If your family heads down to the photo studio for holiday pictures, the wild card in the party is usually the child. Families with more than one child gamble on getting all kids to toe the line at the same time. My photo studio experiences sure have been a mixed bag of a child with a beatific smile and one with food in his hair and buggers on his shirt. Is there a way to head off the pre-photo session meltdown? I am here to tell you that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and there are great kids’ photos on the horizon!
Pick a photo studio that deals with kids and make an appointment. Avoid the formal studios that cater mostly to the blue-haired crowd with their lapdogs. Only a photographer who is unfazed by a bugger on the shirt or a discussion of bird poop can truly do your children justice. A word to the wise: if you go to one of the store chains – and you know the ones I’m talking about – pick one that tucks away its photo studio in the back of the store or on a top floor. In this way the kids don’t get distracted by the foot traffic and onlookers. Remember to make an appointment – the first of the day, if possible – and show up right on time. Since there is no chance that the photographer is running behind on the first appointment, you are spared the waiting period. No waiting equals fewer chances for kids to melt down.
Sell the kids on the photo session and bribe. While parenting tips frequently stress the need for highlighting obedience, why not make it instead a fun experience for everyone? Get the kids excited, explain the entire process, the special clothes, the props and of course the big smiles they get to wear. If you make it sound like a great deal, disobedience won’t even enter into their thinking. Better yet, follow it up with the promise of some French fries – if the photo session ends on time, which of course it will if everyone plays along (hint, hint!).Complement, don’t match. Matching outfits are the bane of kids’ existence. Great kids’ photos highlight their features and expressions, not their clothes. Even holiday pictures look better if the faces do not get lost in a sea of black pants, green tops and red Santa hats. Dress the kids in colors that complement one another and bring along extra tops and bottoms. Trust me, if someone will get sick, it inevitably happens before the photo studio appointment time; usually in the car, but occasionally also on the escalator.
There is one photographer, and you aren’t it. The photographer is a professional; let her earn her money. There is no reason to critique every pose. If she is really so bad that every photo needs re-taking, maybe you’ll be better served picking a different studio. In the meantime, explain what you are looking for – group pictures, formal or informal seating or standing, the types of props and the backgrounds and colors – and then step back. Unless you’re in the picture, your one and only job is manning the door and ensuring none of the rug rats escape.
Catch them off guard! Even if the kids are perfect little angels and nowhere near the meltdown point, how do you coax a smile out of them? Are there parenting tips just for this eventuality? Absolutely yes! If it’s for Easter, say “gobble, gobble;” for a Christmas picture, urge them to say “bird poop!” (Potty humor is a great smile-generator.) Birthday pictures call for a “merry Christmas.” In short, catch them off guard, which is sure to elicit some smiles and laughter. Bingo! (Just hope that the photographer is quick with the button and keeps going as long as the going is good.)
Don’t worry if you only get one or two good shots out of the lot. Great kids’ photos cannot be taken on cue and sometimes you may have to make two attempts at scheduling holiday pictures before you get a good set. Since so many photo studios now offer free photo sessions, make good use of this option.
More by Sylvia Cochran:
5 Rules for Fishing with Kids
Parent Guide to Teaching Children How to Share
Worm Composting for Kids