This Spring, she shyly stood in her little spot and would only mumble responses to any of my happy questions.
I noticed after several minutes that her shyness had turned very timid. Her class soon left to go back to their room and a new class came in and waited. I set down my camera and went over to talk with her for a few more minutes to see if I could pinpoint her happy button and I noticed she almost had tears in her eyes. I simply asked “Are you okay?” Which prompted this conversation:
“oh, I am so sorry, Sophie. Are you scared of me or scared of my camera?”
“I’m scared of pictures.”
We talked a little more and I told her I wasn’t going to make her stand here and smile if she didn’t want to and she was welcome to go back to her class if she wanted to. And she did. The last thing I want is for a child to have an unhappy experience with any photographer. I find joy in documenting the joy in your life… not forcing grins that never really existed.
I finished the rest of the students in the preschool and before packing up my things made my rounds to each of the classes to double check we had photographed everyone. I went in to her class and chatted with her teacher as the students finished their lunches and Sophie was laughing and giggling and talkative with all her classmates! So I joined in and she and I laughed and talked for a few minutes together with her classmates. I made the comment that her eyes were so sparkly when she smiled! Just like my sparkly backdrop where we did the pictures! She didn’t remember the backdrop and wanted to see! So she and I skipped down the hallway together to go see how her eyes sparkled on my backdrop! (Yes! I really did skip with her as we held hands on our way to the other room!)
She stood in front of my set and I snapped a quick picture with her big smile and then showed her the back of my camera. The catch-lights from the flash in the corner of her eyes gave a nice little sparkle which lit up her world and we took several more images.
Sophie needed two things 1) no audience… I really think that was her main concern in the beginning… everyone was watching her; and 2) compassion with patience.
I have been told by many mothers lately during newborn sessions that they are just in awe of how patient I am as I snuggle and speak softly to their fussy babies as I get them to sleep.
There really is not much difference between a baby, toddler or preschooler when it comes to new things. Sitting/standing in front of a camera and big lights is new. Most kids under the age of 6 will not walk right up and smile unless they trust you (and how often do you trust a complete stranger in the first minute you’ve said hello?)
Patience and Compassion along with friendliness are the best combo for getting little ones to grin. And lucky for me, these 3 things are my cup of tea.