The Eagles Family

My favourite kind of people are silly! And the little Eagles are silly. Pay close attention as you look through their photos and take note of the exaggerated smiles and candid moments. In each photo these kids show their unique personalities. There’s shy, there’s goofy, and there’s I’m-too-cool-for-school.

We met on an early spring morning just outside of Thornbury, Ontario for their big family shoot. We had a hoot wandering the grounds of the Farmer’s Pantry and goofing off. Spoiler alert: my favourite photo is at the end of this post.

How To Get Your Kids To Behave For Family Portraits

Kids can be… unpredictable. Practically every parent I’ve worked with has expressed concern for the children misbehaving during their session and totally ruining their perfect family portrait. I’ve actually seen this fear scare parents away from having photos done with their kids, but let me tell you that family portraits can be a fun and wildly fulfilling experience. And if done right, it can be totally stress free, and leave you with amazing, hilarious, and heart-warming photographs you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.

I photographed Callaghan and his family at their home in the Niagara Region. It was fun evening filled with play time and food! The casual approach to their session allowed Callaghan to relax and be himself. He got to show off his mechanic skills, his garden, and how he cuts the grass.

My goal is to make your child feel comfortable and content for your session so that their true personality can be seen in your photos. This isn’t always easy. I deal with all sorts of personalities. Some kids are shy, some kids are hams but shy at first, some are hams at all times, and some get overly enthusiastic around new people. And in families with multiple children chances are that not everyone will share the same personality traits.

I’ve found that it can be a tricky game to break a shy child out of her shell or cool down uncharacteristic enthusiasm so that we can see what her parents see every day. But if practice has taught me anything it is that shouting and dancing behind the camera rarely works. Instead I have some easy strategies to help you prepare your kids and to calm your anxieties about your session.

Don’t talk in too much detail about your session. This can stress a child out and they should be arriving at their shoot excited. If you do talk about your session be sure to be positive and excited. Instead of saying, “You better behave for Sophia,” try, “We’re going to hang out at the park with Sophia!” This way your kids will look at the experience like just another day with a little extra fun.

Give your photographer some topics your kids like to talk about so that she can create a rapport with them. This isn’t always necessary, but can be helpful with particularly shy children. Kids like to talk about themselves and the things they like! So giving your photographer some insight into what gets your kids thinking and engaging can be an incredibly useful method to help open them up.

Avoid colourful foods and drinks for 24 hours. While those blue-tongue photos can be funny, stained lips are likely not what you have in mind for your new family portrait. Remember that sweet treats can leave marks around your kids’ lips and on their fingers so do your best to avoid them in the days before your session.

Be sure your kids nap before your session if they are of napping age. You already know that your kids can be a bit temperamental when they’re tired (and so can I).

Hide their diapers and do not dress your kids in dresses or skirts that will ride up easily. Expect to be picking your children up often! If, when you pick your kid up, you can see their underwear or diaper it will best to try another outfit. Photos like these make great blackmail for their future wedding slideshows, but they probably aren’t the overall goal for your family portrait.

All of these tips are in my Picture Perfect Guide for Parents! You can download a copy below! Just pop your name and email in and I’ll send it your way!

Bring props like hats and scarves, but don’t bring anything too distracting. And remember that sometimes kids don’t want to wear hats and scarves, and might try to remove them. Don’t take it as a personal assault to your sense of style. If they’re done with the hat, they’re done with the hat. Don’t try to force them to wear it as everyone will get stressed out and tears might ensue.

It might not be what you expect, but this is a real moment! I can’t remember why Callaghan erupted in tears, but this is life! You want to remember their sweet smiles and laughter. You also want to remember how they came running to you and cuddled into you when they were upset. Don’t disregard photos like these because they don’t give the impression of how perfect your family is, because these will be some of your favourites when your kids are all grown.

If there are tears, let them flow. Sure, I’m a fan of the realism of crying photos, but this isn’t why I make this recommendation. Your kids know when you’re stressed, and fussing over the crying can make it much, much worse and bring your session to a crashing halt. Instead, when they cry, just go with the flow. Let them be pouty and cuddly and it will pass. These moments can make for amazing photographs that will pull at your heart strings.

