It's funny you know - I have a son and a daughter and they were different right from the beginning. Not a "little different" but fundamentally different in nearly every single way. My daughter Emily is now 22 and my son Ethan is 16 and not much has changed - they're still complete opposites in so many ways. But the difference between the sexes is never more glaringly obvious to me than during a senior portrait shoot.
Girls are "all in" they want input on where the photos are taken, what they're going to wear, what poses they'd like to shoot. Girls create Pinterest boards with ideas, they will tell you what their best side is and they have their smiles warmed up and ready to go right from the beginning of the session. Boys? Yeah... not so much. Most of the young men I work with during senior sessions don't have a clue what Pinterest is, could care less about what they're wearing, where we go to shoot the session or how I want them to sit or stand. Ask the boys to "smile" and I'll quite often get forced, awkward and stiff faces that are so un-natural as to make the photos nearly useless!
The trick I've found is to take their mind off the shoot - to connect with them and get them talking. I love connecting with my clients! Many of my clients are friends or we have mutual friends and many who were strangers to me are NOW friends because it's simply my favorite part of my job! To chat with them, get to know them and their children, to laugh and enjoy the session.
In this senior portrait session with Carson I was about 3 minutes in and I asked him "Carson, on a scale of 1-10 how miserable are you right now?" he thought for less than a second and replied "A solid 8". lol I could tell... he was in a suit sitting on stone steps with his hair combed... on his "best behavior" and completely miserable. "All right Carson, let's get you out of here" and so we did. We got up off the steps and walked a bit down a long tree-lined path and chatted as we went. He's a lacrosse player at Creighton Prep and a great kid! We chatted a bit about the last tournament our teams played in, who we thought were the "best" teams this year (not surprisingly we disagreed given that my son plays for a rival school) and by the time we reached the next area to shoot Carson was more relaxed, focused less on "smiling" and more on the game he loves.
By the time he strapped on his lacrosse gear and was able to take a few shots, have his stick in his hand and be more himself we were long past stiff smiles and well into having a good time. In the shot above I asked Carson to give me a "game face" I wanted a good intense stare into the camera and I'll be darned if he couldn't stop smiling. As he tried to wipe the smile off of his face I snapped this candid shot of him and it might actually be my personal favorite of the day. Not posed, not stiff or uncomfortable, but complete genuine joy in his eyes.
It didn't take much to be quite honest, just finding our common ground, connecting with him and letting relax and enjoy the afternoon. Easy right?