Thursday, August 16, 2012

The right way to bribe your kids for photos

 I think all too often, we all get overly stressed out about photo shoots of our kids. We need the perfect backdrop, outfit, hair style and our kids in the perfect mood. Honestly, most of the time when you spend all the time for the perfect outfit and hairstyle, you end up with a kid in a less than perfect mood. You get snippy because you want everything to be perfect and the kid gets upset. When I worked at a studio we had a saying, "If mom starts yelling, the session is over." Your kids are very in tune with you, they know when you are mad at them and frankly, when mom gets mad there is little chance of true happy smiles from any kid. What can you do if your session is going off track? Calm down, talk lovingly to your child and bribe.
One of the best ways to help a photo shoot, is to bribe the right way. During the years I worked for a national studio, I was surprised at how many parents threaten to take away toys if their kids won't smile. Maybe this works at home for some people, but it never works for pictures. In pictures you want children to be happy and while threatening to take away their favorite toy at home may get them to stay at the dinner table, it doesn't make them smile. I have seen parents go as far as actually throw a toy in the garbage can, trying to bribe smiles, and then been frustrated when all they ended up with was quivering lips and tears. This is the point in a session where I usually asked Mom to take a break and let me work with the kid alone for a few minutes. Mom would usually come back a few minutes later, surprised to see her child smiling and happy, with the fear of losing their favorite toy gone. 
So what is the right way to bribe a child for pictures? Positively, with a smile on your face. If you smile, you can have this. If you have older children, you can bribe them with something that isn't right in front of their face, but with small children, it needs to be something you have with you. I have seen many parents tell their two-year-old if they smile they will get an ice cream cone. While the two-year-old may want the ice cream cone, they can't see it right now, so it isn't very motivating. I have found, small, no staining candies work best for little children. Smarties are an excellent choice, they can be chewed quickly, they are cheap and they don't leave bright red stains everywhere. Suckers on the other are not very good motivators for pictures. They take too long to eat and if you take a sucker away from a child, it is probably going to cause tears.

Now, owning my own photography business, I always carry around a few bribes in my camera bag. Not every photo shoot needs to end in candy, but a shoot will always go smoother if mom or the photographer are prepared.

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