The older my son gets, the more I seem to be dealing with episodes of 'shyness'. It's interesting as he was always happy to leave my side in groups, playgrounds and new environments from a baby. I felt this confidence, although good could sometimes be worrying as i'd turn my back for a second and he'd be making a break for it somewhere! Both my boys are loud, energetic and independent. It's all I have been used to as a mum really.
Lately however, as my eldest forms stronger friendships with children, I have noticed that he gets very overwhelmed. He can be so excited to see a friend or relative, talking about it all morning or the night before, only to completely freeze when he sees them. It can take so long for him to warm up it can unintentionally upset the others he's been so excited to see. The same happens if we go somewhere new (to a party for example) and there are people there that he is not expecting. He clings to me to the point that I can't move, maybe warming up towards the end of the party if we are lucky.
I'd say it's an age appropriate thing, and In the first instance I think it's probably more to do with not knowing how to express his feelings of excitement with his friends. None the less, it has made me consider what it might be like to have a really shy child. I have a few friends that have experienced this and I know it can be a real worry. Not wanting to push them but wanting to encourage them to make friends or interact all the same.
What do you do in this instance when you want to get professional photos done of your child? It's a new environment, it's a new person, it's a big camera, there is perceived pressure. It must be a very worrying thing for a parent as you want to get the photographs for them, but don't want to put them through anything they may not enjoy.
I have a client whose little girl I have photographed a couple of times now and she has a very shy daughter. So much so, that before I met her she emailed me to let me know, so that we could work together and make it as enjoyable as possible. This was a fantastic thing to do. Although I am very aware of my approach with children and always take my time to let them warm up to me, it meant I could be extra sensitive to her needs. I believe whenever you work with people, especially children you should have a totally flexible approach (some like a gentle voice, some like me to roar like a dinosaur, some like singing sweet nursery rhymes, some like jokes about toilets). There is not one way to create an environment for children to feel comfortable, there is not one way to get the smiles or candid moments. It's about taking your time and letting the children feel happy and confident within the space and time that you have. I want them to have the most fun when they are with me. I wan them to go away and say 'I want to see the photos now' or 'I want to see that lady again!'
With the help of the mum I refer to above, I have put together an overview of what made our sessions go well, I hope it helps anyone prepare their child for a photo shoot, especially those that may find it more daunting than others.
Involvement: Getting the child's involvement in what they are wearing and getting them excited about what they are wearing. Rather than keeping it as a special outfit, let them wear it once before, telling them how fabulous it is and reinforcing it's going to be very exciting wearing it for your photos. Other wise it might become a scary thing, it's new, it's being worn to something new and you may get stressed if they don't wear it and you've spent lots on it. Keeping it for the main event may create unnecassary worry, where as if it's already been worn once or twice it's still new but it's familiar and comforting.
Talk about what is going to happen a lot: I can send photos of the studio, you can visit the location we are going to meet at. Talk about the camera and how it is so big and exciting "wait until you see it" (I find a lot of 2 year olds especially can get quite overwhelmed with the size of the camera, so I often end up letting them hold the end or looking at the screen at their photos). Talk about 'Fi Fi' and how she has children that are your age and how I have lots of toys they can play with in the studio. Whatever you can do to paint a picture of what might happen.
Time of day: This is a given for most children, but ensuring they have been fed and have slept is a big deal, especially for pre-schoolers. When scheduling appointments I always ask about nap times. Additionally making sure that there is nothing planned after; you don't have to rush to the school run or another appointment. If the session has a time limit on it, the child will feel pressure and not feel confident to stay.
Bring something comforting from home: Even if they don't have a comforter, feel free to bring a toy or teddy that might put them at ease. We can sit it in the studio and they can help me take pictures, they can sit with it when they have theirs or we can use it as a reward for after the session if you'd like. Whatever you think may make them feel more at home.
Don't worry. Easier said than done but nothing awful will happen and I have literally seen it all. If your child cries a little at first that's ok, if they run around and go crazy that's ok, if they say poo and wee 100 times thats ok. There will always be time to get the photos you want and I am on your side 100% in order to make this happen!
I hope you find this useful. Here are some behind the scenes photos you can show before a session and a picture of me to get them used to my face!
FUN TOYS TO PLAY WITH
A LADY THAT'S SMILEY AND NOT SCARY!
A light and camera that take pictures that look like this
My most recent photography sessions below
Please contact me if you have any questions about this firstname.lastname@example.org