Last year my husband’s only birthday request was exactly that. As a photographer, it’s always been important to me to schedule regular family photo sessions for my brood, and my husband is always game, but I’m always the one doing all the legwork. From planning the outfits to choosing the photographer to ordering the products. So you can imagine my delight (and surprise), when he made his request for a session with our 3 boys all on his own! He must like those sessions more than he let on.
We hear a lot about Mommy & Me sessions, but Daddy & Me sessions haven’t caught on in the same way. Perhaps because we are going off the stereotype that dads are more reluctant in front of the camera, but a father/child session can make an excellent gift for birthdays or Father’s Day. Here are a few tips to help your session run smoothly and make this a great gift your whole family will treasure.
No.01Plan an activity
In my experience, guys feel a bit uncomfortable in front of a camera. It’s not that they don’t want to be there, it’s more that they don’t know what to do.
Break up that stiffness by having them engage in an activity that they enjoy doing together. It could be anything – playing catch (football, baseball, whatever), playing tag, going out for ice cream, going fishing, going for a hike, etc. If you give them something to do where they feel comfortable, the resulting images will feel relaxed and natural, not forced.
For this session I planned a picnic with everyone’s favorite foods (to keep them happy) and we brought a football, a frisbee and a bunch of light sabers to my favorite park.
No.02Choose the clothing wisely
Yes, this is a planned session, but if you’re going to be doing an activity, make sure they’re wearing appropriate clothing for what they’ll be doing.
In my case, I knew they’d probably be getting grass stains, so I didn’t put them in anything that I would care too much if it got ruined.
Instead, I chose relaxed play clothing. It’s not necessarily what I’d put them in if we were shooting a family session but I wanted them to have fun and feel comfortable. And I didn’t want to be cringing behind my lens as they tumbled around in the grass in spiffy new clothing.
I shot this session mostly with my 135L in order to give them space to play and be themselves without my camera up in their faces.
During the playing parts (which was about 90% of the session, let’s face it), I didn’t give them any other direction than to ask them to stay in the good light at the top of the hill. When they wandered out of that light, I’d gently direct them back where I wanted them, but then backed off and let my husband run the show with our boys.
I did mix in a bit of my 24-70 with this session as well for the picnic part, but it was used sparingly. It was obvious that they all felt more at ease with me farther away.
No.04Treat them like clients
Sometimes it’s harder to shoot our own husbands and children than it is to shoot clients, am I right?
Dig deep into your reservoir of patience and be determined to treat them and the session as you would if you were shooting a paying client. Pull out all the stops from your bag of tricks to get them to be happy and cooperative.
And if they’re not cooperative, roll with it the way you would at a client session, not like you might be tempted to as their wife/mother and correct them more emphatically. The beautiful part of this is that you know all these people so well you have an endless well of things to coax smiles and happiness out of them – don’t be shy about digging for that information and using it to your advantage.
This also extends to the editing portion of a client session. Be timely in your delivery of the images and don’t let them fall on the ever-growing pile of personal images that you don’t get around to for months.
No.05Print the images
This type of session makes for great gift ideas. It would be perfect for birthdays or Father’s Day coming up.
Wrap up the session with a tangible product for display. A framed print or two for his desk would be a thoughtful gesture, and if you wanted to go above and beyond you could order a piece of wall art for the home or an album that tells the story of the whole session.