Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Natural Smiles... from the Dream Big I Heart Faces Conference.

When the ladies from I Heart Faces asked me to do a workshop at their Dream Big Conference in Dallas, TX on getting natural smiles from children, it couldn't have been any more up my alley.

The time I got to spend with so many wonderful women eager to learn new techniques and increase their knowledge about photography will go down as one of the highlights in my own photography journey.

I wanted to share a few of the images captured from our models and remind everyone of a few tips. I find when you go to a conference your brain can switch to 'overload mode' so here are the a few highlights and some pictures to help illustrate the best way to get children to smile naturally and relax in front of the camera.

Comfort:

I spoke of achieving comfort: the photographer's comfort, the mother's comfort, and most importantly, the child's comfort.

When I walk into a shoot, I check my ego at the door.  There's no time for ego with children. My goal with every session is to to make it a 'play date.' To make it fun for them.  No matter how goofy I need to get. Because the only way you can film natural smiles is when you make children smile naturally.  Saying 'smile' or 'say cheese' doesn't work all the time. And most of you know my motto (don't say cheese),  is the title of my photography manual!

So what is the first thing I do to make a child comfortable? Get down on their level-  literally. (Thanks Jen Van Dam, for capturing exactly what I was teaching!)


When you are on their level, you are less intimidating and more likely to make an instant connection. Because you are treating them as an equal.

So when you do that^^ you get this:

And when you have this much love and joy for children (thanks for capturing Heather!)


They 'feel it' and give it back...


Have them MOVE:

Remember this is supposed to be 'fun' for them. Moving children have no time to push out a cheese-y smile.  Every. single. session. I have a child run towards me.  Add in a little 'now don't knock me over' and you get that glint in their eye as they run right for you.  NOTE: Take a safe stance for both your safety.  Meaning, don't balance on your toes when kneeling down, but get WAY down. If the child decides to in fact plow into you (they have with me) then you won't be knocked off balance and can literally 'catch' them and you. (Thanks to Texas Tatertot for this fab behind the scenes image).

Sit like this (or a variation where your backside in on the ground) to avoid falling.
This position also gets you close to their level which films oh so better and gives you a more interesting composition than if you were standing.   Like this shot:



And this shot:

this shot:

this shot:


and this shot:


Super tight head shots:

This is where my wacky noises come into play.  You don't have to have a child sitting down, but you do want them to look up at you to grab the light and have it pouring into their eyes for those catch lights. A quick, weird noise will have them look right up at you.




Or a game of peek-a-boo behind your camera will keep them interested. Don't use the term peek-a-boo for anyone over two however, as that is a 'baby' game to them. But you can still 'hide' behind the camera and pop out with a weird noise and it does the trick.




Lose the idea of absolute perfection:

Kelle Hampton spoke of this so well. And I briefly touched on it when I spoke of motion blur.  Everything is not always going to be perfect.  Can you present a client or a friend with all blurry images, no. But can you present a client/friend with an image where the moment was perfect and the capture was pretty decent?  YES in my book. Some people may say this is a throw away, it's definitely a little 'soft.' But if I was a Mom and my child got some mega air with a horse behind him and someone caught it on film, I'd want it. So shake it off that everything always has to be perfect. Remember, perfection is an unachievable goal. 


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