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.