We’ve all been there. The toddler who has missed her nap and the resulting meltdown at the slightest little thing. We can’t predict the days that this will happen, just like we don’t control the weather. But what happens when that day is photo session day?
I’ve been a teacher or a photographer for 20+ years
I was a preschool teacher before I started my photography business. I have a lot of tricks to keep a session rolling smoothly even when the toddler is having a rough day.
Redirection is key
When a kid is reaching meltdown stage, redirection is often the only thing that will work to break that cycle. Redirection is even more critical before that point is reached. Changing locations or giving a break to have a drink or small snack can entirely reset a child who is having a difficult day. I always take a half-time break in the middle of my sessions just to let the child run around without me telling them what to do for a couple of minutes. I also love getting children to engage in something quiet. Listening for birds or smelling flowers is a great way to calm an overstimulated mind.
I love playing stupid games with my kids. I play a game that requires them to keep their hands in a place that I put them. The first place I put them of course, is up their nose. The start of the game with a good laugh and they are always wondering what my next silly thing will be. I also ask them who the stinkiest person in their family is, and then ask them to compare the smelliness of that stinky person to myself. Usually, I get thrown under the bus as the stinkiest person, though occasionally it’s dad or the dog. We do a lot of jumping up and down and twirling around, and perhaps some talking about poop and butts and farts and boogers.
Reverse Psychology is an almost foolproof way to get an obstinate kid to cooperate. Asking two-year-old “do you want to sit in this chair?” is 100% always going to result in the answer “no!”. But telling that same two-year-old “That’s my chair, you can’t sit in it.” is a sure-fire way to get that kid to sit in that chair. The fastest way I know to get a five-year-old to laugh is to tell her “don’t smile.”
Bribery as a very very last resort
Occasionally I get parents that show up and have told their children that if they do everything Miss Heather says that they will get a new dog, or an ice cream, or a new toy at the store. While this occasionally works for some children, most often what it does is set the child up for impatience. She wants to be done so that she can go get her doll or ice cream. She’s not paying attention to me, nor is she enjoying herself. It’s harder for me to get authentic expressions and real smiles. The absolute worst is when mom shows up and says that she has a lollipop in her purse. That’s all the kid asks about every five minutes. It’s great if you have a lollipop in your purse if things get dicey, but never tell the child in the beginning.
If worse comes to worst, we reschedule
If it just happens that nothing is working and we can’t save the session, then we simply reschedule. It’s no big deal! So far, I’ve only had to reschedule a handful of sessions in my entire 20 years in business.