Clean their face, fingers, and toes. Obviously. You should also bring hair ties in case it gets windy.

Arrive early so you can introduce your kids to your photographer before the camera comes out. Often when I get started with shy kids they want to have nothing to do with me, but by the end of our time together they’re hamming it up for the camera. That little bit of extra time before your session with no camera can help ease them into the session.

Good bribes include Smarties or foods that won’t stain teeth or make a mess of their hands or clothes. However bribes should be used extremely sparingly as they can distract kids. Whenever parents bring bribes with them the kids are solely interested in getting that candy! Inevitably we wind up spending the session begging the children to behave “so that they can have a cookie” or to “smile for the camera one more time so we can go get ice cream.” If you can do without the bribes, don’t bring them! And try not to make promises for after-session treats as your kids will be consumed with finishing so that they can get the treat!

Don’t expect your children to behave for more than 20 minutes. This is about how long they can focus, and so this is about how long we have to get those smiling photos. Don’t set your expectations for 2 hours of strolling through country fields holding hands. Your kids will want to play, and that makes for great photos too.

Like I said above, kids will often be shy when we get started. So start by playing with them. Don’t insist on a photo on their own unless they’re comfortable. Often by just offering them that support your kids will open up and be ready for silly solo photos as your session progresses.

Don’t say cheese. Natural smiles are always better, and real moments make for heartwarming photographs. Expect to play!

Only look at the camera when you are asked to. If your child is looking at you, look at her. If your child is looking elsewhere follow her gaze or tickle her to bring her attention back to you.

Never expect children younger than 2 to look at the camera on command. At this age kids are notoriously uncooperative. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents standing in front of my camera, cocking their head to the side, and pointing at the camera begging their 6 month old to look at it. Don’t be that parent! Prop your child in your arms so they’re more-or-less facing the right direction and get cuddly with them.

Do not scold your child for behaving like a child. Shouting might frighten her, and even excitedly begging her to look at you while waving your arms about behind the camera can confuse and embarrass her. Remain calm, cool, and collected.

Trust your photographer to get some great photos of your children in the moment. Some of the above instructions might seem very difficult! But your photographer will work her magic to snap amazing and smiley photos of your family. If you remember that and allow yourself to relax your session can be a fun experience, tears and all!

That’s it, folks! You now know my super simple instructions for ensuring your kids behave for your family portrait session. In truth it boils down to allowing yourself to relax. By managing your expectations for your children it’s more likely they will treat the experience as a normal, fun family day, and you’ll get those cute, sweet, and funny photos of who you know them to be.

Get all of these tips and more for your family portraits on your phone! Enter your email below and I’ll send you a download of my Picture Perfect Guide. Keep it on your phone and be ready for your next photo op!

Meg & Dan’s Engagement

Shout out to these two who will be tying the knot in September!

I don’t think I’ve met a pair more enthusiastic and positive. Life is not all sunshine and roses. You’re probably expecting me to say something like, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” but let’s take it a step further. I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine. And with the right people standing next to us even the most stressful and trying times can be turned into topics to laugh at. These two are a testament to that fact. When they’re faced with extremely challenging and downright scary stuff they pick each other up, dust each other off, and crack a joke. And a bottle of wine. Because it’s far more fun and constructive to enjoy that time you spend working through the problem than it is to lay in bed. Unless that bed is filled with your favourite person and your cats.

I cannot wait for your wedding Meg and Dan!

Feige Family

I mentioned this family in the last episode of my podcast. I loved working with these two girls. One shares my name, and the other my hair! It turned out to be a great way to connect with them… Although I doubt I’d have a hard time working with them without these similarities. They were super outgoing and loved to be in front of the camera. A trait we do not share!

The five of us played in the sun on the Feige’s country property. We had a little visit with their chickens, a little rumble with Angus the goofy lab, and strolled around the yard until the girls got tired and it was time for bed. I’m so glad summer is here and it’s time for outdoor family fun!


