As the winning bidders at the Murch Elementary School auction, the Strider family took home a photo package that included a family portrait session with me, a Washington DC child photographer, plus a beautiful heirloom photo print. But rather than an at-home photo shoot, the Strider Family opted for what is one of the most beautiful settings in all of Washington DC and one of my favorite backdrops: the Washington National Cathedral. It was 9 o’clock in the morning and the morning’s soft golden light made for near perfect photography.
As a Washington DC child photographer, my dominant client demographic hangs out primarily in the 0-5 age group. That means that there are binkies, diaper changes, the occasional nap-time tears, and an awful lot of squats and floor time for me. I scrunch up my face to induce giggles and smiles, I pander for eye contact, squat down on the floor with my camera in hand. However, this particular family portrait session had me in front of a slightly more mature audience, and while Will, 13, and Pete, 11, have little use for my usual antics, they were just as much fun. I’d go so far as to say that working with this older age group – in the upper elementary school to middle school years – is a joy. It is a pleasure to photograph older children because they are so attentive to my instruction, so willing to follow my directions instead of chasing after whatever woodland critter caught their attention from across the yard.
As we grow up, we polish our ability to form single file lines, wait our turn, sit cross legged, and smile on command – but that youthful wildness that once made us bounce, and run, and flail around…well, it gets a little bit dampened in the process. So while sage-like older children are able to wait their turn to step in front of the camera, they’re not as able to release the same natural smiles and relaxed interactions that the toddler crew has mastered so well. Why? Because self-awareness gets in the way. And nothing obliterates self-awareness quite as effectively as laughter.
While my own family of three appreciates my sly sense of humor (I think), I knew that for the Strider Family photoshoot I was going to need the help of an insider. So, I shamelessly and happily employed each child in turn, so that he could dole out some brother-on-brother teasing that only 11 and 13-year-olds can understand. As one brother sat in front of the camera lens, the other acted as my sidekick, making squidgy faces, slinging punch lines, and helping out the other brother to just let loose a little. It worked like a charm. Gone where those on-demand-smiles with pursed-lips and blank stares, and out came all the sparkle and joy that make Will and Pete such a dynamic duo.
It was a home run, and for first time clients the Strider family really hit their stride (sorry – pun intended). Don’t believe me? Just take a look at a handful of the shots that we created together.