I fell in love with photography about five years ago and have been shooting professionally for the last three years. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a piece of my life missing until I began shooting. 🙂 I specialize in newborns and families. My work reflects family connections – I strive to bring out those honest and real moments that capture families just as they truly are. I’m a complete goofball during family sessions but I find clients loosen up once they see my style of shooting. I feel thankful every day that this is my job. 🙂
Jennifer’s advice on getting families to interact naturally:
My family sessions are all about having fun and playing games. Playing games are a wonderful way to help families relax. I use games for every family pose. I find kids are much more enthusiastic when presented with a fun game versus saying, ‘stand here’, ‘smile’. Playing games, being silly and allowing kids to act like kids are fantastic ways to enhance natural family interaction.
When families first arrive, I give parents a general outline for our evening. I find parents immediately relax when they know what to expect. I tell parents two important things. One, I ask parents not to worry when their kids become silly. I explain that tonight I get to worry about their kids and I will ask them if I need any help. Second, I encourage parents to let their guard down and be silly with their kids. Silly and relaxed parents play an important role in achieving natural family interaction.
I begin every session with family poses first. I like to have parents sit down on the ground while I gently pile kids onto their laps. Once everyone is cuddled together, I start my games. These are some of my favorite games.
“Who can find mom?”
“Hmmm…..now, who can find dad?”
“Wow, you guys are so smart!”
“Now, who can hug mom?”
“Well, who can tickle dad?”
“You are amazing kids!”
At this point I gush all over the kids. I usually go over the top with praise. By now, the kids are awaiting my next question. In between asking questions, the kids are all smiles and full of anticipation. I use this opportunity to catch everyone looking at the camera and smiling. If the kids are still content on mom and dad’s lap, I move on to my next game.
“I don’t think dad knows what a monkey sounds like. Can you tell him?”
“I don’t think mom knows what a cat sounds like. Will you show her?”
Animal games create a lot of smiles and interaction. I love taking close-ups during this time.
Once I sense the kids are getting restless, I move on to a game with movement. The airplane game is a great game with a lot of family interaction. I ask mom and dad to lay down on the ground and hold the kids up in the air like airplanes. The airplane game works well for families of four but can easily be adapted for larger families. The key to this game is getting the kids to look up at the camera. I will say something silly like, “Is there a squirrel on my head?”
After family poses, I like to break up into smaller groups. The ‘sleeping’ game is one of my favorites. I ask one of the kids to sit on mom (or dad’s) lap and pretend to be asleep. I quickly snap some shots and say, “wake-up!” I give them my best silly face, snapping away, and start the game all over. The ‘secret’ game is another fun way to encourage family interaction. I tell them NOT to tell mom or dad. This will peak their interest right away. I tell the kids, “Dad is going to sit on the ground and you’re going to come up from behind and scare him. Remember, don’t tell him!.” Kids are so adorable when they think they have a secret. When the kids run and scare dad from behind, I quickly capture the moment.
Sibling interaction can be tricky during family sessions. I find myself putting the most energy into creating games for siblings. I use the ‘race’ game for young siblings or siblings that don’t like to stand next to each other. I tell them we’re going to have a race. I make a fake line on the ground and have them stand on the line. It’s amazing how close siblings will stand next to each other if they believe they are only going to race. I prolong the start of the race by asking questions like, “should we run, skip, or do cartwheels?” As they answer, I snap away, catching smiles. Instead of saying, ‘ready, set, go’, I say “ready, set, zebra!’. I tell them to go back to the line and wait until they hear, “go!” The kids have so much fun starting and stopping that they don’t even realized they’re standing next to each other and smiling. Two other great sibling games bring out their smiles: “who can look at each other and laugh louder?”, and “who has the biggest smile?”.
Playing games during family sessions is an incredible way to achieve natural family interaction. Games bring out parent’s playfulness and allow kids to act silly. These are the moments that create meaningful images. I love when families tell me they didn’t even realize they were getting their pictures taken. Those are the words that make me feel like our session was a success. Knowing families had fun and seeing their genuine smiles make me fall in love with family sessions over and over.