Lang-Devitt Family

I don’t know about you, but I find squishy cheeks and giggles absolutely irresistible. And this little one has lots of that!

Amanda and Darryl brought their little family to the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce Family Photo Series this year. At this age, it’s almost impossible to grab photos. Toddlers are so busy running around and getting into so much trouble. But in our short, fun time together we snagged some awesome memories. Check out some of the shenanigans below!

30 Day Beauty Regiment for Brides and Bridesmaids

Between confirming your flowers, finalizing your cake, and managing your soon-to-be in-laws, the weeks before the wedding can be a complete, exhausting blur. Your family and other guests will hound you with questions, your coordinator will be buzzing your phone constantly, and your bridesmaids will insist on a wild bachelorette party, leaving you no brain power to remember to moisturize, let alone the energy to do it. You might forget to whiten your teeth. You certainly won’t have time to fit in a hair trim with your stylist the week of the wedding. And you’ll probably totally forget to sleep.

But ladies, you’ve been here before. You’ve had an event coming up and thought the night before was an OK time to exfoliate. You scrubbed, you toned, and you face-masked, going to bed feeling confident, but you woke up the next morning with a breakout! I’ve done it myself… As it turns out, exposing your pores leaves them open to breakouts that will be red for at least 24 hours (or what feels like the rest of your life for redheads like me). The best time to scrub your face is actually in the week before the wedding. Not the day before. Who knew?! This, and many other items on your beauty to-do list cannot be left to the last minute.

Below I’ve outlined everything you need to do from 30 days before the wedding to the morning of to make sure you are picture perfect ready! Write this stuff down, and put it in your calendar!

If you don’t actually have time to read this because you’re planning a wedding and you have too much to do!!!, no problem! Pop your info in the boxes below and I’ll send a copy of my Picture Perfect Guide to your email. Put the app on your phone and take it with you. Review it between finalizing your seating chart and family photo list. It includes all your beauty to-do’s to keep you on track!

30 days out

  • Wear sunscreen
    I can’t tell you how often bridesmaids in strapless dresses forget about their tan lines. If I had to estimate, I would guess that at least one bridesmaid at every single wedding I shoot has very noticeable tan lines. Don’t be that bridesmaid. Wear sunscreen whenever you’re going out, even if it’s not sunny. Take it from a redhead… you can burn even when it’s overcast.
  • Get a spray tan
    Start evening out your tan lines with a spray tan or sunless tanner. Both of these options will not damage your skin and will cover up discolouration and other imperfections. But don’t go overboard! Your goal is to have a natural skin tone on the wedding day. It’s easy to take it too far. What looks good when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror might look especially orange when standing next to your new hubby. On top of that, too much tan will make things seriously complicated for your makeup artist. Believe it or not I’ve seen brides whose faces were a totally different shade than their neck and chest because their makeup didn’t match the tones of their tanned skin.
  • Moisturize
    Your makeup artist will be able to recommend the best moisturizer for your face and skin type. This is so important. The wrong moisturizer can make you look and feel oily or even dry your skin out. This might be a bit of an investment, but it will be so worth it. And don’t forget about the rest of your body. Especially in a strapless dress, you might be showing quite a bit of skin. Pick up a big bottle of soothing, fragrance-free moisturizer and apply a good layer of it every night before bed.
  • Get lots of sleep
    This seems simple, but it’s easier said than done when you have so much to get done. But it’s important! Too little sleep can result in redness and bags under your eyes. Don’t assume that you can catch up on sleep in the days before the wedding. That’s not a thing. Instead, get in the routine of putting your phone down early, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting a solid sleep.
  • Whiten your teeth
    Because you’ll be smiling like a maniac all day long!

