Skip to main content

Gorgeous Playgroup Portraits and One Very Important Lesson


Each year I get the pleasure of photographing little ones at their playschool. Its not an easy age group to photograph since they are all usually rather frightened of the strange person holding a camera and flashing lights at them. But they are an age group that is full of character. Each one is different (some more challenging than others). When I am able to make a connection though, it is hugely rewarding.


This lovely young lady knew exactly what to do and I was able to capture loads of her. She gave me that beautiful serious face as well as loads of happy smiling ones. I'm actually a really big fan of the serious ones so she was a dream.


Although these portraits are different to my studio portraits I still always try to bring out the best in the children with a little of what I put into my studio work.  For me posing, lighting and styling are still important elements. I just can't take the time to do as much as I would for studio portraits, nor is it possible to consult with all the parents ahead of time to learn of their preferences. For future reference though, for anyone sending their children to playgroup for portraits, please choose clothing that is more simple with less going on. Overly bright and busy patterns are often a big distraction in portraits.


Where I can I like to include things that the children like. If a child brings a favourite cuddly toy they are welcome to have that with them in their photos. In some cases I can't always convince them to leave the toy out of the photo anyway. I believe that if something is that important to the child then it will make a fantastic memory for years to come.  


In the case of this young boy, he loves books and it was the perfect way to get him to sit and interact with me. This too is a wonderful memory for his parents because they said this is exactly what he is like at home too. It worked a treat when wanting the two boys to sit next to each other, a task that is difficult more often than not when working with small children.


So what is the very important lesson I speak of? The lesson is this. Please do not practice smiling with your children before photo day. This is rarely a help to me and more often than not makes it difficult for me to get natural smiles from them. They will often sit in front of me and put on a very cheesy and false smile that they believe is what they've been practicing. They think they are doing what you have asked of them but it looks very unnatural. It then takes me considerably longer to work them out of that smile, if I can at all. Some kids won't do anything but what they believe is the smile mum wants to see. Its wonderful that they want to try but not wonderful when parents are disappointed that I didn't get a natural expression. Please don't make a big deal about photo day at all. Its just another day at playschool. They don't need the worry about the unknown. And they don't need to practice smiling. With the right interaction they are pretty good at that all on their own.


I pride myself on the patience I have with these children. And its not that I have the patience of a saint. Its just that I know the more patient I am the better the results. I really do like photographing children and I want to do the best I possibly can. That's not to say though that I don't have moments when I am screaming on the inside. Its just that I've learned to never let them see me sweat. I have worked out that if I remain calm I can almost always get what I need. During playgroup sessions where there are fewer children to photograph than a full sized school I can take my time and work with them and hopefully create beautiful portraits of every child. 


So please remember, don't practice smiling and don't make a big deal about photo day. They'll be fine and I will work with them to bring out their natural beauty, which may not be all smiley anyway. I spend enough time with them and I often ask the staff about the children as well so I am usually pretty good at creating portraits that reflect each child's personality. But at the end of the day, these are still school photos and not full studio sessions so please be realistic in what I can achieve in that environment.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I am Still Me: A Story about a Transgender Boy

Meet Leo. Leo is 15 and currently going through an epic transformation that has momentarily turned the lives of himself and those around him upside down. A mum who once had the daughter she always longed for is now coping with the realisation that she will be living the rest of her life with a son instead. When your child is born you have certain expectations of the typical life they will lead but most of us know and accept that it won't necessarily end up the way we imagine. Not every person wants to marry, have kids or be involved with the opposite sex. Most of us have come to accept this and can adjust to whatever comes our way relatively easily. But few of us have expected to have to deal with a change in sex. Its not that we've hoped it won't happen, but just that it never occurred to us that it might. This is a new adjustment that we as a society are being presented with today, just like so many others that have come before.


When I first heard that Phoebe was transi…

Never Work With Children or Animals

Or so the saying goes. But I have to say that working with dogs has been so lovely. They have been almost entirely a dream to work with. I say almost entirely because we have had a few moments where a dog has needed to settle. And one moment where the dog had settled but one of my cats decided to have a look through the glass door which, as you can imagine, rather quickly unsettled the dog. Still, that didn't stop us from creating incredible work.

In fact it was during that shoot with the cat instance when I created two of my favourite pieces, shown below.


(It was while sitting on the couch here when he noticed the cat peering through the curtain)
I don't know if I've just been lucky or all dogs are just easy to work with. I photographed a french bull dog puppy and I thought that would be tough as he hadn't had time to be properly trained yet. But he did everything we wanted in no time at all. And this included the props we used here (below), which to me seemed somewha…

Do You Have a Little Pirate in Your Family?

If so, why not capture it in a beautiful portrait so you can cherish these memories forever?


I designed and built this set for a client. She came to me with a son and daughter and during the consultation we discussed the interests of the children, as I always do. Our ideas for portraits for her daughter were going to be easy. She loved the idea of modelling pretty dresses so her shoot was sorted. Her son on the other hand was more difficult. Where ever possible I try to incorporate something about the children into each portrait. That can mean books, sports, dance, musical instruments or anything a person has an interest in. In this case he hadn't yet developed any interests, other than pirates.


Now my client didn't want me to go to too much trouble. We agreed it wouldn't be easy to make anything pirate themed look as though it fit my style and level of quality. A shop bought costume wasn't going to cut it. But I just had to try. I love dark wood in my portraits and I …

Family Portraits with Fine Art Flair

I have a love and hate relationship with family portraits. I love the finished piece and creating something that is truly special to the family. I love that in years to come something I made is going to be a cherished and valueable memento for this family. What I struggle with, is getting all members of the group to look their best at exactly the same moment in time. You would be surprised at how difficult this actually is, particularly when it comes to 6 children. But I always get there in the end, whether it is the luck of a moment or with the aid of Photoshop. I ensure that everyone in the portrait is looking their best, even the dog.


Seeing as this family is actually made up now of two families we also did portraits in their respective groups which I chose to do in different style to their main group. I love adding a bit of style for the overall main group and what you see above is something that is proving popular with my clients. I love adding props and giving a sort of Vanity F…

Portraits Even a Teenager Boy Loves

Finally I've had the opportunity to photograph a young man in my studio again. And funnily enough this was the second time that week which is absolutely superb. In both cases these young men were just as enthusiastic to be involved as I was, which is something I don't often get when I'm working with very young children, my usual subjects. With young children I find my energy in their cuteness. But with young adults I get energy from their excitement over how the portraits are working out. I get such a buzz from the experience and that can keep me going for hours, often editing the photos straight after the shoot for hours more.


Shoots for teenagers is something I've been wanting to focus on for some time. Its not something that I often get asked for though unfortunately. It tends to be parents of very young children who want to capture moments that are slipping through their fingers at lightening speed. Maybe its teenage moodiness that means these moments don't fe…