Nicole O'Neil Photography
*Written in 2011, some images updated October 2015.
I was inspired to write this blog post by recent clients. I found I have had a few clients who have expected perfection from their children and to find "that perfect posed shot". I understand, in a way, this need/want. However, I'm here to say that, it just doesn't always happen that way. I always try to prepare my clients for the session. I say that I encourage some outdoor photos of children old enough to walk. Once children are walking, they are not going to just sit down and have their photo taken (and even before that, they aren't). I always let people know that I use a laid back approach. I let the children lead the shoot. I follow them around and encourage them to explore or talk to me about things they enjoy. I also ask ahead of time what their favorite characters or toys are so I can establish a bond with them right at the beginning. If they are younger, we sit them. But I expect to have to take breaks between shots to let them crawl around. Otherwise, they just get upset. If you are going to hire me, please don't expect all posed and sitting perfectly shots. This does NOT generally work. And you will be frustrated and the child will be miserable. I like to keep the energy light and fun and once anyone starts getting frustrated or upset, that changes drastically. Once a parent is frustrated, stressed, or anxious, the child immediately feels it and absorbs it. Remember, they are very sensitive to your mood and energy and that can greatly affect our time together.
This all goes for family shots as well. I know you all want that perfect picture with everyone looking at the camera with a big smile on their face. Many times, we can get one of those. But, sometimes, we can't and just everyone looking right at the camera at the same time (even if one or two don't have big smiles) is success.
I love the reality of a shot. Do your kids sit together just smiling up at you? I'm guessing rarely. What is more of a reflection may be a picture of all 4 Family members laughing and looking at each other or where one child is laughing at the other (usually the younger laughing at the older) and the older child and parents are the ones smiling at the camera (or AT least looking). Or it may be the four of you running around playing or walking hand in hand.
So, my advice for clients is this:
NEVER book a shoot during your child's naptime. It will cause unneeded stress. Even if the nap time changes closer to the shooting day (for those who book far enough in advance), contact me and we will see if there is another time we can fit in when the child is awake and well rested. If we can't find a new time, try bringing a snack or their favorite toy to keep them happy.
A perfect posed picture for a toddler/preschooler (or even older kids for that matter) that consists of them just sitting still with their siblings and all are smiling perfectly at the camera is sometimes not possible. AND THAT IS OK and TOTALLY NORMAL. It's not just you or your child. It's the nature of the age.
Be patient and don't set expectations too high. Know that I will get great shots of your child, on their terms. They will look at me when they are ready. They will laugh when they warm up to me and we start being silly or talking about something they love.
Some children simply will not smile a lot when put on the spot with a giant camera in their face. I do everything including dance and sing to pull those smiles out but I also consider if I get a lot of the child looking at the camera with even serious faces and only a few with smiles, it is a success. Many times, those faces are mine and my client's favorite images.
Don't get frustrated when your children won't sit still. Remember they are children. Think about how you feel when people ask you to sit still and "smile". We all hate that. ;)
You can see a blog I wrote on the
What IS "perfect":
1. Seeing a photo of your children that reflects who they really are. Do your children regularly sit down together nice and still and look at you with a smile? I doubt many people can say yes to this. If they do not do this, then why do you want a picture of them doing it? It won't reflect who they really are.
This picture is of brothers who definitely do not like to hug. I knew this and so, to get a natural reaction, told them to hug each other. This picture cracked up their parents and they said, "Those are our boys!"
And once we did that last one, we ended up with this. It's not "PERFECT" but it's perfect for them.
2. Some of my favorite pictures are when the children are not even looking at the camera. They are just being themselves and having fun.
Here are some of my favorite images. They are not perfectly set up. They are done "in the moment". Some are not even done with the camera up to my face, but instead held away while I talk to the child. Some are taken once they have crawled or walked away and I just say their name to get them to look back.
here, I asked the little one to go sit on the bench with his sister. He climbed up as far away from her as possible with a big smile and then inched his way closer to her, grinning the whole way. This was one of my favorites from that day.
In this one, they were just playing and she stuck her head through the poles....LUCKILY she got back through without a problem. I remained calm (even though I had a minor anxiety attack inside!) and said "ok, sometimes we can't get our heads back through easily so let's do it slowly. Lucky for us, it went smooth! But I and her mom LOVE this shot. It's totally HER. :) And, what adds to it is her brother partially in the back.
In this one, she had just climbed up on her swingset and I didn't even say anything. I just waited and she looked right at me. She's not smiling but it was one of her mom's favorite photos.
This one gets me every time I look at it. She had just been rolling on the ground and sat up and this is what I got. Perfection? To me, it is.
We're about to have a race in this one. The camera is not up to my face which he is looking at as I tell him we're going to race and "I'm going to win". BTW I didn't win. He explained to me that his sneakers "blend into the grass and that helps him go faster".
Some more of my favorite "REAL" images from over the years. *Updated October 2015.
I love my lifestyle sessions where we just let the kids do things like run in the sprinklers. They are happy and it's all natural and candid.
A snack is sometimes necessary. ;)
None of these pictures have kids just sitting down posed and/or together with a big perfect smile on their faces. And yet, they are some favorites of mine and my clients.
Please just always remember, pictures of your children should truly reflect who your child is. Imperfection is PERFECT.
Sometimes, if you can't get them all looking and smiling (or even standing together which was the challenge here), walking and holding hands is a winner.
We actually did get LOTS of him smiling, but I love this. About 2/3 of the way through, he decided he was done. I managed to get him laughing again though. ;) Many times they make the decision on how the session goes.