The woman in front of me looked aghast. A whiter shade of pale. Incredulity making her eyes bigger than the dinner plates she’d thrown in the dishwasher before rushing out of the house to take the wee guy to football.
“OMG it’s awful! Seriously. You should see him. He won’t sit still for a moment, and if I ask him to smile, he does this crazy Tigger bounce and bares his teeth at me like a rabid dog!
“And every single iPhone photo I have of him is all blurry because he is always hurtling about at 100 mph like a bluebottle on speed – or at best like he’s just necked ten espressos. I’m going to need to wait for at least another five years before I get a decent picture of him, but …
“You know … I really want good photos of him NOW – I’m scared I’ll forget how much these crazy antics make me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I’m scared I’ll forget this, and I’ll never see it again, will I?”
She went on to tell me “But you know what, I can’t guarantee my kids won’t act like feral beasts, so I’m putting off getting family portraits done till they’re older”.
It’s all too common: parents’ phones filling up with blurred, messy photos of their wee ones doing cartwheels all over the place (cause all our kids are very advanced, of course!) with nary a decent one amongst the whole darn camera roll.
And it’s all too common to wait till they “calm down” or “grow up” to get beautiful portraits taken which capture all the madness you’ll want to look back on when they’re crabbit teenagers and only surface from their beds under threat of starvation.
Is this you? If you keep putting it off because you think your children are too crazy and won’t sit still, won’t smile, won’t co-operate, well listen up.
Please. Don’t let a bit of feralness (is that a word?!) put you off! The magic of an outdoors portrait session is that your “spirited” child will not be asked to sit still in a studio and smile nicely for the camera.
She will not be plonked on a stool under bright lights, told to clutch a vintage teddy bear, and instructed to “smile for the nice lady”.
She will not be ordered not to move in case she trips over cables or knocks over a light stand.
Instead, he’ll be encouraged to run around a field, explore the woods, draw in the mud with sticks, swing from the trees, let his big brother leapfrog over him or be swung high in the air by dad. (Or mum. Just because I’m an 11 stone weakling, doesn’t mean you are. Right?)
He’ll be encouraged to run riot and enjoy himself. If he doesn’t want to smile, well so what?
He may be resolute at the beginning of our session that hell no, he is NOT GOING TO ENJOY HIMSELF!, but once he sees that he can just run off and explore and nobody’ll pester him to sit still and smile, I promise you, those natural smiles and laughs will come.
And not only will he have a whale of a time, but you will have beautiful images of him “doing his thing”, showing bucketloads of his own personality.
Images which you can look back on in the years to come and remember so clearly what he was really like back then.
How he moved, how he laughed, how he cocked his head considering a tree to assess its climbability, the enviable bags of energy he had – jealous, much? Me too – the mad Tigger bounce …
All these things which I get on camera and you can put on your walls, to glance at several times every day when things are tough, to smile at, to pause for a moment, to remember why the crazy is all worth it.
You may be worried about your feral children not co-operating … Well that’s okay! A bit of mischief often yields great images, so please don’t worry about it.
I know what it’s like, I’ve got two children of my own, so I’m well used to them embarrassing me in public by fighting with each other, having melt-downs, or yelling at me that they want to go home.
Or worse, but we won’t go there.
It’s not a problem if your kids do the same when you bring them to me. The thing is to get them out and about and moving, exploring, playing. I know you might find it hard to bite your tongue and stand back, but if you get angry and the kids get upset, you’re really not going to get pictures you love.
Take a break and just leave it to me. Now wouldn’t that be nice … Letting someone else handle it for a change?
Now look at this wee lad. His family had driven through to Edinburgh from Glasgow for an outdoors portrait session with me and he’d fallen asleep in the car. T
he poor thing had just woken up when he first met me, and he was adamant that no, no, no, he did NOT want his photo taken. No way is this happening, mum.
However, after a wee while tearing about, hiding from his sisters in the bushes, jumping out and scaring mum, he was having a rare old time.
And when I gave him an extra special grown up, big boy, job of throwing leaves as high as he could in the air, he was more than happy to oblige, which is when I caught this beautiful moment of his glee.
Now isn’t THAT a moment and an image his mother will always value?
You’re not the only one who wanted to put these things off, I assure you. Many parents despair of ever capturing good images of their active children, never mind great ones, but bring them to me, we’ll go somewhere outside where they can belt around and enjoy themselves, and let me do this for you. I can show you the magic, and you can keep it forever.
Trust me. Looking back at these gorgeous images and remembering the real child is still in there somewhere is better than gin for getting through the teenage years.
I have horrible memories of being in Tescos in Inverness a few years ago, fighting back the Rage and Red Mist at my son and my niece knocking lumps out of each other in the banana aisle. (It was a big Tesco. With lots of bananas.)
Only my vanity at not wanting to be seen in public with Ugly Cry Face kept me from losing the heid completely. But it can’t be just me. Surely ..?
Tell me about your feral child here on my Facebook page … How do you manage to keep it together when this kind of thing happens to you?