- "Give me your REAL smile."
- "That's a silly smile."
- "Show some teeth!"
- "Smile right! That looks dumb."
- "STOP PLAYING AROUND AND SMILE PRETTY!"
- "Give me a pretty smile, not that."
- "What are you doing!?"
- "I didn't pay for you to play around. Act right!"
- "Do I need to spank you? Do you need a pop?"
- "Please just give me ONE good picture."
These are just a portion of things that I have heard parents or grandparents say to little ones and teens over the past 4 years I've been in business.
Could you imagine someone saying those things to you in the every day life?
- "Why are you wearing that?"
- "Give me your real smile. Stop being fake!"
- "Show some teeth!"
Truly though.. could you imagine how hurtful it might be? But the truth is - many do this to little ones and yes, no harm is actually meant, but from the outside looking in.. I can tell you how hurtful those things are.
I see their little faces change, their shoulders drop, their chins fall and their spirits literally break right in front of me. Let's be real here for a moment though.. yes, I am a mom. I am a mother of three amazingly vibrant, funny, HYPER little ones. And getting a decent photo of them is some HARD WORK. I'm not even playing... it's HARD, y'all!
But if I can be honest with you.. I can't imagine ever breaking their spirit over a photo. I just can't. It's memories! I mean - take a look at my little guy's photo for Spring from school this year. Do you see that vein-popping grin? Is it his normal smile? Absolutely not. Is it still going on my wall? YOU BET! In fact, it's getting hung up as I type this.
When I first opened the envelope and saw what was produced from our $45 investment... my FIRST instinct was to ask him what on earth happened. (lol) But I couldn't help but giggle because I knew what happened. It's how he wanted to look in his portraits. And you know what? I'm 100% ok with that!
I told him his smile is handsome and a mixture of silly. He loved that reaction. He's excited that his portrait is being hung on the wall and every time he looks at it? He erupts in giggles.
So as a mom and as a photographer - parents, I understand you have paid for their portraits and hours of planning, wardrobe picking (and purchasing), hair combing & styling have all gone in to this moment..
But ask yourselves before discouraging your little one; "is what I've put into this session worth more than my child's spirit?" If the answer is no - then be an encouraging person; a cheerleader if you must!
- "You're doing great!"
- "[Insert a funny word or joke]"
- Make a silly face...
Anything can and will produce a child's smile and I promise, you'll have even better responses from them in the future when you book more sessions. Portraits will be something they look forward to and are excited about rather than dreading.
And if you've been there; if you've been the parent who discourages - this post is not to make you feel bad. I'VE BEEN THERE! Especially before becoming a photographer.. I, too, have been that parent. Please don't feel judged.. this post is to encourage you in knowing that there's a different way it can be done. And hey - we can ALL deal with a little less stress and worry, right!?
Some of the best portraits I've captured of children and teens have been ones where I just allowed them to be themselves. No pressure. No discouragement. Just us, being silly, laughing and having fun.
I promise you. The result will be a thousand times better when you just allow them to be THEM. Even if that means a veiny-neck smiling portrait that's hanging in your hallway.