All About Kids: Part 1
I talked to a lot of people, photographers, especially, who say that they're good with their camera and their good with the technicals, they know what to do with lighting and composition and had a look for background and how to make sure that kid is, well, clothes, but then when they're actually interact with the kid it's a little strange or uncomfortable, because they either didn't grow up with a lot of siblings, or they're not around kids a lot, or whatever the case may be. And, um, the one thing I've noticed more than anything is if you're going into shoot and you are uncomfortable or nervous around the child, you as the photographer, um, you are basically bring in all this energy that kids don't understand, and by that I mean, that first of all, kid, smell fear it's just to give in fact, I think it's scientific think there's like a a certain neuron, you look that up and let me now is a neuron for fear with kids and dogs, but number two, they aren't built to understand that an adult...
might be afraid of them because that's really what it is, they're nervous or uncomfortable or this or that, so since they have no way to kind of process what you're walking in with the energy they're getting is because kids again are used to being shushed and told to be quiet and this and that, and nobody comes up to them and say is you are really intimidating to me, they just don't hear that, so what? They're what they're feeling when you walk up with this fear and this not sure this discomfort is this jumbled sense of emotion coming from you, that's very off putting, you know, and that's not what you're meaning to do. Of course, you being the general people I'm talking about that I've had conversations with its just what ends up coming across. So I think one of the number one things I would suggest is that they have no basis of understanding why this is a fearful interaction with them is to stop and think about what the child is seeing in a photo shoot and with child is seeing in a photo shoot is usually this. Usually it is a stranger with a bag in a camera, joining their family for a limited amount of time, and mom seems kind of stress and dad seems kind of chancy, everyone's dressed up all their faces are probably clean are going to be cleaned, and you're coming at them with the sole purpose of capturing their likeness because their parents paid you to do that. Like that's, kind of weird, that's, that's what we do for a living that's kind of weird if you really put that in the context of everyday life of the child, that's what a photo session is, so you process it that way, hopefully there's, that understanding that there's really nothing I the adults have to be afraid of this is mostly freaky for the child, and kind of get yourself around the mindset of any kind of fumbling you're doing through camera are tryingto dialer settings in right are making sure the lights hitting them in the right way, that is just not even in the realm of anything the kids thinking about you could do all of that be completely unsure about what you're doing technically, and if you keep this stream of interaction going in a way that's interesting to the child, it doesn't matter, it never matters and there's times that people feel a little intimidated, kind of like what you think I don't know to shoot a deaf aid like, and the kid is just like, no, I'm wondering why I'm wearing this s o kind of get into the idea of recognizing that a portrait session is a weird thing to a child, and if you're wrapping your head around that when you're going into it, hopefully, that does a lot to diminish your lack of comfort does that make sense okay um expressions a lot of people ask me how did you get that expression or how do you pull that expression out? It is a couple thing is that if you're having that interaction that we talked about in terms of interacting with the individual the expression will come and you'll have a series of expressions and I've never done one photo shoot where everyone's just smiling I've never had one other all miserable and usually there's like five or six typical things that come out whether it's frustration or happiness or joy or giddiness or love I mean it's and I use the term love as in I'm showing affection so you see a lot of affection in the image of the thing that best brings that about is ramping up to the child so the child comes in and they're uppity and crazy and bouncing off the walls and stuff like that and you're super mellow because you're trying to bring them down to make this more controlled you're actually working a little bit against yourself I suggest I suggest I should pull back and say these are my suggestions this is not like what two d'oh these air my suggestions I suggest you okay when they get big you uh well I just want to come across like this is how you doing uh I would suggest you go to where they are and you meet their energy level as best you can so if you're feeling kind of mellow and slow and they're bouncing off and going crazy if you have it in you emotionally to say all right, here we go let's jump or whatever it is that that's where you're going to be the place very quickly that you're getting the expressions you want and vice a versa if you're in a bouncy, crazy mood you just had your fourth grand at starbucks and you're jump it in and you pull out your gam and you're like let's go and they're like hiding behind mom's leg and really mellow and trying to figure out who you are um bring it down, bring it down, slow it down and just say hi, how are you and do all of that like the whole tonal range and the emotion, the experience and the physical representation of yourself so start with going to where they are to be able to get the expressions that you maybe want to pull out. Um this is a great example of a workshop I did last march just before w p p ay where we had these little children come out, we have these little models come out and I was shooting alongside I think I had something like twenty photographers with me while we're doing the shooting clinic and this little girl was just freaked out because she had all these cameras pointed at her and it was really a lot going on and we're at the mgm in vegas and there's just a lot of energy coming at you from wherever and