When I first got an email from Andy Nickerson Photography asking if I’d like to try out a children’s photoshoot, I’ll admit: I was dubious. For one thing, we’re not an overly camera-ready family – one of the kids is usually snotty, the other tends to poke the camera lens every time I put it anywhere near her face, and my husband and I just don’t really like having our photographs taken.
Add to that the fact I’m not a huge fan of all-white backgrounds and mega-cheesy grins, and the only portrait session we’d had up to this point was a very relaxed outdoor one for our ten-year wedding anniversary, because that’s about all we could deal with.
So far, so not-the-right-family-for-the-job, right?
I clicked through to have a quick look at the website – mentally forming a polite email declining the offer in my head as I did – and promptly changed my mind. Andy, who works alongside his wife Debbie in their Northamptonshire studio, doesn’t do white backgrounds or cheesy grins either. His photographs – monochrome portraits of children up-close – capture every little dimple, freckle and wisp of hair in minute detail. Although he also does maternity shoots and newborn photography, it’s his photographs of toddlers that really won it for me.
Our toddler photoshoot with Andy Nickerson Photography
Needless to say, my husband and I accepted the offer and took our two kids along to see if Andy really was some kind of toddler-whisperer-slash-magician. I wasn’t convinced, but he assured me over the phone he’d seen it all before – the tantrums, the tears, and everything in-between.
We drove to Brixworth in Northamptonshire and were welcomed in to a small studio next to Andy and Debbie’s house. Andy built up a rapport with the kids as soon as they stepped into the room, and – cups of tea delivered via Debbie – he started photographing my eldest, who’s almost 4, and has no issues performing in front of a camera.
Andy sat him on a stool to get some individual shots, then did the same with my youngest, who – at almost 2, is a slightly trickier customer. That said, I was amazed at how quickly she warmed up thanks to the introduction of a few teddies and a fan that was a big hit with both of them.
Andy spent some time on individual shots, then tried some of the two children together. These were definitely more tricky and he had a go with them standing, sitting and then peeking over the back of a sofa. We were in the studio for around an hour, and nothing felt rushed – the whole thing was very relaxed and (much to my relief) the kids loved the attention.
After the shoot, and having pored over my own set of beautifully natural images, I had a chance to pick Andy’s brains about his experience of running toddler and family photoshoots, and asked him what advice he’d give parents before coming along to one. Here’s what he said…
8 ways to get the best from your children’s portrait session
- Don’t tell them to say cheese. Portrait photography is all about capturing your child in their most natural, happy state – a forced smile because they’ve been told they’ll be in trouble otherwise isn’t going to result in the best photograph!
- Don’t overprepare them. The most successful shoots are the ones where parents haven’t talked about it too much, haven’t made a huge deal out of it and haven’t prepped their kids to be on their best behaviour – it leads to a more natural shoot when things are a bit more off-the-cuff.
- Let them misbehave (a bit). Let them relax and be a bit cheeky – within reason – and your photographer isn’t going to mind. In fact, it’ll lead to better photographs, providing they’re not trashing the place.
- Go for comfortable clothes. If they’re suited and booted and don’t feel comfy, the likelihood is you’re not going to get the most natural shots. In the same way, don’t give them a ‘special’ hairstyle just for the shoot – you’re going to want to look back at the photographs and remember them how they were day-to-day.
- Be wary of anything with a big logo. Branded clothing or anything super stylish will date your photos much quicker. Likewise, avoid dressing one child in stripes and one in spots.
- Don’t worry about small blemishes or marks. They can be taken off when the images are retouched. Of course, they won’t remove birthmarks.
- Get involved. Don’t be tempted to turn up, hand your kids over and sit on your phone for the rest of the time. You don’t need to be in front of the camera but you do need to be engaged and involved.
- Don’t look at the shots on the camera. There are a million reasons why the one you might fall in love with on the back of the camera might not be suitable when it’s full-size. Save the big reveal for later, when you’ll be invited back for a viewing on a big screen.
We were kindly offered a complimentary shoot with Andy Nickerson Photography in return for an honest and fair review, and all opinions are our own. To find out more about booking a shoot, take a look at the FAQs on the website or call 01604 882945. You can buy photographs like the examples below as well as bespoke wall art as part of the service, and there are no shoot fees – just a £50 deposit and any prints you decide to buy.