Karen married Chris on September 13, 2014

2 weeks out

  • Get your hair trimmed
    You want to get your hair trimmed 2 weeks before the wedding in case something goes wrong and you need an emergency appointment to have it corrected before the wedding. And I mean trimmed, not cut! You only want to get rid of those dead ends, not cut an inch off. Your stylist will thank you.
  • Get your nails done
  • Get your eyebrows shaped
  • Get a facial
    A good facial will help pull gunk out of your pores and sooth your skin. This can bring blemishes to the surface, so do it 2 weeks out to let your blemishes naturally pass without popping them.
  • Don’t pick your skin
    While makeup can cover up a lot, picking at your skin and popping zits will leave scars and scabs which makeup cannot necessarily fix. Actually, makeup can make it worse. Foundation can collect around scabs and are more difficult to remove from photos than a simple blemish. Throw on some wool mittens if you need to, and keep your hands away from your face! This will also help keep oils from your hands from transferring to your skin and aggravating new blemishes.
  • Have your hair coloured
    Like getting your hair trimmed, get your highlights and roots done with enough to time to fix them if things unexpectedly go wrong. This will also give you a chance to live with the colour for a few days and be sure it’s fading to a shade you like. Again, don’t consider this a time to try a new colour.
  • Have your engagement ring and wedding bands cleaned
    This is for those stunning photos of your rings. These little detail shots are incredibly difficult to edit, so get your rings cleaned for their closeup.

72 hours out

  • Get waxed
    Do not wax any hair less than 72 hours before the wedding. This will allow redness to diminish.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Exfoliate and get a facial
    As I said at the beginning of this post, you should give yourself at least 24 hours to let blemishes come to the surface and naturally pass. A facial is also a great way to pull the gunk out of your pores and soften and sooth our skin. Do not leave this to the day before as your skin might break out. If it does, don’t panic. Keep washing your makeup off at night, toning, and moisturizing. Do not exfoliate again, because this will just make things worse.
  • Have your roots touched up if necessary
  • Get a deep conditioning treatment
    This will help make your hair soft and shiny, and ready for your stylist. You should go to your wedding hair stylist for this treatment. They’ll know the right products to use so that your hair is ready to work with the morning of the ceremony.

Michelle married Dave on June 14, 2014

48 hours out

  • Get your nails done
    A fresh manicure will look great with your clean rings.
  • Drink lots of water
    Hydrating the day before an even is important. It will help keep your body hydrated throughout the next day. I rarely see the wedding party getting enough water (or any water for that matter) on the big day, so be sure you drink lots of water in the days before.
  • Avoid salty, starchy foods and alcohol
    This will help keep you from feeling bloated and be sure you fit your dress perfectly!

24 hours out

  • Avoid salty and starchy foods and alcohol as best you can
  • Moisturize
  • Drink water
  • Wash your hair
    Wash your hair the night before the wedding according to your hair stylist’s instructions instead of the morning of the ceremony. Your hair will be easier to work with one-day-dirty.
  • Sleep
  • Get an eye treatment
    If you suffer from dark bags under your eyes, an eye treatment can help brighten things up. You can even do this the morning of the wedding. It will help sooth irritation around your eyes and lighting dark circles.

Irene married Josh on August 18, 2013

The Morning Of

  • Do not wash your hair
    Your stylist’s products will work much more easily in hair that hasn’t been freshly washed. If you’re afraid that your hair is too dry, don’t panic and take a shower. Let your stylist work her magic.
  • Do not put on any makeup
    Your makeup artist will prefer to work with a clean canvas. Wash your face, tone, and moisturize with her recommended moisturizer. This is important! The right moisturizer will help the makeup stay on your face rather than slowly melting off of it as the day progresses.
  • Drink water
    You probably won’t have another chance to drink water until the reception, and at that point you might be too much in the partying mood to sip on H20. Water, however, will help make you feel awake and alert throughout the wedding day. So drink when you’re able. And don’t worry about having to go to the washroom. Someone will help you with your dress!

See? It’s a lot! There is no way you can cram all of this into the week before the wedding. Call up your hair stylist and makeup artist and book yourself appointments hair trims, colourings, and consultations. Add water to your daily routine, and get to bed early. All of these things will help you look and feel great on the wedding day.

I’ve put all of this in a handy-dandy app for you! Pop your name in the form below and I’ll email you a link to the app. Download it to your phone and keep it for your next event and photo op!