talk about a challenge my challenge with this child was to get her to immediately trust me in a very short amount of time in the midst of a lot of chaos and what that was what I did in that specific situation is I closed the gap between us so I physically got really close to her not in a way that like you know oh my god get off but got really close to her so that I could try to actually block out a lot of this energy that was flying into her and I tried to communicate with her in a very soft, gentle way about how this is just we're just gonna do so thing and just kind of described what we were doing and you know, I don't know exactly how old she was what would you guess anywhere between two and five um I think she's probably close from the two and a half sort of range or so too but she's also very little very petite and and I think that being able to again physically nonverbally show her that this is okay it's calm it's really just about me and her interacting um and when I actually show this image at pee pee in new york, one of the women raised her hand she's, like I was at that workshop, that wasn't saying because the I wanted to show how you can very quickly form a connection if again, all we need is a quick smile, right? If we want to get that shot, all we need is, you know, if you come out, you've got a kid laughing the whole time that's kind of a boring shoot, just turn around giggle after laugh after giggle after laugh so you want to show a variance of emotions um, and by doing that by standing very close and by whispering assurances and kind of letting her, like, literally, I will do this sometimes, like, I'll just try to get in their line of expression in a way that that would be obnoxious, like at a cocktail party, but works a lot with little children, and so we went from that to this in a pretty quick amount of time, and that was because I came in really close and I pulled her to me like energetically, I guess, and then backed up to be able to get that shot, and that was shot she's actually looking at me exam, holding the camera right here, because if I put the came right here, I would have broke the connection I would have broken it, so I pull it here and I kept her with me and this you get the shot where it looks like she's looking off, but she's actually looking at me while I was talking to her makes sense. Yeah, so how often do you do that? Half of what? They hold the camera off to the side very often, very often more and more, I do it nearly probably half the time, uh used to just do it here and there for fun, for a shot, for a quirky view to be silly, but I've gotten really comfortable with that shooting that way, and I'm going to show some footage that shows exactly that and talking specifically technically, what I'm doing as well to make that work, but when you're engaging with children so that little girl was fearful, theon the flip side, you have babies and toddlers who are pretty much fear less, you know, and what I mean by that with fearless it's, not that they don't have fears or they're not afraid or that sort stuff I'm on lee talking relation to our session and photography, so although a lot of this could be kind of used in everyday life and interactions and experiences, mostly I'm talking about how do we get what we need for a photo shoot? In a way that the parents later walkway and they're happy and it felt like was a true representation, and you feel like you did a great job s so in that respect, babies and toddlers, you know, I think our fearless because they're not afraid of your lens, they're not leads aware, which means that they will do whatever they're doing, whether you're point the camera at them or not, it doesn't matter. They're not gonna pose for you. They're not gonna filter things for you. Um, you're going to get what you get later when kids girl a bit older, they're very lens aware they're very well, you pull that camera out, there's a response, there's an action and there's a reaction and there's that precondition smile. You guys know it that she smiled way. We'll talk a little bit about that later. How to combat combat that but the thing that changes here is that you have to recognize that it's, not this kid's job, this kid's job to be less lens aware, it's your job to make them less lens aware because they're actually going to be very aware that what a camera does, what they have to look like, what mom and dad always want them to do it one comes out um they're not going to know that hey, I want you to be exactly yourself act like this isn't even here how can they act like it's not there they've been condition the whole life what to do when that shows that so keeping that in mind you have to put in a ton of work to show them like I am more interesting than this hunk of metal that you usually garner's your attention of course the onus now on us to be interesting but that's kind of, you know, that's kind of the point that's part of the challenging part of this job is how do you make yourself interesting to a bunch of different personality types in the amount of time you need are so, um this is showing up really hot on screen is it like that on the feed? I think it's probably more more there okay, yeah, I'm gonna I promised myself I wouldn't care about the way the screens of the expression I do this and presentations all the time like this monitor is not right so annoying I won't do that today, right? That's true. So whatever they're saying here doesn't matter what they show their okay, all I have to say is that the photo doesn't look good it's probably monitor it looks like the exposure's off it wasn't here uh okay, so uh one of my favorite poems ever is, uh, pablo casals. So you don't remember telling you about this? A few years ago, he was a spanish cellists and philosopher who spoke a lot about children and how we're educating children most specifically speaking to the fact that we teach them how to add two and two together, and that paris is the capital of france. But what are we really teaching them about who they are? Do we teach them that they are a marvel? Was the basis in his poem? Is the eps excerpt from it? Um, is that every parent should take a child by the shoulders and say, do you know who you are? You are marvel your unique in all the years that