“Can I take your photograph?” Cue: Sullen and Sulky or Moody and Premenstrual? Photographing a tween or teen, aka ‘tween’ager can be really challenging. It’s so easy to give up on them and revert to photographing other things. Even the crazy toddler or a box full of monkeys is easier than this! I’ve even resorted to flat lays, still life and yes, even the dreaded self portrait to get my photography fix!!
What I have personally found is that it can have such massive rewards if you persevere and find something that works for both of you. When I started my photography journey, my teenager was reluctant to be photographed at all. I probably didn’t help matters by constantly asking if I could ‘shoot her! She felt self conscious and awkward. This coupled with my inexperience and her height in comparison to the little ones (we needed to find a way to compose these shots better) this made it even worse at times.
I admit that there were times when I would get cross when she was ‘acting up’ or pulling stupid faces. After all, I had enough to contend with by trying to manage my camera settings which were still very new to me. I also had to keep an eye on “the feral three”. These three were usually running away somewhere on the horizon or falling in ditches, puddles…. dog poo!!
I stopped asking her because she stopped wanting to come out on our walks. I quickly noticed that she was seeming ‘miffed’ and a bit left out. She was clearly craving the attention that the others were getting because I was focusing my attention on them. However, she did help me a lot in other ways. She was always a good sport about sitting with the bags whilst I chased the “animals”. She even became really good at herding them for me like a loyal sheep-dog!
Like many teenagers though, she wouldn’t want to admit these feelings as that would be seen as ‘backing down’. I decided that I was going to work hard to find other ways to make this work so I could still capture those important memories. I also knew that if I could get some great photos of her, she would look back on them in years to come with fondness and it might even build a bit of confidence.
Once I started practising some of these techniques, I have managed to capture a nice and varied selection. We seem to share a love of creative photography rather than traditional portraits. So they might not be to everyone’s taste. We have even started to use this as bonding time. Recently we started to be drawn into ‘Avant Garde’ and extreme make-up. We are currently doing research and may try a few ideas out soon. Watch this space!
On Mother’s Day (with no prompting) my daughter told me that her gift to me was ‘photography time’ – she had told her friend that they were not meeting for their daily exercise because she was spending the morning with me taking some pictures!!! I never saw that coming!
So, here I have compiled a list of my top tips that I found work best for getting the best of my daughter. I really hope that this helps you in some small way. Even if just one person got one memory that they loved it would be worth it! I’d love to hear from you if something has worked for you. I would also love to hear your own tips!!
Choosing outfits (especially new ones!) and make-up, they can try things out and practise . Let them choose locations and browse Instagram for photo ideas. Let them take over your Instagram feed for a week and show them you value their opinions. Try to capture things unique about their character – their likes and dislikes, their little quirks. I don’t necessarily mean all the good things either!!
Always ask if you can post a picture of them and be wary of over-sharing (that photo of them asleep might melt your heart, but them not so much). I pre-empted her saying no to everything and explained that from now on I would be respecting her and only post things she was happy with. I also told her that wanted to show her off a little because she was beautiful and I am so proud of her. She now has a photo of the two of us on her iPhone lock-screen – I take this as a positive step
We all have bad days (bad hair days, spots, hormones). My daughter will sometimes agree to do faceless shots and I have a list of things up my sleeve that I want to try. There are loads of ideas on Instagram and Pintrest. I have written a little article on this before if you would like to be inspired.
I don’t always do this but sometimes I might need to practise something for an assignment or want something really specific for a competition. On these occasions I need her to be extra diligent and co-operative so I will base some of her allowance or pocket money around it that particular week. I try to be a little professional about it and almost ‘set the tone’. I will stick to a certain amount of time (instead of getting carried away like usual), but I expect her to also be professional and follow direction in these circumstances. Actually, she has really enjoyed the few times we have done this so don’t rule it out as seeming impersonal.
Sometimes it will just not be a good time for them. They should feel happier getting involved if they are allowed to say no if they really don’t feel like it. At these times focus on other things. I usually ask my daughter to still come along (if we go out) and that it’s ok if she wants to get involved later. On many occasions, this has resulted in an awesome photo just because the door was left open for her to change her mind. Just today in fact, I popped outside with my youngest ‘The Peach’ to take some photos with a bunch of daffoduils I had seen in our garden. After about 10 mins, the teen followed us outside and brought one of her fur-babies which the baby thought was brilliant and resulted in some great fun and gorgeous pictures!
On occasion, I set the tripod up and get in the frame together. Most of these shots would not even be shared but we do laugh a lot during and even afterwards going through them.
Show them the editing process, let them get involved. I always make a point (and it is sincere) to tell her how well she did and how pretty or cool she looks in the photos. When I talk about editing I am cautious, especially if I am removing spots or reducing dark shadows etc. I explain that I am only taking them away because they are temporary. And I want to look back on the photos in years to come and see how she looks now.
This is an ideal time to discuss the pressures we are under these days to conform to the stereotypical idea of beauty. Especially when there is so much modern technology that can change someone’s appearance at the click of a button. My daughter knows that most of the pictures she sees on Instagram have been air-brushed and edited. And she is astonished how the before and after photos look in my edits. That’s even when I am trying to do essentially true to life edits for the most part.
It isn’t always possible, but sometimes I try to leave the little ones at home with Daddy. This way, the pair of us are less stressed and even able to explore locations we wouldn’t normally be able to.
My daughter also asked me to take some photos of her and her friends and we framed these. I also make a point of bragging about her to people whenever I get chance!
My daughter forgets herself when there are animals around. By telling her that we needed to get some nice photos of the dog, I also managed some nice ones of her too!!
If all else fails… make friends with another photographer and swap kids for the day! They always behave better for someone else. Anyone in my area?!