So I’ve been reflecting on some of my most successful sessions from recently. And one thing comes to mind as a key to their success – in a word: preparation. Now, I always have a checklist of things that I have to do to prepare for a session (you’d be surprised how much there is to do!) – but I have found that the more I guide my clients towards ways that they can prepare, the better the results. Those who know me would definitely describe me as a “people person” – and I absolutely love spending time with people, it’s true. One thing I’ve never liked, though, is telling people what to do. I shudder to think – perish the thought!! Don’t get me wrong, I can direct my kids with the best of them – but on the whole, I have a hard time directing anyone else. But then I started realizing as my business has grown, many of my clients not only didn’t mind being directed, they actually appreciated it! This isn’t to say that I get to a shoot and start ordering people around – that’s far from the case. Those who have worked with me know that my style is all about letting you and your family be yourselves – and that’s when the best pictures come. So what am I getting at – you may ask? Precisely this: a little bit of preparation beforehand can go a LONG way on shoot day! Here are some of my suggestions for the best ways for you to prepare for our session.
1) ALL of my sessions come with either a phone or e-mail consultation prior to our shoot. This is the perfect opportunity to ask me questions about anything session related. Need suggestions on what to wear? Want to know what makes a great shoot location? Ask me! You paid for the consultation, and I’m happy to have it with you! The fewer questions you have going into our session, the better.
2) While I don’t really use a lot of props at my shoots, there are plenty of things that you can bring in a little “bag of tricks” to make shoots with your young children go more smoothly. I’m not asking you to show up with a carpet bag a la Mary Poppins, but a few little things (i.e. bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a favorite blanket or toy, lollipops, fun accessories, balloons you can blow up, etc.) can actually take your child from being hesitant and nervous to feeling relaxed, comfortable and even excited to be having their photo taken!
3) Just like the “bag of tricks” of fun stuff above, I encourage my clients to assemble their own kit of practical items. Although I always like to expect the best, it’s important to plan for the worst. Example: Recently I had a little girl during one of my sessions get a little overeager at our beach shoot and she did a mini-dive into the water. Thankfully her parents had the presence of mind to have brought a towel with them and in no time she was dried up – and we were back to shooting! Along the same lines, clothing changes are always permitted during our session, but even if you don’t intend to use a change of clothes, it’s always a good idea to have a spare outfit (or two!) just in case. Other items to consider bringing: a brush, mirror, hair clips (hair out of the face is always ideal), sunscreen, a sweater, snacks – even bug spray! I actually was shooting at a wedding recently where the poor bride was eaten alive by mosquitoes. 😦 Basically, if in doubt about whether you should bring something, just throw it in the duffel bag! It can never hurt. You know the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”? Yeah, they’re onto something.
4) As much as I sometimes wish I had a jack in the box that would pop out of the top of my head to make kids look at me and smile, I don’t. I work alone and with minimal equipment because I feel like the less new people/stuff to be distracted by, the better. Much of my work is candid, so it doesn’t matter that your little one isn’t looking right at me. But for those who would like some more formal/traditional shots, it definitely helps to have all the subjects looking in my general direction. Usually I’m able to capture attention fairly well, but if you have a friend or family member who is willing to come and get your little one(s) attention – it makes my job that much easier. Having that extra and familiar pair of hands can go a long way. From dancing and making silly faces, to calling your child’s name, to holding up an ice cold beer to get that elusive smile from your husband… these can be the key to capturing a great formal shot.
5) Finally, as someone who hates having her picture taken, I know that not everyone is ready for their closeup! Every once in a while I get a family or subject who is all smiles and eager to try all different kinds of things – but those are few and far between. So listen: I know that many people are simply uncomfortable in front of the camera. Believe me, I get that. All I ask is that you come into our session with an optimistic attitude. If you need to play Eye of the Tiger right before our shoot to get amped, do it! I won’t tell. The point is, photographs are a way of passing on our legacy to later generations. When your great grandchildren look at your photos, you want them to say “Awww, Grampa Joe, he was always smiling – what a happy guy!” and not “Why does Grampa Joe always look like his team just lost the Super Bowl?” Trust me, not only will your family and friends be happier looking at a smiling you, you’ll be happier too. Embrace the moment, enjoy life, and smile (or at least crack a grin) for the camera. 🙂
Obviously the above list is not meant as BCP Photo Session preparation gospel, but you’d be surprised how even doing a few of the above can transform our time together. I look forward to lots of upcoming sessions trying these suggestions out with you all!