Courtney & Reid’s Family

I love early morning family portraits with 4 trouble makers and their parents. Even though I have to discard a number of photos because one kid has his eyes closed, and another is making a monkey face, I inevitably end up with a good number of sweet shots of everyone together. The parents usually think all is lost until they see their photos and get to see the sweet and funny personalities they see every day in photos.

It was a hoot, Courtney, Reid, and kids. You folks are hilarious! Thanks for participating in the Family Photo Series for the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce!

How To Choose the Best Location for Your Portraits

Choosing the perfect location is an important part of the portrait process. It’s also a very difficult one. In fact, if a deeply meaningful location doesn’t immediately pop into your head you might be absolutely stumped. Most of my clients stare blankly at me when this question comes up, and many just defer to me for the final decision. But choosing the right location for your portraits can be what makes them truly meaningful instead of, “just some pictures of us.” So how do you pick the right place?

If you’re struggling with your portrait location there are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started.

Where did we first meet? If it’s nearby, the place you first met might be a great place to start.

Where do we spend the most time together outside of our home? If you love to go window shopping together, then a jaunt downtown might be perfect. Whereas, if you prefer to sit by a bonfire at the cottage, your cottage might be the right location.

Amy & Tom in Wiarton, Ontario.

What do we like to do together? By choosing an activity you enjoy it becomes easier to narrow down locations. For example, if you like baseball like me, you can have your portraits done at a local ball diamond. If you like to go canoeing, like Amy and Tom, you can head to your local boat launch.

Would we rather be on the water, in the forest, in our backyard, in our favourite coffee shop, or on our favourite street? Obviously, if you prefer to be indoors to in the forest, having your portraits done on the Bruce Trail might leave you feeling and looking out of place. Narrowing down the places that make you feel most like yourselves will help you eliminate the wrong backdrops.

Sometimes the answers to these questions bring back fond memories which make it easy to pin down a location. But when they don’t, and we need to do a little bit more digging, I consider my clients’ personalities, their favourite colours, how many people will be in the photographs, and their style. For example, if your home has a rustic charm then a skyscraper will not make the right backdrop, but a simple beaten path could be great. If I’m photographing a large family, though, that trail through a dense forest will make it difficult to get everyone in one photograph, but an open field on an overcast day is perfect.

This is the type of workflow I go through when choosing a location, and I bet you can do it pretty easily too. First, start by determining whether you’re natural or urban landscape types. This will narrow down the types of locations to consider. If you like natural landscapes you’ll be looking at areas like the beach, the woods, an open field, or a local park. If you’re into the urban landscape you’ll be considering places like your local downtown shopping district, an alley, a fall fair midway, or somewhere you can get a good view of the city lights behind you.

Do you have a good idea of which you prefer? Let’s get a little more specific…

Natural Landscapes

Probably 80% of my clients choose a natural location. Whether it’s by the water, in an apple orchard, or the woods, many who come to work with me in the Bruce Grey Simcoe areas deeply connect with the outdoors. If you’ve decided to go with a natural landscape there are so many options and characteristics to consider. You’ll need to consider the season, whether you’ll use props, and whether your location of choice will give you enough space for your family.


Midland, Ontario

Karli and Scott in Midland, Ontario.

The time of year will have a huge impact on your backdrop. You’ll find that in natural landscapes colours can be a bit dull. Unless you plan to literally lay in a blooming flower-bed in mid spring your photos will be reasonably monochromatic (whether that is blue, green, red, or brown). Personally, I love the brown tones like in Karli and Scott’s fall engagement session, but I find that many people get scared by the idea that their photos will not be filled with colour.

The truth, however, is that most people want vibrant photographs, not colourful. In fact too much colour in the background can be distracting and pull attention away from you, the subject. If you choose a meaningful location, your photographs will immediately become more vibrant. If you absolutely want pops of colour, you can add them with your wardrobe like Karli did with her scarf, and with other props.

Props and posing

Karen and Chris at their farm in Kincardine, Ontario.

