Tips for camera-shy kids...

Families are simply a favorite and this is one of my favorite families—so I was super-excited when they asked me to do a family portrait before their eldest headed back to college for the fall semester. I hopped on a call with the mom—because we can cover a lot more ground in a lot less time on a phone conversation than the back-n-forth email scenario.

We tackled the “when” and “where” in no time flat, with a promise to send her my family style guide as soon as I hung up. But before I signed off, the mom started to whisper that she had something she wanted to tell me when we did the family session. Hating the suspense, I asked if she could share it with me then and there. Agreeing, she stepped into the other room…

Her story went something like this: “Our youngest is incredibly camera-shy. Or at least she used to be. At seven, she’s starting to get a little better. Before, if anyone mentioned pictures, she’d get upset. And if you pulled out a camera, she’d try to run away.” Uh oh. That’s pretty camera shy.

A camera-shy kid can be a challenge, but I shared a few tips that I found to have worked in the past:

  1. Don’t make a big deal about pictures
  2. When you do mention the photo session, talk up: “It’s gonna be fun. We’re going to go the park and play around and Mrs. Prior will be there to snap a couple photos.”
  3. Don’t bribe; it doesn’t work. [See my previous post on this one: "Why Bother?] But it’s great to reward: “After we have fun getting our pictures taken, let’s go get milkshakes at Bev's on Cary.”
  4. Bring a favorite comfort item. This works great if it’s a stuffed animal, but “blankie” can come, too. “Hey, we’re going to take Buckles with us to get his picture taken. How fun is that??”
  5. Manage expectations. Families are real and photo shoots are real-life. It’s hard not to be disappointed if almost every picture has your youngest pouting, but looking back you’ll realize “it was a season.” I can totally relate!

Honestly, one of my favorite (and most memorable) photos of my kids is one where the youngest is pouting. And I don’t mean a little upside-down of the lips. Think: full-on pout. It was Easter and everyone was dressed in their best so I wanted to get a shot of our three on the front porch. [In hindsight, this may’ve been a little too much to ask on such a busy day. Parenting is a lot of trial and error!] Nate was not a happy participant. I told him (sweetly), “Look, you’re getting your picture taken. You can do it with a frown or you can do it with a smile. But if you do it with a frown, everyone will see it and we’ll have that picture forever.” Yep, he did it with a pout. But you know what? That photo is an authentic representation of life at the time: with three young kids, it was rare that all three were happy at the very same time. And now I can say we have thankfully left those days of pouting behind!

picture of kids goofing off

For the life of me, I can't find that photo of Nate pouting! Ugh! That was long before I started organizing my photos :-(. But here's one that shows how "perfect" life is...

After I shared my tips with this mom, I assured her we’d do our best to make it fun and then play it by ear. And you know what? The youngest greeted me with her favorite stuffed animal and she did AWESOME! In fact, this family session turned out to be one of my favorites. They were a little silly, a lot of fun, and a joy to spend time with—and the final result was a set of stunning photos (see below!).

picture of 5 kids
family portrait
picture of parents
picture of older daughter
picture of younger daughter
picture of everyone loving on mom
picture of siblings
picture of sisters
picture of brothers