I'm all about capturing real emotions. You know, those emotions you absolutely can't fake! A forced smile is easy to spot, and as lovely as it might look in a portrait, it doesn't beat TRUE happiness caught on film (well, actually...a digital file). Although it might be necessary in some cases, and it does looks nice from time to time, I tend to navigate away from staged portraits - especially with toddlers. I mean, how long does a two-year-old really sit still? Well, if the rest of them are anything like my toddler, it's less than a second! (Oh my!) And even if they actually do decide to sit still (parents, pause for reaction!), they don't just naturally turn towards the camera with the biggest and best smiles they have (well, some do - but they're the exception!).
I've spotted quite a few frowns on those cutie-pie toddler faces through my lens when they are told to sit still and simle, and it doesn't make for a pleasant experience being at "the photographer's" for that little one when they are forced to sit still - and on top of that have to "say cheese!"...
So, how do you really turn that frown upside-down, and make it a nice photo shoot experience for that little one?
Well, to make it a fun experience I usually meet the clients at a place where the child/children can run, play and just do what toddlers do best - EXPLORE! And to keep up with their non-stop-all-over-the-place-pace, I put on my best sneakers, and chase them around while clicking that camera button to capture those special moments - the moments of THE REAL-DEAL JOY!
Isn't that what most parents really are after when they hire a photographer? They imagine their child's picture hanging on the wall - and the child looks happier than ever, right? Well, a lot of times - in the staged portraits, that is - they don't. They actually look very impatient and uncomfortable. As an example, in my very own first grade photo, I completely look like I just bought a pair of fake teeth that I'm trying my best to show off, and that I'm not really about to enjoy this whole school-thing. Ugh. It made the wall at my parent's house, but I never really look at it and feel happy. (It's funny alright, but it doesn't warm your heart). I certainly don't want my daughter's first grade picture to look like that. What I want for her, is to look back at that picture 10, even 20 years from now, remembering that moment of happiness by seeing the joy and excitement of starting school shine through her adventurous eyes, and remember how much fun that time was (instead of seeing just a fake smile).
As both a parent, and a photographer, that's my point of view. The real-deal-joy beats the fake smile far, far down in the ground!
They say that nothing in this world is perfect, but seeing true joy and sparkles in your child's eyes, in my opinion, is pretty darn close to perfection!
I got to thinking about all of this earlier today, when I took Olivia to a nature center nearby our house and let her wander around in an almost dried-up river. There's a tiny stream running there right now, but it will be completely dried up once the full-on heat sets in very soon. Olivia had so much fun playing with it! She threw rocks and sticks, she jumped in it, she washed her hands in the water, and she splashed it all over! She's going through yet another teething right now, and has had a very stuffy nose on top of it all, so the joy on her face was SO worth it! Who cares about soaked socks and shoes - they'll dry soon, right!?
The first two pictures are warm-ups, just letting her take in the stream. The last picture is my absolute favorite - her joy is so real you can feel it. Needless to say, that one makes it up on the wall in our home!
Have a HAPPY day!