have passed there's never been another, their child, like you and it's like that is what we should be teaching children, that is what they really need to know all the other stuff matters, but this is what sets them apart that helps them to understand that if they're marvel, that means other people on the planet are also marvel's. And how could you harm another marvel like yourself? That's, the root of education and that's where we should be teaching our children how to put their focusing their energy and their passion behind is understanding their incredible uniqueness that being said I'm gonna talk about how the personality type children, okay? I think that matters because I constantly recognized that you could read, read children really quickly, you can put them into these buckets of some sort to be able to get through a session, but I think it's, so important to critically say, every time that's not the all of who they are, um, it's, like, I mean, we go around this room and call you the this one and this one in the shy one of the etcetera, um, and that might be just who you are while you're being filmed on the internet, in this chair, where the microphones dropped to you, um, and that's, not who you will be at ten o'clock tonight at subway, when you order. I don't know what yeo wei are. When you're buying socks at walgreens, you're totally different wild person there. Uh, but I wanted to start with that, because my, my philosophy with children is to recognise that everybody is unique, and I'm going to find out enough that I need to know about them to get through the session, but I'm not gonna let that blind me to the rest of you, they are, so what I have come to recognize is there's a certain amount of types that show up every time with sessions and I've actually added to my list I had a smaller list before but one has come up more and more lately on dh that is the superstar, the shy one, the interactive one the one who just needs to warm up the too cool for school one and the spirited one or the one who is sick, tired and having a tantrum. Um okay. So as I walk into all these personality types, I have this look like inner monologue. Has anybody here seen the show on television? How I met your mother? Yeah, even load the barney stinson character. Okay. It's argus and for anybody who hasn't seen it, barney stinson character is this guy who is like a complete womanizer is played by neil patrick harris, who from everything I've read his personal life is completely different than his show life, which is hilarious, but his his is that, uh he is a womanizer who can get any woman under any situation is very proud of it and wants to make sure he reaches a certain count of women that he dates and goes out with. And whatever else happens, I've had experiences er and one of his quirks of his personality type is that if he's sitting in a room and he hears someone say something that can't be done he immediately comes to life, especially if it has to do with a woman like someone might say, you know, you can't pick up a woman wearing a superhero costume like he'll be sitting there and I'll just say challenge accepted, he does this every time and it plays out this comes out like overtime over the time of the siri's I think that show was really funny and it just doesn't have a great title that's my feeling about how I met your mother, but, um, I find that the back of my head whenever I'm talking to somebody and they'll say, you know, we're booking the session with you because we've never been able to get a good shot of our kid, and you probably won't either because they're going to debt that that that that and I'm like, challenge accept I find is running through and I actually like the father lying in a photography to make the challenge is a little more plentiful. So it's, more exciting and interesting and fun. So these are some of the challenges I have come to accept overtime. The superstar superstar is the child who you probably had all seen this this child, they are the performer they're up for anything they want to show you everything they khun dio I want to show you how high they could jump and they want to show you this and show you that and you're gonna hear a lot of did you see that? Did you take my picture? How'd I look that's? The child always wants to look back right away. Um, and one of the things that that the performer and the superstar is you get a lot of these high impact, emotional, fun spirited images, but you need to then work to pull out the other side. You have work to pull out this kind of thoughtful side and the the things that they're unsure about our, uh, don't quite know how to dio and what I find with that is the the person that the superstar of the performer and this isn't a negative thing. This is just kind of what you find, the person that they're most interested in is themselves and what they can do, and what you want to do is respect that and also be most interested in that person and show them that you are, and so the experience I have or someone is showing me that go jump and run and all that's where stuff is I'm gonna be really fascinated by the things they could d'oh because here's the other thing about every child working a step through is by the time they get to you and you're seeing that personality type it's probably something that they've kind of been acting like they're being like for a lot of their life and they're used to a certain amount of reaction to it and what the superstar is used to is like yeah I saw it I got it I got it I got it and the idea that you're really excited about it you really want to see it is something that's gonna draw them out and so they're gonna show you all the store stuff you've got a kind of wait to the end until there basically finding you boring because you're still not them and when they start finding you boring that's where you get that kind of other spectrum of of expressions you know but initially you're getting a lot of this on the cheese you guys all know that she's face and there's a huge huge difference in the exact same child minutes apart being very lens aware and being very natural to camera and part of is this is like she sees that cameron every time it comes close it goes from ha ha you know you could almost see like the ark of it as