September through October is school portrait season here at Pectolite Photography. During this time I take, literally, tens of thousands of images for schools. And I love it. I come home drained and joyful after spending a day with students of all ages and capturing images that will be a remembrance of the current school year.
I’ve wrote it before and I will write it again, I have such an amazing job!
While taking these tens of thousands of photos things happen. As a photographer, I may miss a stray hair or get an awkward angle on a student. The student may be absent or just off emotionally on photo day. (Yes, emotion may transfer to your child’s images.)
There are a myriad of reasons for why a parent may request retakes and as the photographer, I rarely have any idea what that reason is. I do know, however, that often the students don’t know themselves and it can have impact. So, based on my experience, here are a few recommendations which I have regarding preparing your child for retakes.
Now remember, these three things are in addition to the 5 things from my previous school portrait blog post, 5 Tips for a Picture Perfect School Portrait Day.
Go over your child’s school portraits with them. Asking them which pictures they like and which one they don’t like. Talk to your children and let them be part of the retake process.
Portraits are personal for all of us, even young children. A parent may not like an expression on their child’s face, but it may be intentional on the child’s part. So requiring a retake of your child’s portrait without a talking about it with them can make them feel like you don’t like something about them or about the choice they made for themselves.
If it’s “the photographer missed. . . .” let your child know. Point it out in their photos to help them see your concern. Your child will then naturally let me know my omission and what I should be looking to correct in their retakes.
Most photo days, I am photographing around 300 students on a very tight time frame. I ask schools to provide assistants who can help clean glasses, wipe faces and make sure hair is in place. If I don’t get an assistant, then I work hard and do the best that I can to quickly check each child before their photo. But if it’s just me with over 300 students, I am going to miss something. So, don’t hesitate to share with your child what I missed so I can improve the new set of photos for you and your child.
Be aware that I will never touch a child. I try to direct them to correct their clothes or fix their hair if needed, but I will not physically make the adjustment for them. I request assistant volunteers from the school because a child will be more comfortable with a familiar face or their teacher making adjustments than a stranger with a big camera.
When ever possible, it is to parent and child to review their appearance before they head off to school. Check for clean glasses, stray hairs and dirty or torn clothes. Life happens at school and hair gets messy, clothes get dirty and glasses may need repeated cleaning. However, give your child the best start by making sure that they at least start out with everything in place.
In addition, what an awesome opportunity to offer your child a sincere complement about how good thing for their pictures. It will boost your child’s confidence and make retakes a bit more pleasant for them.
If there is something about a choice your child made for themselves which you don’t like, be tactful with them and help them understand your concern. It could be their hair, their clothes or their expression. Whatever it is, help them understand what you’d like to have corrected during re-takes. I encourage as parent and/or guardian to be sure to proceed with love and respect for your child as an individual.
When your child knows the issue, they can be a partner in making a more appropriate choice for themselves. When children are not allowed to have a part in the decision, it can create a since that their opinions and wishes for themselves are not valued by their parent. Quite frequently, I am made aware of a child’s oppressed feelings via the “I don’t even have a say in how I want to wear my own hair!” statement. Or some variation there of regarding closes and personal expression.
Children go through interesting phases of independence. I notice this most with 5th grade an above. I find some children are intent on not smiling and being very controlled in front of the camera. I sometimes wish I could put the smiling name card photo into student galleries and not be thought unprofessional. These images are of smiling, laughing children who then become sullen and serious in front of the camera when it is the “real” shots. When I am done, they are back to laughing and smiling - letting me know without saying a word that they were intentional about how they wanted to be photographed. They are people too and I respect their choice for themselves. I do the best I can to encourage children to be joyful in their images with my own laughter, jokes and silliness, but I never ask them to smile.
I hope that you as parents are aware of how amazing, funny and intense your children are. Children are truly intelligent and self-aware regardless of age. Be they 2 or 20, I am sure your child has provided some insightfulness that has been astounding to you given their particular age.
I allow children to choose their path. I respect them as individuals and I can see quite clearly that many are intentional in how they want to be photographed. I respect that and I hope you will to.
If retakes are needed, I encourage you to begin the process by talking with your child. The best start to the process is always one that begins with an open conversation. Be sure your child feels safe in expressing how they feel about their pictures. Find out if they were intentional in their choices of clothes, hair or expression. Then find out why. Be a team as you decide how to make the next photos better.
And as always, if there is something you’d really like me to know, just send me an email with your child’s school, name and grade. I promise to do what I can to partner with you and your child for a better portrait experience.