Throughout our experiences planning and coordinating photoshoots, we have learned a lot. A LOT. When I think about our first photoshoot, I sort of want to climb under my desk and hide. The stress, the unexpected chaos, the why didn't we think of that? moments... it was exhausting.
If you're a boutique owner or just beginning as a child photographer, this list it for you!
I cannot stress the importance of organization enough! Always begin with a spreadsheet of model names, ages, and sizes. From that, plan their outfits... completely. Grab every single item that they'll be wearing (grab an extra size if you're even slightly unsure), hang it, steam it, and put all accessories in a bag. We've found that an industrial garment rack with lots and lots of hangers works best.
Each model has a bag with her name on it. Prior to the shoot, this will include her accessories. When her slot is complete, all the clothes she modeled go into that bag and home with her. We use upside down (unscented) trash bags as garment bags. Each model's outfits go in a bag, the hangers are tied together with tulle, and they are labeled in the order of their appointment time. When we arrive on location, the clothes are easily hung back up in the correct order and bags are removed.
Email your models very detailed instructions, twice. Include where and when to arrive, what to bring, who to bring, etc. Have extra copies of model release forms printed and on hand because someone will forget to bring theirs.
Bring a notebook to document everything. Each page should have the date of the shoot, the model's name, current age, and contact information. During their slot, write everything down. What they wore, what size, what accessories. When the shoot is over, you won't remember if the 4th model wore a medium romper or a large, so write it down WHILE she is wearing it. Keep an extra page going for notes you may need to jot down throughout the day.
2. Not Understanding Children
Organization is key, but don't think you can organize everything! Planned poses, for instance. If you're working with kids, it's just not going to happen. Kids are unpredictable and curious and often get shy for no reason at all. So repeat this over and over: "Let them be little." Kids will be kids, so don't fight it. Work with it.
Talk with the moms in advance to be sure their child isn't scheduled during nap time. Request that they arrive with full bellies and clean hair.
Bribery is a good thing. Most of the models' moms will have already thought of this. We hear a lot of, "Remember how we talked about ice cream?" Be careful not to bribe the children unless you know them. Offering someone else's child candy or snacks is not okay! But you can offer other bribery, "If you put this dress on, we can go outside and see how it twirls!"
We have found that one to two and a half is the hardest age to photograph. They are mobile and very curious. They have no interest in taking instruction or standing still. At first this stressed us out but now we have learned to work with it. If they want to explore, let them. If they want to play, let them. Just keep snapping away. Some of the sweetest photos happen that way! All the while, assure mama that her daughter is doing a fabulous job. She will be shocked at the incredible pictures you managed to get from her mobile munchkin!
If it's possible, allow models to bring a friend or sibling. Have you ever seen a 4 year old model a dress with her best friend? Pure gold. They somehow combine forces and bring out the best in each other! But only one friend. If you have more than 2 models in a time slot, you're playing with fire! Drama, chaos, awkward photobombs, just don't do it!
3. Not Understanding Your Location
I can't help you with exact specifics on this. I will say this: visit your location twice before your photoshoot. If you shoot all day (we do), then visit at two different times of the day. Direct sunlight is not your friend! Open shade is ideal.
Consider the weather as well. We are in Houston, so we need to be mindful of the heat. Since we like to shoot outdoors, we need to be careful not to keep the models outside for too long. Not only do they get hot and cranky, but their cheeks get pink and their hair gets sweaty. Take some pictures and then go back inside to cool off and hydrate. This will make your appointment times a little longer, but it's worth it.
Have props and other things to entertain the kids. We keep chairs, benches, and swings everywhere. They are spread out throughout our location so kids can run from chair to chair and stay happy. Porch stairs and banisters are also fantastic.
Check your location for safety concerns. Thorns on bushes, splinters on chairs, hot pavement, etc. Also check your location for unsightly objects in the background.
4. Ignoring Yourself
The models are important, yes, but so are you! You know yourself better than anyone, so think about everything you could need. We have found that it's important for us to have 2 or 3 people on location to help things run smoothly. If you're the photographer, grab a coworker or friend to help with the models. While you're photographing one model and another shows up on location, it's handy (even necessary?) to have someone there to help.
Don't plan the appointments too close together, it will stress you out. We like to schedule two models per hour. We typically plan for two outfits per model unless we've used that model in the past and understand how she works. It's a good idea to keep extra product on hand in case your model completes her two outfits faster than expected. Change her outfit again and get her back to work!
Know your limits. Most likely, you don't really know these children. You don't know how to make them laugh, listen, or stop picking their nose. Use the parents to your advantage. They can help prop the baby up or dangle her favorite toy above the camera. They can encourage good listening behavior. We recently had a model bring both mom and dad... dad was a lifesaver. He made silly faces, played peek-a-boo, and basically saved the day. Don't be scared to ask them to help.
Think about everything you could need during the shoot and bring it in abundance. Snacks, pens, chargers and batteries, etc. We like to order our lunch the previous day and have it scheduled to deliver during our lunch break. Make everything as easy on you as possible so your mind can be devoted to the photos.
5. Wasting Time on Unnecessary Details
What it all boils down to is this: Know your goal! If your goal is to get detailed photos of your new hair bows, don't waste time making sure the munchkin's diaper isn't peaking out of the back of her tutu. If you need pictures of an entire outfit, make sure she's in a pose that features the entire outfit. If a model is crabby, don't force her to model something you really need. You will just be disappointed with the results. Have the shy girl pose in legwarmers. Have the newly crawling girl model some bloomers. Know exactly what you need so you can adjust and ensure you're not wasting your time.
Have fun and enjoy the shoot. It's a whirlwind but it's important to stay positive and encouraging to get the most out of your models. Good luck!