BE IN CONTROL • Working With Parents
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Tuesday, November 08, 2016
By Sandy Puc SPTV
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If you are going to be successful, you must convince both the child and the parent to trust you and their techniques.

It's extremely important for the photographer to be in control of the session. Start by establishing a good relationship with each. Speaking only to the parent excludes the child, and you won't be able to take fantastic portraits without creating some type of bond with your young subject.

The "Never Say No" Rule
Children grow up hearing the word no-and when they do, it's almost a negative thing that means stop or don't. From an early age, children learn that no means no fun.

It is our job to create a fun and festive atmosphere that children look forward to coming back to the studio to play.

Often, preparing for portraits and driving to the studio can be a stressful situation. Parents may have certain expectations about the session and may be concerned that their children will not cooperate as fully as needed to produce the perfect portraits. Thus, the morning might include a mixture of threats and bribes with plenty of nos and don'ts. Because of this, I try to speak only in positive terms, using rewards instead of negative terms with consequences.

During the Shoot
A portrait session may be a new experience for the child and parent, so we try to make it as simple and pleasant as possible. When a parent arrives, I tell them that they are welcome to watch the session as long as they are quiet and don't interrupt.

Nothing shuts down a session more quickly than a parent stepping in to direct their child.

I suggest that parents should not reprimand or scold their child during the session, noting that the studio is friendly and safe place, so kids are free to roam around and be kids. I also let them know that I will ask for their help if I need it. Additionally, I mention that, as a professional, I recognize a fake smile, so they should not tell their child, "That's not your smile." I'm pleasant when I say all of this, and I always have a smile on my face.

Parents really appreciate a little direction--they feel much better when you tell them your rules.

Fortunately, I don't need to give a lot of instruction to most parents. Most trust that you know what you're doing and allow you to conduct the session uninterrupted. Occasionally, however, you will run into a parent who is so determined to direct the session. In that case, that you must ask them to step out of the camera room. I usually do this by explaining that their child seems very focused on them, and it would be better for my work if I had their child's full attention on me.

I don't like to ask a parent to leave the room, but I will do it to spare the child a stressful situation.

It's no surprise that the anxiety level in the studio instantly decreases once a disruptive parent leaves the room.

Overall, parents can be very helpful. As long as you take charge and exude confidence, your clients will enjoy letting you run the show.

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