In most natural landscapes there aren’t many opportunities for naturally-occurring props. There are only so many trees you can lean on or sit against. This means you are, for the most part, limited with regard to posing. Often either everyone in the photograph will be standing or sitting at the same time. Bringing your own props is a great way to break this up. A blanket is a popular item with my clients, especially when quilted by someone special. And it will keep your butt free of grass stains. I’m also fond of picnic baskets, hay bales and vintage orchard tools like ladders.

Large groups

The Bougies at Lora Bay outside of Thornbury, Ontario.

I almost always recommend a natural landscape for groups with 4 or more adults. Being as many of these types of environments are are wide open and offer lots of room to branch out and move around, photographs with large groups tend to seem less claustrophobic than they are with 4 people crammed into a small space. If you’re inviting your extended family for a portrait session be sure to consider how much space your location offers. An open space like a farmer’s field or a park backing onto a tree line might be best.

Urban Environments

In comparison to natural landscapes, urban environments are full of colour and attitude. You’ll find brick, graffiti, and cool architectural details to frame your photos. Here are some things to look out for…


The lighting will be best for your photoshoot when it’s diffused. That’s why we photographers love to shoot in overcast weather or just before the sun goes down. In urban areas there is a lot of opportunity for shade, but you’ll find a sharp contrast where that shade ends and sunlight begins. Your photographer should be able to work around this particular problem. However, when choosing your favourite brick wall as your backdrop, earlier or later in the day are best, and be sure to consider which side of the building the sun will be on so that you’re not squinting directly into it in all of your photos.


collingwood wedding photographer

Jenna and Jérémie in downtown Collingwood, Ontario.

If you’re looking for pops of colour in winter, like Jenna and Jérémie were for their engagement, a colourful brick wall might be your best option. You won’t find much colour anywhere else as the trees have no leaves and snow covers practically everything.


Tricia and Greg in downtown Owen Sound.

Another advantage to urban environments is the variety of levels. What am I talking about? Raised sidewalks, stairs… railings… half-walls… All of these things make posing a little bit more fun. Significant height differences can at times make for really awkward portraits… Like with Tricia and Greg. Greg is nearly a full foot taller than Tricia. But when we came across a fire escape we found the perfect opportunity to reduce the height difference. Tricia is even leaning down a little bit so Greg can kiss her cheek.

Indoor Locations

love wine

Kerri and Brady’s engagement session at Coffin Ridge Winery

Indoor locations are great for creating a cozy feeling in photographs. If you’re planning a session in your home, there are a couple things you should consider.

First, how big is your space? In order to create dynamic photographs in your living space you and your photographer will need room to move around. Be sure to clean up and remove clutter like tables that might be in the way or chairs you won’t be sitting in to make your space feel bigger.

How much light is there? Unless your indoor space features huge windows and lots of sunlight at the time of your shoot your photographer may need to bring lights which will make the space feel even smaller and could be difficult to work in.

For these reasons I usually only recommend a session in your home for two adults and children who can reasonably sit in your lap. As you add more bodies to the mix it becomes increasingly difficult to fit everyone in the portrait.


Marlee and Dan at the Collingwood Terminals.

In urban environments especially you might need to acquire permits for your session. I once got out of this by telling the security guard who questioned me that we weren’t having a photoshoot and instead were “just taking some photos.” We got rather lucky and he jokingly said, “That’s what I thought…” I absolutely do not recommend this plan of attack. Be sure to get your permits in order before planning your session time in case there are any hold-ups.

All-In-One Locations

Owen Sound Engagement Photography

Jenna and Adam at Moore’s Estate in Georgian Bluffs, Ontario.

If you absolutely cannot make up your mind try to find a location that offers a variety of backdrops rather than choosing more than one location. For example, Moore’s Estate in Owen Sound is a widely popular photo location for weddings, engagements, and grad photos. I’ve photographed a number of couples here in fact. It offers diverse backdrops including the manor, barns, stone walls, a hedge maze, gardens, and open fields. No two photographs are the same, and every time I go I find a new corner to work in. I’ve found that most people immediately head to the back for the big ol’ British manor backdrop, but the entire property is photogenic. One of my favourite spaces is the old greenhouse which you can see in Jenna and Adam’s photo above. Not only is it secluded, but it offers lots of colour, texture, and depth in photographs.

