Today, I explained why squirrels fall out of trees, taught a shy little boy the joy of beggar’s lice, and crawled through the weeds to photograph a bear. All in my back yard. And I forever captured some beautiful moments for the mom of her five and seven year old children. And no one was really harmed by a bear…
Samuel and Hadi arrived this afternoon for their mini session, and as soon I greeted them in the driveway, they backed away. Eeek! Having seen me only here and there when their mom and I attend functions together, they seemed scared to death of this photoshoot. They didn’t care about the coordinated clothing mom had chosen for them this week. Hadi could care less about her curls falling, and Sam didn’t notice when his hair parted funny. Mom was sweating. Maybe it was nerves, or the rush of getting kiddos dressed and unstained to my place (or maybe it was the 76-degree weather bipolar Tennessee gifted us in November!)
I generally tell my clients that I don’t count to three and then snap. So, when my camera is up at my face, assume I am photographing. With adults, I will explain a bit of my posing thoughts and talk about the optimum lighting, and perfect their hair strands. But I never do this with kids. They don’t care about how I do what I do. They just want to be done smiling. And they want to play.
Today I went beyond the usual “let’s put some acorns in Samuel’s pocket” to keep his hands still for a few normal shots, and having Hadi hold on to her dress and show me her bows to achieve a sweet grin or two. They didn’t want to sit next to each other like best buds with perfect faces. Those things usually work well enough, but mostly develop forced, awkward smiles. They wanted to talk about boogers and poop and pee, and so we did. They didn’t want to throw leaves up in the air – they wanted to throw them at me, and I joyfully allowed it, and photographed it (carefully making sure there were no rocks involved as to damage my baby, my 85mm 1.2L lens.)
I usually will tell the mom to bring accessories, and I mean scarves, hats, necklaces, maybe a toy for a younger child. Today’s mom brought a teddy bear hat and gloves for Sam and kitten ears and bell for Hadi. A first – but a good first. As soon as little Samuel donned his bear hat, he transformed into a fierce animal with a soft, low growl, and an adorable chuckle. He briefly chased me through the weeds, plenty of play to capture what I wanted, and to keep him interested in the photoshoot. Hadi purred for her moments in front of the camera, because I allowed her to be something she loved.
While walking through the woods behind my house, I realized Sam had accidentally gathered a cluster of “beggar’s lice.” Those weird little triangular looking, Velcro-ish weed pods which are so annoying to collect on your clothing. I sensed mom was still slightly nervous about her pictures with the kids, as Samuel had not enjoyed the normal tricks of the trade to produce a smile. But then beggar’s lice. Yep, fascinating. He had no clue, nor did I before I tried it, that they will also stick to skin. So on his nose one went, and on it stayed. One little triangle of weed pod on his nose. But he smiled a glorious smile and hugged mom’s leg because he was happy we had allowed it to remain there. Hadi glanced across at him, holding on to mom’s other leg and giggled pleasantly. It took me all of about 6 seconds to photoshop that invaluable beggar’s lice from Samuel’s nose. (And I left it on there in at least one edited image, just for fun!) Worth every bit to capture that moment – those genuine young faces.
So, if I’m really being honest, I DO love that sibling hand-holding shot. But I also recognize that there comes a time that little ones age out of this, or should. I’ve never photographed teen siblings holding hands, but I have seen it done and it made me gag a little. I much prefer teens to attempt bicep curls with their preschool sister than to hold hands with her. I digress…
Though they are close in age, Hadi and Sam did NOT want to hold hands and walk through the gorgeous TN fall foliage today. Until I asked them to, for just a short stroll, hold hands and walk away from me, then turn and answer a simple riddle. The only riddle I know really – “Why did the squirrel fall out of the tree?” (For anyone wondering, the actual answer is, “because he was dead.”) Every time I counted to three, I encouraged them to guess the answer. Boy, we got some doozies, and you guessed it, some hilarious smiles!
Today’s shoot was exceptionally fun. Fun for me, mom and both Samuel and Hadi. I just now finished the slight bit of post-production on the images and I’m happy with them. Not because of the images we created, but because of the moments we captured.