“Never work with children and animals”. You hear it said all the time. There are thousands of outtakes littering the TV archives as evidence to this piece of good advice.
And yet the days I spend on a shoot with children and animals (quite often together) are invariably my favourite. Why I hear you say with a “yeah right” roll of the eyes? Well, it boils down to two simple things, spontaneity and honesty.No two shoots are ever the same when you work with children, and quite often the plans I make for a particular session go out the window the moment they arrive. But that’s when the magic happens; that’s when you capture their unique characters. As long as you grant them free reign, you can be sure – except for the occasional little character who knows how to play to the camera – the images you capture will be honest and pure.
But try telling that to an apprehensive parent. I know, I’ve been there myself. You convince yourself that your child is different; that they won’t cooperate, that you won’t get the pictures that others get. I take plenty of calls from anxious parents who worry about how the photo shoot will go and want to forewarn me that it may be tricky getting their little one to sit still and smile.
So here are my top tips for enjoying the whole experience…
Relax, my photoshoots always:
1. Embrace free-range kids
Never will the words “sit still and smile” pass my lips. Kids are mobile, but the good news is, so are cameras. And my favourite pics are the ones when we’ve captured a little one in full flight or mid play.
2. Welcome dress-up (or not)
So many times, parents have said to me, “I can’t get him to wear anything but his superhero outfit”, or “she just refuses to be anywhere without her scruffy, one-eared cuddly rabbit. And does it matter? I promise you, in years to come, the memories you’ll treasure are those times when they idolised something so simple that you couldn’t tear it away from them. Bring all their favourite things along – and a few of your own too – and let’s see how it goes. (Check out the images below, where we embraced our idols – the images are pretty extraordinary I think you’ll agree).
3. Encourage an environment which is right for you
Indoor/outdoor, everyone is different, but get the setting right, and you bring out a child’s true character. Surround them with their favourite things and let them do their favourite pursuits and the results will speak for themselves.
4. Avoid the hungry monster syndrome
We all get cranky when we’re hungry so let’s take that worry out of the equation; pack snacks, and we’ll play around the refreshment breaks.
5. Work around your newborn
Sleep, cry, feed, repeat! It seems the never-ending cycle of a newborn at in those first few weeks so when on earth do we time a shoot to fit in with their patterns, or worse what if a pattern hasn’t even developed? It doesn’t matter; we’re not asking them to be supermodels; we want to capture them just as they are. I’ll never ask you to wake a sleeping baby or unclothe them when they’re obviously snuggly and warm. My images are natural, and your baby dictates the images you take. I’m about capturing moments, not staging shots.
And let’s not forget a little one’s love of their pets. So, where appropriate let’s bring them along too. I did a couple of fun shoots recently, complete with superheroes, donkey mayhem and lots of sparkles too. The images are just incredible. Check out a few sneaky pics below.