Choosing a location for your portrait session can be a nuanced process. Nailing down the right backdrop can make the difference between vibrant portraits and just some pics of you. You should pick a place that has meaning to you. Whether it’s where you first met, your favourite place to be together, or the place you play, a meaningful location will make for dynamic photographs. If you’re struggling, consider your style! If you’re partial to the great outdoors a natural landscape might be best. But if you like the hustle and bustle consider an urban backdrop. Each have their advantages, and you should take into consideration the time of year and how many people will be in your photographs. For example, a wide open field on an overcast day is the perfect spot for a large family, and a cityscape will offer you your best chance at bright colours in your winter engagement photos.

If you need a little more guidance on the subject or are looking for some more inspiration you can join the community on Facebook at Ridiculously Happy PPL. And if you haven’t already, click here to subscribe to the podcast, and share the love by sharing this episode with your family and friends below!

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How to Boost Your Teen’s Confidence

When did you realize you were officially an adult? For me it was this moment…

Teenager A: Sophia, why do you put on makeup every morning?
Teenager B, said quite obviously: Because she’s an adult!

What?! When did this happen??

I never really thought of myself as an adult. But when this pair of teenagers acknowledged how I don’t wear sweatpants in public I started to notice a couple things. First, I am no longer a giant geek and the young-folks in my life have started coming to me for support and guidance. Second, my friends with kids have started saying to me, “You know, you’re a good influence on Sally. I really appreciate that!”

As my young friends are graduating high school and college and facing their futures, I’m recognizing the tenderness of their self esteem. Between the ages of 14 and 21 there are so many changes and pressures young adults are facing that it’s not at all surprising they question their value in this world. What do I want to do with my life? How do I achieve it? What if I can’t get into a good school? What if I can’t get a job? What if I’m alone forever? The expectations are high, and the consequences for not meeting them seem absolutely life-shattering.

Bullying, anxiety, and depression are outrageously common among the young adults I meet. It is heart breaking, and having experienced all of these things myself, I’m sensitive to everything they’re feeling. As adults, there are a few things we can do to repair and improve their self confidence. One of my favourites for those on the cusp of adulthood is to remind them of how spectacular they are. Whether it’s by subtly dropping them compliments or creating time to celebrate their achievements, we can help the young adults in our lives recognize how amazing they are and believe it.

Take, for example, graduating high school! This is a huge milestone in your teen’s life, and a time when the future seems uncertain, exciting, and for many, absolutely terrifying. It’s important that she carefully considers her future and diligently works towards her goals. At the same time, confidence will go a long way to her success. By modelling self confidence, inspiring face-to-face time, and helping celebrate her achievements you can help your teen build the necessary confidence she needs to succeed in life.

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Model Self Confidence

Whether your teen will admit it or not, she copies you. I find this is especially true with regard to your insecurities. After all, you’re the adult, and she is your daughter. If there is something wrong with you then there must be something wrong with her. Right? When you are critical of yourself your kid will absorb those judgements as a critique of herself.

You don’t have to be perfect, but being able to recognize what you love about yourself and share that with her will do a lot of good. You can also use unsolicited compliments to help transform your teen’s perception of herself. Simply telling her you like her shoes or her hair looks nice in the morning can start her day off on the right foot. Complimenting others requires confidence in oneself, and this kind of genuine observation of her great qualities will help her recognize them too.

This isn’t always easy. Even as adults we are prone to moments of self-conscious thoughts. If you struggle with your own insecurities a mother-daughter shoot with your 14 year old might be just perfect. As she is just transitioning into high school you have a unique opportunity for a little time together to celebrate your beauty. You two can get all dolled up, have a great laugh, recognize the beauty in each other, and remind yourselves of how spectacular you are.

14 is a difficult age. You remember it, don’t you? Leslie’s aunt booked her a studio session, and she had so much fun! We did her hair and makeup, and lit her beautiful face for some stunning beauty photos. With a little posing coaching, you can tell how good she feels! Freckles and all.

