Every now and then I have the opportunity to do a mass shoot, photograph a hundred, or in a busy day, hundreds of children during a few hour 'come and have your child photographed with easter bunny'- type of event. It is exhausting. Imagine yourself getting down on your knees and jumping up again every five seconds, while holding a camera in your hands. Now, do that for three or four hours, non-stop and you get the idea... Let me tell you, BenGay is my best friend the next day!
It is also very demanding, a true sink-or-swim-situation, since I usually have only one minute and three frames to capture a good photo. To compare, I can tell you that my normal photo shoot takes two to three hours and I take hundreds of pictures... of one child.
But most of all it's fun. I love the one minute mini sessions with children, their innocent eyes and natural smiles. How proud they are when I compliment their new fancy summer dress. How surprised they are when I tell them that Cinderella is my favorite princess too... It's priceless !
Among the innocent faces and natural beauties there are always few unfortunate, overphotographed children. In my mind I call these poor children 'Cheesies'. A Cheesie arrives to the set, sits down, fixes her dress, crosses her legs, looks at the camera... and twists her mouth to the most terrible grin you can imagine! When a Cheesie (or her mom, to be exact) wants her photo taken, there is nothing I can do to save the situation. Not during that one minute session at least. So I just push the button and take a photo, knowing that it will turn out terrible. Cheesie's mom won't like it, Cheesie's dad won't like it and I am quite embarassed to put my name under a photo like that. A photo of a beautiful child who's lips are smiling but the eyes beg somebody to save her. Don't take me wrong, it's not the child. She only does what she has been told to do. Over and over and over again. "Smile!" "That's not a smile, smile bigger!" "Look at Mommy!" "Say cheese!"
Everybody wants pretty pictures of their children and we do a lot to get them. We buy nice clothes, we have their hair done, we get the latest megapixel cameras. The truth is, these things really don't matter. They don't, if the child is uncomfortable during the photo shoot. If she is constantly told to smile and look at the camera. Children learn fast and a fake smile is the last thing you want them to learn. Teaching them out of it takes time and patience.
So, the next time you take pictures of your children, try something else than cheese. Instead of telling your child to smile, try to make her smile. Tell a story, tell a joke. Play peekaboo. It works much better, trust me !