Children’s Portrait is all Done…But Wait There’s More!


“But wait there’s more”, balks the infomercial salesperson.  You’ve heard the main offer, now it’s time to sweeten the deal.

That’s the way my sessions go many times, at least I hope to sweeten the deal.  Do not let a session end without looking for that extra image to be shot.  You know the image, it was not what the client asked for, or even could have dreamed of.  It’s the one that just appears before your eyes as a photographic artist.  I caution you, however, you have to keep watch and be ready.  You might even have to invite it in by taking a bit of a risk. Let me explain…

So mom comes in for a children’s portrait with a particular outfit in which they want their child captured.  You’re told that the outfit has been handed down from  several generations… looks old and tattered and barely fits and the child is already a bit cranky.  To say the least, this session might go south fast.


It’s your job to satisfy mom who will be writing the check. Right? Oh course!  But what does satisfying mom mean?

You now look at the child and realize he has never missed a meal.  His cheeks are as wide as his head is tall; eyes as blue as the ocean; and more belly roles than mountains in the Himalayas.  The only images you want to do are baby-nudes and close-ups.  So what do you do knowing the child’s “happy time” will only last so long?

I, unfortunately, can’t tell you which image to risk, guaranteed awesome baby-nudes, or, mediocre antique-outfit portraits.  I can tell you, I’ve gotten That Look, as in “what in the world are you doing” from my wife who helps work with kids while in the studio.  She ALWAYS wants to try to satisfy mom’s wishes at the sake of missing what could be the best images, in my opinion. My tendency is to want to deliver great images, whatever that might be, and then try to fulfill mom’s original request.  I believe the saying goes, “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” especially if I am able to show great images.

Children's Portrait - 7448

Sometimes, when you’re really lucky, there is no risk involved, actually, there is no other choice.  As in my first example of father and child, mom sends dad with their 2-year-old whom we’ll call Sarah.  The session was only supposed to be of Sarah in her new dress.  It’s extremely rare, but for whatever reason, Sarah would not stop crying.  We always get a child settled down eventually after enough play time in the studio, but not this morning.  I tried every trick I knew and NOTHING.   And then, it appeared, and I was in heaven.  Sarah’s only comfort that morning was in dad’s arms.  My wife and Sarah’s dad were sick over us not fulfilling mom’s wishes, but I was perfectly happy creating images full of emotion and love.   If I confess, I did not care that mom might be disappointed; I shot what I needed to fulfill the artist in me and I was grinning from ear to ear.

The session with Pajama Girl (above) is an example of what happens quite often.  A child walks in the studio not yet dressed for the children’s portrait session so they won’t get messed up.  Mom brings their closet of clothes for us to help choose the outfit….mom asks me which outfit I like….I look down at the child and point to whatever they are wearing.  As before, do I risk the time spent while they are happy and interested, shooting them in PJs, or, start with one of mom’s expected outfits knowing the PJ images would never happen.  Just so you know, mom eventually brought in her other child so that we can match the pj images.  This would not have happened if I would have not invited the possibility of something other than what my assignment was destined to be.

Lastly, if you’ve ever “rapped” a session, your subject will tend to let their guard down.  In many cases, some of the greatest images can happen in those moments.  Remember, “Wait, there’s more” in this deal.  Don’t shut off your strobes so fast and leave a little space on your camera card.  If you’re open, you just might get those bonus images that you place in your portfolio.

The guest author is Master Photographer, Alex Ginsburg.  He has 24 years experience shooting both personal and commercial images.  Located in Germantown, Tennessee (Memphis, TN suburb), his reputation is in creating finer portraits of families and the children’s portrait.  Additional work can be seen at:



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©Gary Culley, 2014


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