Kristi Webb: Lessons I’ve Learned…
Hi everyone! It’s Kristi again! With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to dive deep into my crazy-good bag of mother tricks and give you some award-winning, breakthrough tips about how to make a photography session with kids more enjoyable for everyone. When I started to look back at the sessions I’ve been involved in (with my kids, my sister’s kids and Angel’s kids,) I had to second guess whether I was qualified to even comment on this subject. No, I take that back. I didn’t second guess, I knew right then and there that I was probably not your girl.
Believe me, I want to be that mom who walks onto the “set” with not a bit of worry that my child (or children) will be the one(s) to finally break Angel. I want to be the one who is so calm and so collected that I skip up to the shoot with a smile and a shrug and let whatever will be just be. I want to be the mom who doesn’t have to tell each child at least five times, “OK, listen to Angel” or “Pay attention” or “Please get off the floor, it is very dirty” or “Oh, that is disgusting, where did you get that?” or “Stay out of the water, I don’t want you wet” or “Get off your brother” or “We’re almost done, just a few more, I promise.” I want to be that amazing mom who’s so confident in her family and her children that there isn’t an ounce of bribery or any last-minute threats before we get out of the car. I want to be that mom.
Self realization: I’m not. I realize, in writing this, that when it comes to photo shoots I’m a bit overly nervous and under prepared, there are always bribes involved, there are quite frequently threats handed out and there are without a doubt always a few lessons learned as I vow to do it better next time. Here are just a few!
For starters, do not over-schedule your children. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to have my oldest son Zane go straight from an all-day field trip to our family photo shoot. It seemed like it would all work out when I scheduled the shoot, but little did I know that the bus would be late, making Zane have to get dressed in the car as my husband drove (probably sped) to meet us. Not only were they 45 minutes late, the poor little guy was exhausted from such a full day! (Look at the picture below – he could hardly keep his eyes open! In fact, we ended up photographing him individually about a month later just to get wide eyes!) From here on out the photo session will stand alone on my calendar.
Check outfits before you get in the car. (Head to toe!) When my husband (who, remember, was 45 minutes late because he had to wait for Zane’s bus) finally arrived on location and asked “Why is Koa wearing Zane’s shoes?” I knew then we were a bit of a train wreck. Why hadn’t I noticed that my son had decided to (for the first time ever) wear his brother’s only presentable pair of shoes? If I had just looked down, I would have noticed that he had taken them because they were about two sizes too big! As you see below, Zane is wearing his old, filthy, torn shoes that were still on his feet from the field trip. (I don’t mind them being casual, but those are just sad!) So, next time I’ll be sure to check everyone’s outfits before they get in the car! (And stay tuned – we’re working on an entire entry with tips for kids clothing!) For now, click here for our general clothing tips.
Be prepared for the environment. I was helping Angel get a picture of her kids for her Christmas card a couple years ago. Because we both had about 38 spare minutes, this was going to be quick and easy! Just as planned her kids were dressed cute, positioned perfectly and behaving beautifully. But as soon as the camera was ready, the bugs arrived. Shuffling started, scratching followed and then there was just a slight unraveling of the peace. There we were, not only moms but the photographer and her assistant, and between us we didn’t have a drop of bug spray! Not only do we suggest parents bring some now, we try to keep the camera bag stocked with it! (By the way, if you aren’t a fan of regular bug spray, Avon Skin So Soft makes some amazing repellent wipes that are very gentle and don’t smell bad.)
Props keep their interest and make for great photos. Angel shot a series of images for Crochet Cool, a book of crochet designs by our friend Tanya Bernard of Tanya’s Tangles. (Wonderful story and amazing patterns…. Check it out on Amazon!) Local kids were featured modeling different pieces of clothing. In one of the shots, my daughter modeled a really cute purple dress that I thought would look great with flowers. During the session as soon as her eyes started to wander and I could see boredom was near, I gave her the flowers. She started playing “He loves me, he loves me not” which bought us at least ten more minutes of cooperation. I thought the candid images of her and the flowers were so cute, I’ll definitely bring a big bouquet of wildflowers to our next family session! Not only do props (bubbles, spinning tops, windmills, sand buckets, a ball, etc.) add a great pop of color, but they also help keep kids engaged!
Let them be kids. I was sitting on the crate, with Zane on one side and Koa on the other. We’re smiling, Angel is taking pictures, everything is great. Then Angel says, “OK, boys, give your mom a kiss.” I hold out my cheeks and wait for the love. They look at each other and without hesitation Zane says to Koa, “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Koa says, “Best two out of three.” Immediately they start playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who was going to lay one on me! Koa won. Or lost, depending on how you look at it I guess. Next session I’ll remember how much I love our Rock, Paper Scissors picture. Not that I think it is a great picture of me, but I love how Angel caught them just being kids. Years from now, when these two boys are all grown up I’ll look back at this moment in time and treasure the simplicity of how paper won over rock.
Have confidence in your photographer. I know that Angel will get awesome pictures. I know that whatever we’re wearing or whatever we’re doing there will be amazing shots. HOWEVER, I realize that NOW, sitting at my computer, typing this blog entry. I don’t always remember that during the shoot as the camera is clicking away. Case and point… The Crochet Cool shoot with my niece Davie. She was modeling a super cute tankini so we had this great idea of her playing with a garden hose. What kid doesn’t want to play with a hose right? Well, for whatever reason Davie did not want to play that day. So for about ten minutes our conversation went something like this: Davie, “I’m cold.” Me, “Isn’t this fun?” Davie, “I don’t want to get wet.” Me, “Yay! Spin the hose.” Davie, “I’m going inside.” Me, “We’re almost done!” In the middle of all of this, there was no way I thought these pictures would work. I should have known better. I should have remembered that with both patience and creativity, Angel always gets something adorable. Trusting your photographer gives them the space to do that.
And, finally, who doesn’t feed a child before a session? Ummm. That would be me. By the end of this shoot, my daughter was starving. Not like, “Mommy, I’m hungry,” but like “I am totally giving up. I am going to just sit here and cry until someone puts food in my mouth.” She was done. And as you can see, she was the only one that was done. My boys were still having fun, but this little girl simply needed food. Next time, there will definitely be a stockpile of (non-messy, easy-to-eat) snacks in the car and I will feed my child! (Would I be horrible if I admitted, though, that just this once I’m kind of glad I didn’t? Because this just happens to be one of my favorite shots of this session. Zane laughing, her crying and Koa still throwing the camera peace signs…. If you knew Koa you would realize it couldn’t be more classic.)
So, you get the idea. I may not be the best person to give this advice. My sessions aren’t always perfect, my tips aren’t groundbreaking and I haven’t offered you any secret miracles. BUT I am a mom, I do have kids and I know what energy it takes to get those beautiful images. Plus, after some self reflection I can tell you that my biggest piece of advice is take a deep breath, realize that children are unpredictable, relax and go with the flow because then they will too (maybe!) and find peace in knowing that nobody will ever see your AGP bloopers!
I will, of course, continue to collect session sanity tips and as I gather them I promise to share here with all of you!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful AGP moms out there! We celebrate you this weekend and always!!