Beyond the childhood clichés

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Firstly, thanks Vernon for the invite to do a spot of guest writing here on BMP!

Out of all the topics I could possibly write about in the vast photographic world- I have decided just on the spur of the moment, to write about the psychology and sociology of the children’s portraiture photo session and what happens when you move beyond it. This is not a "how to article"- merely presenting something to think about prior to and during a session. 

All the articles I have read over the years about photographing children inevitably give hints and tips about playing with the child, tricks to get expressions and so on. I am not going to rehash these but if you want to read a comprehensive book on the subject try Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent, (Ginny Felch & Allison Tyler Jones, 2008).

My favorite quote from the book that I just have to share is:

"Plan it, find the light, be prepared and then let go. Let go in the spontaneity and remarkable whimsy of the child."

So in this way children’s portraits are easy- you just need to be patient and ready to capture the moments that naturally unfold. As always don’t forget to keep clicking  when you shouldn’t be clicking! This photo was taken when I took a break from photographing a mother and her son- I swung around and dad and daughter were playing. So many people have commented that this “pose” looks so natural- and yet are surprised when I tell them it is natural!

I Inevitably, though just by a photographer being present in the space behavior will change. There are a number of elements to consider the main two of course are:

Parental expectations/involvement.

In my information packets, I have a special note to parents regarding children’s sessions- which say among other things that "my sessions work best when the parents do not direct the child but bring a sense of play to the session" and "Just let your child be!"  The whole psychology of managing parents and their expectations of both the shoot and their children during the shoot is a topic for a whole different article!

The child’s reactions.

Some will welcome the photographer with open heart and invite you into their world, others will consider you and your various lenses with utmost suspicion and sometimes contempt- they don’t want you in their world! Either way things will unfold- you will no doubt use the many tips and tricks to capture treasured moments.

The challenge.

What about the typical moments that move beyond the childhood cliché pictures that we all love? I’m talking about the maybe not so treasured moments (especially not treasured by parents)- but moments of expression non the less! They are childhood moments too- it’s just that parents don’t like them on their walls! (Not often anyway!).Don’t be scared of tears, frustration and crankiness! I encourage you if you are a photographer as an exercise for yourself to keep on click clicking and capture some moments that are a bit different. Show the parents too if you are game :)

Article was written by Maree Jaeger and you can check out her photography here.

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