Trust me, I’ve been there. You want beautiful, natural pictures of your brand new, tiny, sleeping bundle. All is calm….and then the noisy older sibling explodes onto the scene, a flurry of limbs, requests for snacks, noisy toys in tow…. oh, and the last thing they want to do is have their photo taken.
Often parents ask me how I managed to get so many pictures despite all the noise and chaos, so I’ve put together this guide for parents planning their newborn shoot when there’s an older sibling on the scene.
1. They’ve suddenly gone camera shy
Give them time – 9 times out of 10, the older sibling categorically does not want their photograph taken and, despite being the chattiest, most confident child in the world, will suddenly morph into the shyest child you’ve ever seen as soon as the camera comes out. This is when I’ll usually take the time to get to know them – play with them, ask them about the toys. Maybe I’ll snap a few pictures of the new baby during this time – they soon want to get involved.
2. Don’t panic
I know…. I’ve been there. You’re paying good money for some family photos and you have an hour in which to achieve them. But trust me, panicking about that will only make the toddler less co-operative. I never plan less than 2 hours for a newborn shoot. The likelihood is that things will be wrapped up sooner than that, but I like to be prepared for the unexpected hiccups. If they have a tantrum, don’t panic, we can wait for it to pass, because it always will.
3. Amuse the older sibling
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I had a newborn and a 23 month old, was to always go to the older one first and ensure their needs are met, because they are the one who will remember any of this. So, get the noisy toys out, keep their little hands busy and don’t worry about the noise or mess because a good family photographer will work around that. Mess can be moved, cropped out…. or embraced as part of the story of your family life at that moment in time. Let's capture their spirit and their personalities.
4. Let them think they are getting lots of attention
Sometimes they skip past the camera shy stage, and think – oooh look, a new friend has come to play with me and go into show off mode. Or this happens after the camera shy stage. They want to leap off things and show me their toys. Go with it – it might not be exactly what you had in mind for your family photographs, but your photographer might just get some lovely action shots in amongst. They might be dealing with feeling pushed out by a certain little new arrival, and are more attention hungry than ever. Plus, they’ll probably run out of steam after 10 minutes anyway. So, put your feet up, have a rest and let your photographer chase your toddler for 10 minutes. They’ll both be having fun – trust me!
5. Let them have a look at the camera and think they are helping
I usually like to dish out job titles like “photographer’s helper” or "chief baby entertainment officer" and get the toddler on board with amusing the little one and/or checking the pictures on the back of my camera. It makes them feel super important, which they are of course, gets them off your back and gives them something to focus on.
6. Give them a drink or a snack, but have the wipes ready
Again, there’s absolutely no rush from my part, so if either of your children need to be fed during the photoshoot, then go for it. I absolutely will not judge you if you need to deploy the odd bribery treat, because I’ve been there! In my humble opinion, if anyone parents without bribery or making the odd light threat, they are either superhuman or lying. Just have the wipes at the ready, because we all know snacks can be really messy. We can even incorporate eating pictures into your family photos – who doesn’t love a picture of a baby with food all over its face?
7. Have a few tricks up your sleeve that you know will make them laugh
A good family photographer will arrive with a few tricks up their sleeve to generate smiles and curiosity. But as the parents, you know what makes your child laugh better than anything. So be prepared to get involved. Stand directly behind the photographer (if you’re not in the picture) and dance, pull faces, sing, wiggle your bum. Whatever it is you need to do; your photographer won’t bat an eyelid.
Stony faced during the family photograph? Tickle them, sing their favourite song, get active with them if needs be. The best family portraits for me, are the ones where people are laughing and interacting with each other and not necessarily sitting looking straight at the camera.
8. Parents…. smile!
I get it, you just want that ONE picture of all of you, smiling at the same time, and looking at the camera. So, let the photographer take care of getting the kids attention and make sure you parents are looking at the camera and smiling. I’m a terrible singer but I’ll do what I need to do, to get everyone’s attention….and when you get that picture you wanted, you probably won’t even remember what dreadful song I was singing anyway!
9. Be flexible – if the ideal shot doesn’t happen, don’t panic
Expect the unexpected. Sometimes you have a key shot in mind, but it just doesn’t work out like that on the day. A decent photographer will take lots of different styles of shots, and will usually check in with you at the end to make sure there isn’t anything else you have in mind.
10. Remember the photographer has seen it all before, and there’s absolutely no need to apologise for anything
Last but not least – never apologise for your children. I can only speak for myself here, but I have seen it allllll before at home with my own kids, and with the many children that I have photographed. I personally love photographing lively children, it shows their personalities beautifully and you’ll look back on these pictures with nothing but fondness in years to come. Obviously, if they get a little too boisterous with me or my equipment, then I might gently say something, but please don’t apologise for the mess, the noise and the chaos, because that’s all part of the rich tapestry of life, and the reason a lot of us got into family photography in the first place.
Contact me on 07779 271447 or Hannah@hannahbrookephotography.co.uk to book your family session now!
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