Have you ever had one of those moments when you were preparing for your family’s anniversary session? You had the perfect outfits chosen for your entire family, including yourself and your spouse, of course. After all, you did your research. You pored over Pinterest and chose the perfect color palette for your family. They were the perfect clothing pieces for your family to wear and you styled them to the smallest detail. And, you just KNEW that everyone would be happy about their outfits, right? If your life is anything like mine, you know that what you dream of your kids looking like for an anniversary session and the reality of their opinions of those adorable outfits can be polar opposites. But you are the mom or dad, so you *MAKE* them wear those perfect outfits. What do they do? Thank you for how amazing they look? Nope. They cry. Scream. Pout. Scream and cry some more. Now, you have a headache. You are stressed, because you have to be at your session in 30 minutes. Everyone is freaking out. You finally get there and you are pretty much on time, but your kids just aren’t as cooperative as usual. They are grumpy. Their faces are still a little red. They are not smiling and won’t respond to others who speak to them because they are still mad. The extra irritability in them is making it difficult to enjoy the session, and you keep bugging them to smile, or ELSE. You and your spouse are working hard to keep your “church faces” on. After the emotional escalation resulting from the power struggle with your kids, no one is feeling like being photographed. In fact, it is going to take a while for them to calm down and find their laughter and smiles. If this has ever happened with your kids, you are not alone. (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)
Before going full time with my photography business, I was a public school teacher. I taught Kindergarten mostly, but also served for a while as a middle school English teacher and briefly taught high school Spanish and ESL. I have worked with a wide range of kids, from well behaved to students with behavior disorders and other challenges. They all have something in common. They all want some type of “control” with the ability to make their own choices. As adults, we know that kids, with their lack of experience and maturity are not always good decision makers. Their unique “fashion sense” might be influenced by this fact.
What works? I have found that when you give kids a choice, it reduces the likelihood of a power struggle. The key, though, is to provide a limited range of choices that will work for your color palette and style. Be flexible. Start with your color palette. Choose 2-3 outfit options that include not only colors from the palette, but also items they enjoy wearing such as a favorite shirt, shoes, dress, necklace, etc. “What if my child begs to wear something like a super hero shirt or a Halloween costume and it doesn’t fit the style we are going for?” Turn it into a reward. For example, you could suggest that your child can wear it for the last couple of pictures during the session. “If you choose one of these options over here, then we will bring your _______ so that you can wear it in a few of the photos.” Using it as a reward will encourage your child to earn the privilege as opposed to telling them no in this situation, especially if you feel that it will trigger an emotional power struggle. If you communicate with me that your child is bringing their super hero shirt, I can also remind them that they will get to wear their special shirt in “just a little while”.
What colors and clothing choices are best? The image below of colors that work well together is a great place to start. Consider using items that you already have to create your style for your anniversary session. Perfection isn’t required! Everyone should feel comfortable in their outfits and they should feel that they look great! The old adage “if you look good, you will feel good” is true here. Make sure that everyone has comfortable shoes (or comfortable shoes to wear as we walk to various locations) and well fitted clothes. Limit patterns in clothing so that the patterns will enhance your image instead of distract from the real subject of the images: your family.