Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Young families are such a joy.
Although Sarah and I haven’t even made our half-year anniversary, and are in absolutely no rush for little ones of our own, spending time with young families – both professionally and in our personal lives – is such a joy.
Last month, we had the pleasure of working with one such family. Tyler and Paige, local campus ministers at UVA, are not just great pastors to college students, but from our brief glimpse into their lives, are great parents too.
When we arrived at Pen Park, Sarah and I had been getting set up for the shoot for a few minutes when we saw (and heard) their clan arrive. Not one, not two, not even three but four boys rolled out of the minivan after Tyler and Paige, and I suddenly appreciated Tyler’s patience and gentle nature even more than I had before.
Now don’t get me wrong – these kids were extremely well behaved! But with four boys all under the age of 10, even the most well-behaved family can get a bit hectic.
Also, in the kids’ defense, anytime you take children, throw in the fact that they’re all dressed up, in a new place, and interacting with new people, and it’s not uncommon for even the most well-behaved families to struggle immensely to control their little ones during photoshoots. But Tyler and Paige were champions, and even the oldest son, Zander – age 9, did his best to control his younger brothers.
Sarah and I’s favorite part of family shoots is often the walking shot. It not only makes a wonderful photo when everything’s said and done, but we also learn a lot about the personalities of the kids when we do it. (Plus, it helps them get the jitters out early, and helps them sit still when the sitting shots come.)
Typically, we ask everyone to hold hands, and walk extra slow while smiling and looking at the camera. As you can see, we’re asking young children to 1) hold hands, 2) walk slow, 3) smile, and 4) look in the right direction. That’s 3-4 commands too many for most kids, but on the first attempt, we get to figure out a bit about the family, then as we run through the reps and everyone gets better, it leads to some awesome shots!
As Tyler and Paige bookended their three oldest boys, we found Zander to be the over-literal-interpreter type. I’m sure you can think of a child you know who’s exactly the same way. You tell him to stop talking, so he keeps his lips tightly zipped, but makes grunting noises louder than the voice he was previously talking with! Technically, he isn’t talking, right? Of course, this meant that Zander walked so slow that he was essentially frozen in place, while the rest of his family walked along without him.
Pax, ages 6 and the middle of the three walking boys, reminded me a lot of Dash, the son from Pixar’s The Incredibles. In case you haven’t seen the movie (you should probably go watch it right now – what a classic), Dash is a boy with the super-power of speed, and his personality matches his super-power. Everything he did was fast, and even his speech was enacted with super-speed. Likewise, when we said go, Pax took off and ran like it was a 6-person race and the winner was getting free ice cream for a year.
The youngest of the three, Beckett, being only 4 years old, was just a bit overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. Most kids can multitask at about the rate of one thing per year of life, so four commands was right around his limit when also surrounded by new people and new places. So, in 90% of the shots, Beckett would remember to walk and smile, but was looking straight at the ground. Or he remembered to smile and look at the camera, but forgot to walk. To be honest, it was really cute, and eventually he moved to right in-between his older brothers who would help him keep pace with the rest of the family.
Then… there was Dash.
Dash, coming in at barely 15 months old, was by far the best behaved of all the kids. His adorable smile and apparent inability to cry or whine made him one of the most chill toddlers that Sarah and I had ever met.
Throughout the shoot, we used these insights into Tyler and Paige’s boys’ personalities to work to our advantage, rather than against them. We gave Zander instructions in a way that he couldn’t possibly out-literal us. We gave Pax our smallest light reflector (which can double as a light-weight frisbee) and told him to go wild so that when his turn for pictures came around, he was tired out and would sit still. We gave Beckett the simplest commands possible, and just took lots of pictures until we got the perfect one. With Dash, he just sat wherever he was put without whining or moving. What a guy.
Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were pulling out all the stops and showing us their arsenal of parenting tips and tricks. Four boys had clearly given them years of experience, and it showed! They seamlessly brought their boys under control when necessary, and the evidence is in the photos!