our fall community events.

2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party

We recently had the opportunity to sponsor the 2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party. This is a fundraiser for Nine Mile Run Wastershed Association. Over 100 cyclists rode through the East End, touring the sites where the NMRWA has done work to aid in cleaning and maintaining the watershed. The cyclists and spectators were able to learn about the work that NMRWA does throughout the community. It’s incredible to see the impact this group has had in our region!

We jumped at the chance to photograph this event because we hold Frick Park near and dear to our hearts. Jeanie and Porter love the dog park. Without NMRWA, the park would not be anything like you see today. Thanks to NMRWA, this is a safe space for both dogs and humans to play. We’re thrilled to be able to support this fantastic organization and know that we’re helping our community continue to flourish.

You can see our event recap here on the blog.

Bridgeway Capital

Bridgeway Capital works with startup entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profits to pursue growth opportunities. Their network of investors and partners sparks Western Pennsylvania commercial and non-profit entities, allowing them to grow more than they would have on their own.

We had the great pleasure of once again taking environmental portraits of their clients. Environmental portraits accomplish a few things. You can see these budding entrepreneurs in action, working in their actual business environment to tell a story of their passions and business. It also shows them in their real-life surroundings to see how they interact with others in their business. It’s a great way to showcase someone’s personality and unique business culture.

We love knowing that we’re supporting small businesses in a meaningful way. The photos we took are able to be used on their website, social media marketing, and business material collateral. It allows their business to present a professional image and help them get even further along in their work.

Here is a selection of client photos we took last year for Bridgeway Capital.

Swissvale Fall Family Photos

We live and work in Swissvale, PA, and we love supporting our community in any way we can (if you couldn’t tell!) We’re always looking for ways to assist in improving communication between residents and local officials, attracting people to move and open a business here, and generally uplifting the image of Swissvale throughout the region.

New families are essential to the growth of our community. As a way to give back to the neighborhood that supports us so generously, we offered mini-family photo sessions to residents in our community. Everyone, regardless of their background, should be able to have memories of their family interacting together. We were happy to create inspiring images that families will always love.

We hope to offer these sessions again!

Please let us know how we can support your community organization. Send us an email!

Our Everyday with Davon, Emily, and Maevaline – A Perfectly Imperfect Day

I got to spend a wonderful late-summer afternoon with a wonderful family in a recent Our Everyday photo shoot. Can’t you just feel the love radiating from Maevaline’s parents, Davon and Emily, toward their little girl?

It was so much fun to see Maevaline interacting with her surroundings. Being in that toddler stage, she’s still trying to figure out what her relationship is to things, both externally, like a dog, and internally, like her feelings. For example, she was very grumpy that she wasn’t allowed to run into a lake. It was one of those situations where you feel bad laughing because that will make the toddler-feels worse, but you want to laugh anyway. She was hell-bent on getting into that lake!

During this shoot, Maevaline was cutting a new tooth. See, we told you not to wait for the perfect time to take pictures or it’ll never happen (mostly because there is no such thing as perfect.) Tiredness and toothiness came to a head towards the end of the session. Maevaline’s feelings took over and a slightly-imperfect-yet-incredibly-adorable-and-worth-committing-to-film meltdown ensued. I really appreciated the opportunity to capture the full spectrum of emotions that can pass between a family at any given time. And as their photographer, I have to say that the photo of Maevaline crying her eyes out is not perfect, but it’s one of her dad’s favorite shots; I’m really happy I was there to give him that picture.

It may be one of my favorites, too! I don’t say that in a cruel way; I can see the beauty in reality and being genuine with your feelings, both good and bad. Children have a special gift of expressing exactly what they feel exactly when they feel it. I’m happy I was there to photograph this perfectly imperfect scene. That moment in time as a family is a gift I’m happy to give them.

Even though her parents later chose to be happy separately, Maevaline will have these pictures of her and her parents for years to come. She can look at them and remember the unicorn outfit she loved wearing and the time her parents wouldn’t let her play in the lake. And she can see the love her parents rain down on her no matter what.

2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party – Event Photographer Recap

The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association recently had a fundraiser and we jumped at the chance to sponsor the 2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party. Over 100 cyclists rode through the East End, touring the sites where the NMRWA has done work to aid in cleaning and maintaining the watershed. At each stop, a volunteer spoke to the group about the impact NMRWA has had in that location.

We wanted to get involved with the NMRWA event because one of the greatest assets of where live (and work in our home office) is the proximity to Frick Park. Most, if not all, of Frick Park is within the Nine Mile Run Watershed boundaries. Their work to clean up and preserve this space in Pittsburgh is part of what keeps Frick Park clean and safe for us to enjoy with our pups. As you know, everything we do, we do for Porter and Jeannie!

The weather was just perfect for this event, which can always be a challenge in Pittsburgh. It made the bike ride even better. While we toured through the East End, we had to be ahead of the bikers to get shots of the group approaching. It was a fun challenge to navigate through the regular traffic to reach the cyclists’ stopping spots.

Nate was really impressed by the sense of community on the day of the event. As he observed, there were no road barricades, so the road management was done entirely by a team of bike marshals. You’d expect to find a lot of fussy car drivers having to deal with a crowd of over 100 bikers, and while there was some of that, there was also waving and cheering. For Sam driving the car, that was a huge relief.

The sense of community was even apparent in the smallest cyclists. There were young kids participating in the bike tour and every time we saw the group come around a corner, they were all smiling and having a great time.

Part of why we provide event photography is to support the organization and help them tell the story of their event through our photography. Having us take professional shots frees up a staff member or volunteer, allowing their time and energy to be spent making the event as good as it can be. Then, they have these shots to use on their website, social media, and other promotional material.

This was the exact case for NMRWA. They had a staff member running all around last year to capture photos of their first bike ride. The most immediate impact our participation had was taking that responsibility off the shoulders of a staff member. This person was now available to coordinate event details, prep things for the block party portion of the day, make sure the bike marshals understood the flow of cyclists and traffic, and so on.

The photos are something they can use to tell the story of a successful event and to share their community impact. As a non-profit, NMRWA relies on heavily on donations and grants; having great images are a major part of conveying the story of what they do and the effect they have on their mission. We anticipate they’ll use the photos in annual reports, other collateral and in promoting the event to potential sponsors next year to secure even more support.

Supporting the 2nd Annual Nine Mile Bike Tour & Block Party was especially important to us because we not only want to support the community, but we also want to support the environment. By tying both of these things together, the NMRWA is doing lasting work to directly benefit our corner of Pittsburgh. We are thrilled to help share their mission and be a source of continued support for NMRWA.