Just recently I had the pleasure of teaming up with a long-time client of mine. Her daughter had just turned ten and she wanted to commemorate that special year with family portraits. The last time I photographed her daughter was when she was 18 months. Prior to that, Michele had her maternity, newborn, 6-month, 1-year and 18-month sessions with me. I was so grateful that she enjoyed and appreciated my work so much that she continued to invite me back to capture those special memories for her.
So, of course when she contacted me, I was ecstatic! It says so much when someone trusts you time and time again with such precious periods in their life. I am truly honored. Now knowing that I hadn’t seen her daughter, Elizabeth since she was a toddler, I knew she wouldn’t remember me. That didn’t seem to matter. When I met up with them in downtown Decatur in front of the Old Courthouse, Elizabeth gave me a big hug. I couldn’t believe how tall she had gotten with thick wavy hair all down her back.
It was a lovely, cloudy day with a slight breeze but at times it did get a little warm. Elizabeth didn’t let us forget that it was warm either. That day my son was was my assistant. Normally, I do photograph by myself but I figured it would be a good way to get him out of the house and for him to make a bit of money. Money is usually a good motivator for teens.
There was a slight snag in the session at the beginning. Evidently, the Waze app took the to some parking area near the Old Courthouse but not where I had mentioned to park. No worries. We were able to coordinate and everyone arrived safely. Now we were ready to begin! I found a nice area of the courthouse that had some good light to start the session. When I’m outdoors, I try really hard to not use artificial light. I mean, seriously hard. If a reflector will work, that’s what we will go with and that’s exactly what we used. Here are the first set of images I selected from the beginning of the session.
As you can tell, Elizabeth did what she felt most comfortable doing which was just fine. A few years earlier, Michele had told me that Elizabeth was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. She didn’t make a big deal about it so, I never stressed over it. It was just good information to know. No matter what, Elizabeth is still a person and I will continue to treat her that way. Michele had told me that Elizabeth’s patience wasn’t that long so I knew I had to move things along quickly, that’s why this was the very next shot. She mostly wanted images of only Elizabeth but her mother and grandmother had to be in with her, as well.
Shortly after the above image was taken, I think I asked her to smile one time too many. This upset her a great deal so we all worked to calm her down and get her to a place where she could “be herself” as she put it. I’m sure her mother will be happy with the smiles I did get but she mostly wanted the memories. This is why a consultation is so important. Because I knew Michele’s expectations I wasn’t stressed at making sure I captured what she wanted. I knew smiles and highly stylized images were not what she was after. Just good ole fashioned memories. Even with a consultation, you can’t predict everything but you can be better prepared for it. To be honest, Elizabeth’s outburst helped me to have a better understanding of her and the situation so that I wouldn’t make that mistake again. It allowed me to realize that this was going to be a free-wheeling session which worked out really well. My only directions for her would be to go to a specific location where I would then give her a little bit of direction but she would end up doing what she wanted to do. It still managed to work. Here is an image I really loved because of the personality she showed.If that’s not your average tween, I don’t know what is.
At this point, she started having fun. She still complained about being hot or tired but continued on after I gave her some water and a short break. Children, just like adults, want to be seen, heard and understood. They too, want their needs met, especially when those needs are expressed. We all made sure that all of that happened and it made for a much happier session and a much happier child.
“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” ~ Oscar Wilde