Encourage Screen-Free, Face-to-Face Time

You’re familiar with the advantages the Internet affords us (hello, this blog…). But with all of the pros come some difficult cons. Cyber-bullying is an oft-cited byproduct, but social anxiety and body shame are more subtle and sometimes totally silent consequences of too much screen time.

Communicating largely by text doesn’t allow teens to pick up on their peers’ body language. This can cause a great deal of misunderstanding and uncertainty when socializing. Without practicing social queues it can be impossible for teens to anticipate how the people around them will respond to their behaviour making teens nervous to even approach a store clerk or make a seemingly simple phone call. On top of that, spending hours scrolling through Instagram photos of #bodygoals can leave teens with unreasonable expectations of their own bodies. When a girl’s body doesn’t look like the images she sees in her feed she can start feeling like she isn’t worth positive attention.

Encouraging your teen to spend time face-to-face with her family and friends will provide more opportunity for healthy communication. Invite your teen’s best friends to a photoshoot just for them! They’re all going through the same things in life, and their friends are one of their greatest sources of support. This is a perfect opportunity for a little fun face-to-face time to celebrate their youth.

Lisa booked a session to celebrate Alex’s new haircut and self confidence. One of her concerns was that, like practically everyone else his age, Alex has acne. It was easily removed in editing! Alex can now look back on this time and see himself without distracting or embarrassing zits.

Create Opportunities To Recognize Achievements

Outstanding grades, sports awards, volunteer efforts, and graduating are amazing achievements which deserve recognition. But we don’t always acknowledge them well. Take, for example, graduation portraits.

The traditional graduation portrait is not exactly flattering. Actually, it’s more a memento for the parent than the person graduating. If I’m being totally honest, I hated my graduation portrait. It didn’t say anything about how I saw myself. And frankly, I barely looked like myself that day because I tried (and failed) to make myself look pretty. Rather than forcing your child through the hoopla of wrangling himself into a communal gown and posing in the exact same way as all of his classmates, you can create a portrait of who he really is with a grad session.

I believe my graduation portrait features a backdrop of expensive-looking books, none of which I’d likely be interested in reading. I can’t be sure, though, as no one knows where that portrait is. Choosing the right activity is an easy way to highlight your graduate’s personality. For example, she might strum her guitar, or he might play fetch with the family dog. By ditching the stool and backdrop you and your teen will be left with a true picture of her at this exciting time in her life.

Wearing the right clothes will help your teen feel confident in his portrait. She can wear her favourite pair of dark-wash jeans with a cute blazer. He can wear his Converse and a fedora. Practically anything is more flattering than the shapeless gown you and I wore in our grad photos, and the creative choices will allow your grad to highlight his unique style.

Have her hair and makeup done professionally. This is a once in a lifetime event totally deserving of a little pampering. Hair and makeup is not meant to make your teen look better, but to make her look like her best self. A good hair stylist and makeup artist will highlight your teen’s favourite features and ensure that in 20 year she’s proud to show it off to her own kids.

While her classmates photos will say, “This was what I looked like when I graduated,” her grad photo will say, “This is who I was when I graduated. I was amazing!

You’re a parent, which means you have years of experience under your belt. You know how awkward and uncomfortable it can be to be a teenager and that the pressures of leaving home and being out on your own can cause anxiety and uncertainty. I hope these easy, low-pressure ideas help you inspire confidence in your teen. By modelling self confidence, getting her off her phone, and acknowledging everything she’s achieved in life already, your young adult is sure to enter the real world with a handle on who she is and how she should be valued. You can use photography to create an image of how spectacular your teen is. Be it a mother-daughter beauty session, a sweet 16 shoot with her besties, or grad photos she actually likes, your teen will actually see how strong and beautiful she is. And you can use the right backdrop, a little pampering with hair and makeup, and a her favourite outfit to help her feel powerful and like herself.

If you need a little more guidance on the subject or are looking for some more inspiration you can join the community on Facebook at Ridiculously Happy PPL. You can also join my email list for weekly inspirational emails and more tips like this.