We've all been there.
You've been breezing through your preschoolers making jokes about dogs that sound like cows and having them do silly faces for the camera and then suddenly you hit 5th grade and they are NOT having it.
Last month I was faced with a group of 50 said teens/tweens and came up with some strategies that to my surprise and delight really worked with this group.
The advice out there right now is, "Just talk to them normally."
While this is great starting advice, I found that it didn't go far enough. I needed a methodology rather than depending on my wit and charm in the moment.
Here is my three step guide to great teen photos
#1 The Warm Up
During the warm up you're going to greet them normally. "Hi, how's your day going? I like your shoes!" that sort of thing... and then you're going to tell them exactly where to stand and where to put their hands. They will likely smile and it might be terrible or it might be great but either way...
Take the photo.
Then you're going to explain to them that you'll do different types of "looks" for their school portraits.
That was the smiling one. Now we'll do one where you are looking thoughtfully at the camera.
Take the photo.
#2 Get Them Moving
I have found that if they are moving around then they are much more likely to feel comfortable than just standing still. Especially if you have someone who looks like they want to jump out of their own skin, get them to move.
Before attempting this photo shoot, I took the time to really study what poses worked well for teens and tweens. I brought various sizes of stools so we could get sitting down shots, too.
I would recommend having 10-12 poses on hand along with ways to describe them. A lot of times you can model these for them and they'll imitate how you are placing your hands.
Here are a few poses to get you started.
- Put one hand in your front pocket and one hand in your back pocket
- Rest your cheek (or chin) against your fingertips
- Tuck your hair behind your ear
- Look up to the ceiling and smile (think about your favorite vacation)
- Angle your body, now look down at my ring.
The key to posing them is they need to feel secure in your guidance
which leads me to the next section...
#3 Compliments and Camaraderie
Do you remember being a teen? Self-conscious and insecure are the name of the game.
You have to be extremely careful to never say anything that could be taken negatively. What you may think is friendly instruction ("No, not like that") or banter can actually shut them down. Instead you are going to be a well of compliments.
Wow, I love your hair today.
You have the best smile.
You're a natural.
How did you know to do that?
Have you ever done modeling before?
Obviously, be sincere, but keep it positive. If you need to change something up, make it about YOU changing your mind and not about them posing wrongly.
Whenever I am asking them to do a pose that is a little strange, I always just name it... Ok this is weird, but can you scratch your neck and look down? It's not awkward at all, right?! Be ready. You'll probably get a laugh.
For my last trick, I leave you with my silver bullet.
The dating trick.
For boys who just won't loosen up, I get them into a pose, train my camera on them, and then ask them, "Are you dating any people right now?" (plural! hah!) If they say no, I follow up with... "Who do you want to date?"
Cue the big natural smile or laugh.
In theory, you could use this for girls too but I've never had to. If you try it, let me know!
Naomi is a family, maternity, newborn, and graduating senior photographer in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
She enjoys her job and thinks you should, too.