Last week I attended the I Heart Faces Photography Conference, where I went to some awesome classes.
One of my favorite classes was held by the amazing Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman of Jelly Bean Pictures. I had heard of her and knew her work was very good, but several people told me I needed to see her shoot in person to truly see her talent. I am so glad that I did: the way she handles a portrait session is fantastic! I will completely change how I take pictures of children from now on.
There were a number of things she taught that I think any parent could benefit from when trying to take better pictures of their kids:
Never ask the child to smile or say cheese.
What child reacts to these instructions with a real, natural smile? Not a one. The way to make them smile is to act like a fool yourself, and then let them laugh at you. Jennifer was constantly telling jokes, saying the wrong things on purpose, and making goofball comments. And those kids looked happy and natural.
Shoot fast and move fast.
How many times have your kids gotten bored because you were making them sit in the same place for ten minutes while you found the perfect shot? I was shocked by how quickly Jennifer moved in the shoot. We spent no more than 2 or 3 minutes in any situation or activity. The kids were never bored or grouchy because it was an adventure. Obviously, she knew her camera settings incredibly well, so it’s also a push for all of us to really master our camera and which buttons do what.
Taking pictures of children is about connecting and interacting.
The camera didn’t come up for the picture until she had made a connection with the child. Too often I think we come into a child’s world and expect them to just smile because we told them to. Instead, Jennifer was genuinely interested in those kids, and once they felt that, they were willing to play with her and the camera.
Don’t be afraid to take a ton of pictures!
“Sometimes they’re magical, and sometimes they’re junk and I toss them because they’re free!” She mentioned she averages 300-400 pictures per shoot, and gives only 30-40 of those to a client. Of course some of those are throw-away pictures, but it’s important to realize that the 10% she keeps are so awesome because they arn’t bogged down with tons of other “just-ok” shots.
I definitely take a bunch of pictures, but I’m totally guilty of not deleting the pictures that are junk. I need to get better at this, because the subpar pictures dilute the impact of the fantastic ones. No one wants to look at 23 pictures of the same messy ice cream cone face, but one or two great ones will make you smile.
Be physical and creative.
Get down on the kid’s level, and do different things. One of the funniest moments was when Jennifer laid down on the ground for a swing picture. The little girl on the swing nearly pegged her in the face with her feet. And Jennifer’s reaction was fantastic and real and made the girl laugh even more. It was a great moment: it represented everything we had just been taught about connecting with your subject and keeping it real. Would she ever have gotten that kind of giggle from sitting a child primly in a chair saying cheese? No way.
I learned so much from watching this talented photographer in action. I’ll definitely be changing some things about how I take pictures of my kids and my clients’ kids! Anything inspire you?