There is one thing that gets my goat when it comes to being a parent that has to have pictures taken of their kids or their family. We have all been there, me included. “I will give you a candy bar [insert said bribe here] if you sit here really nice and smile for the camera!” I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed the crying, the shaming, and the tantrums due to the fact that the child does not want to have their photo taken. And while bribing them with gifts or things that make them happy at the moment seems like a good idea, it’s not. Just no. This is not a good practice. Let me tell you why.
You know your kids best. You know when they are acting out because they are hungry or because they are tired or because they are purely in the mood to misbehave and get what they want. And I totally understand that need to make the moment perfect so that your pictures will look perfect. I have done that. My kids were a little older, ages 7 and 10, and we were trying to get some photos taken of us in an apple orchard. And yes, the pictures look beautiful. But my kids didn’t need to be bribed to get things done, they needed to be bribed to hold hands and “pretend” that they loved each other. That is still hard for them today at ages 13 and 16. That is the one and only time I have done this. If you follow me on Instagram, you will probably see those pictures pop up every now and then. I felt SO GUILTY for making my kids feel uncomfortable for a moment that was not worth it in the end. And I say that because those are not pictures I even have hanging up in my house anymore. They don’t represent my children in any aspect of their character.
This is the fall season. This is the time that people will typically hire a photographer for a quick mini session to snap a few images they can use for a holiday card or put on social media for all their friends and family to see. You know, the fall leaves are gorgeous this time of year and it just makes sense right? That’s all well and good. But when you hype the session up so much by forcing your kids into clothes they may not normally wear or by telling them angrily they need to behave, it doesn’t start things off on the right foot. And then, when the session takes place, they have this scary photographer in their face trying to get them to smile (fake) and just move on. I want to say that not all photographers are this way. Some will get genuine smiles out of kids because they are really personable and loving. Some of my good photographer friends are really good at this. But that being said, nothing guarantees that the child will behave when it’s crunch time.
Fast forward to this morning when I was having a conversation with a stranger via personal message. And she said this: “Yeah I’m tired of yelling for 2 hrs just to have my photos look like everyone else.” And it hit me right in the heart. Why are we teaching our kids that photos need to be structured? Why can’t we teach them that photos can be loose and fun? Why can’t they be amazing and not posed and why can’t the smiles be ACTUAL smiles because they are having fun and not because a photographer has a good personality to make things go well in the moment (you hope)?
Giving your kids the ability to see how photos can really add to your life rather than take away from it is a life-changing moment. They might just grow up to enjoy not only being in photos but taking photos. They may just enjoy the process of the art and not see it as a chore that has to be done every year because that is what they grew up doing. And bribing them to behave for photos (or anything else for that matter) teaches them they get whatever they want if they behave badly enough to warrant it. Let’s teach our kids to love the camera, not shrink away from it.
P.S. As a documentary photographer, it is my goal to make sure kids are comfortable. And they become comfortable by being able to act like themselves and have fun. And then later, they get to relive the experience by looking at these photos over and over again. Because, you DID print them, right? Schedule your session today. Make their lives be seen.