19.10.2016

Photographing Tweens

19.10.2016

Photographing Tweens

There is no shortage of information about how to photograph adorable newborns, mischievous toddlers, cute-as-a-button preschoolers, and even High School Seniors.  But, the in-between years of tweens and early teens seem to get lost.  Families don’t seem as anxious to capture this stage in which some children may be going through awkward periods of change and may express strong opinions about not wanting to participate in a family photo shoot.  So, how can photographers overcome this reluctance?  Here are some ideas to get the “big kids” on your side.

1# Ask them if they have any ideas: In the age of selfies and parents carrying cameras around in their pockets, even younger tweens are used to posing and have strong ideas about how they should look in photos.  If this is the case, let them take the lead, at least for a little while.  Even if you wind up not using the poses the tween suggests in the final gallery, you will build their confidence and create a good rapport by letting them make suggestions.  If you really don’t like their poses, make changes by saying things like “That’s great, let’s just bring your arm down a little” to make it seem like you are merely tweaking their pose rather than completely changing their pose.

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

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2# Give lots of positive feedback: Tweens and early teens are usually eager to please and may feel self-conscious.  Although this tip really applies to everyone, tweens and younger teens respond especially well to hearing they are doing well.  Start immediately by telling them how pretty or cool they look when they arrive and assure them that they did a great job choosing their outfit.  Continue your praise throughout the shoot by telling them that they are rocking their poses and that their expressions are exactly what you are looking for.  Rather than being negative if something isn’t working, take a few frames anyway and say something like “let’s try it this way now” and move on quickly.  If you get any amazing straight-out-of-camera shots show your tween the back of your camera.  Remember that during a photoshoot positive feedback isn’t just words, but the click of the shutter as well.  Tweens will know when they are giving you what you want when they hear you snapping away.

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3# Give direction: Because tweens are eager to please, they will also respond well to being given lots of direction.  If a tween is wondering whether they are standing in the right place or sitting the right way the uncertainty will show in their photos.  Giving direction is also an opportunity to engage them in the process and build confidence and trust by explaining why you are asking them to do certain things.  For example, say “Stand by that tree and lean slightly on the trunk so that you will look relaxed“ or “I want to keep the sun to your back to light you from behind and your brown hair will look so great against those red leaves.”  When your tween feels engaged and confident it will show in the photos!

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

4# Enlist parents and siblings: Tweens and early teens may argue with their parents and siblings, but they are also close with those that they love and seek their approval.  When taking individual shots of tweens, I usually ask a parent and/or sibling to stand next to me and tell the tween one or two things they love about them or that makes them proud.  The tween’s face usually lights up as soon as I ask the question in anticipation of their loved one’s response so be ready to shoot right away!  Siblings are also great at making each other laugh so don’t be afraid to tell a sibling it’s her job to make her brother smile.

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5# Invite them to be natural:  It can be hard to connect with a tween!  While toddlers universally enjoy silly games like peek-a-boo and seniors have put a lot of thought into their interests and how they want those incorporated into photos, tweens and early teens are still very much figuring out who they are.  They may still enjoy childhood games, but will probably think they are too cool to show you that part of themselves.  They can also take a while to warm up to you.  The Moment Design technique of using invitations, or carefully crafted sets of questions, is very effective with this age group.  By using Moment Design you can evoke emotions ranging from joy to true connection with family (http://belovedcollective.co/blog/shop/) and create a fun and meaningful experience for them.  These invitations work well for individual shots as well as getting amazing family photos with older children.

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

6# Let them do something they love: Photographing tweens and teens doing something they love is a good way to get them engaged and show their personalities.  Does your tween love his skateboard or guitar?  Ask him to show off a little for you during your shoot.  Does she prefer to read?  Let her bring a book and snap a few photos of her reading.   Even if you normally shy away from props, you can make an instant friend by allowing a tween to share their special interest with you while creating images that will be meaningful in the years to come as the tween’s interests change.

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

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Picture Credit Amy Lucinda Photography 

If you are looking for more resources to help with tweens, check out Tamara Lackey’s children’s posing class on CreativeLiveHolli True also has a video involving shooting a tween in her Click Photo School Breakout e-book The Beauty of Simplicity.  If you are looking for some quick posing ideas, check out Sarah Beth’s Family Posing Look Book with some quick-reference ideas for tweens and teens.

Jamie Davis Smith

Jamie Davis Smith is a photographer (www.jamiedavissmith.com) and writer in Washington, DC.  She is a mother of four who usually has her camera in-hand.  Connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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