the camera comes in and so a lot of this is pulling the camera away from your face and interacting very directly hey um and getting and and making a game about it can they follow the camera or something so you're still getting the end the lens shot but you're holding it away and you're orchestrating it so the lens is not something we performed for it's just part of the game does that make sense? Okay, so that would be one of the big superstar is the one big personally types I see a lot of the next is the shy one which is kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum in a lot of respect the shy one is also the reserved one or the one who is very state seems that leased to you to be very standoffish um or has you know kind of anything but we were categories more as like asperger's or autism or on that spectrum where it's not so kind of automatically they're engaged with you yeah I'm time out so uh on uh on the one hand you seem to have more limited interactions on the other hand the one you get that massive upside of these kind of soulful looks you know these that these kind of really quiet, introspective that's a lot of the portrait that you pull out that people are like oh, I love that you know, shy children a lot of people getting nervous about that I'm like no, those are great for house those air great great photographs where you have, you know the child that he's like I'm looking up and she's just not sure and she's she has a lot of fear and insecurity and it's a little bit more visible, but that doesn't mean she's a fearful, insecure child that just makes doesn't know you yet, you know? And so you get this thing where like you have these sweeping lashes and these big eyes and all those gorgeous sort of things, but they need to warm up to you if you want to also have what you get right at the beginning with the superstar and part of how you get there with a shy child is time, time, time, time, time, time, time, time a lot of patients a lot of time if I'm talking to somebody advanced and she tells me that my child is exceptionally reserved, very shy has a hard time making eye contact connecting with individuals doesn't seem tio I have that same sort of emotional feel that other kids do or whatever the case may be. I know that that that's going to be a two, three, maybe four hour session, you know, and I've had those where that's, what I have and mostly what I'm trying to do with a very shy child is is back to what I said the beginning in terms of any acceptance into their world and what you have to do in that case is not be a stranger, and you have to not be this germ on, you know, on the landscape of their home. So most the time this sessions are best on in the client's home, you can eliminate a whole extra battle of the studio or out on location if you're in the home and they've got a comfort level there, and basically you're there long enough that you're a part of the furniture and you're a little more acceptable, you know, and that's how you can kind of get them and you take the energy off the exchange it's, the complete opposite with what we did with the that interact, what we'll do with interactive child, what we do with the superstar, you take the energy off the exchange and you and you give them comfort, you give them room, you step back, you shoot with a long lens, you kind of just accept what they're telling you they need, which is a little bit of space that makes sense, okay? They're so gross suddenly like this. Um the interactive one so this child I was probably an interactive kid I would think I love this like this dialogue I want to say makes sense did you get that on my hearing? You're hearing me am I hearing you this? Okay uh this child you she loves a whole bunch of wonderful facts that are being spewed out they seem to always know a lot about like very very villages and dinosaurs like there's certain modes that noah tahn about like you always know and you know that I'm not the kid that could tell you everything about back a tron or the uh I think it's some major justin bieber every song you ever saying it's not limited to a certain age think you love justin bieber who's canadian wounds uh and the fascinating thing I think with interactive children is they become incredibly valuable you can put them in any position you want as long as you're keeping the dialogue going as long as you're interacting you're talking and there's big connection this of all the children's the one I'm most put the camera away from my face because they really really want this to happen um now what you want to do is break up the intensity because you get a lot of shots works like this um so you need to break up the intensity and that is things like surprise tactics and funny contests or race around that trees fast as you can I pull those out aton you know um you do the, uh kind of if you can get there and back in five seconds you totally gonna get a chocolates you know, you have to give him an impossible thing that they can't meet it you don't have to pay for the chocolate but that's why you get kind of a great kind of comfortable exchange this child is also really good with interacting with other people so whether it's their friends or their siblings or their mom or dad uh this is the one that you get a ton of great candidates when you could just step back and do no sort of opposing our interaction just say but you guys go and I'm just gonna get it on the flip side however um just because you get interaction doesn't mean you get great interaction so I want to tell you a little story that just happened a few months ago that's kind of a perfect experience jim, you were saying earlier about what if you have two brothers that are very different or whatever the type might be so you know that your brother jesse said I can't remember remember because your brother just that uh I think it was me e used them you guys a little bit of wine was like a collective consciousness year so this is just a few months ago, I had a two year old brother and a one year old brother. They're very different personality types, and actually physically very different. The two year old is the two year old was half the size of the one year old andi, the head of very dominant personality. And the one year I was very shy and reserved.