by Erin Moore of Mercy Street Studio
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4 Tips to Cultivating Connection with Adoptive Families
When it comes to adoption, there is no greater topic of interest than connection. The connection between parent, siblings, and adopted child cannot be underestimated nor assumed. Some adoptive families work on connection for years just to get a spark of connectivity. For others, the connection is easy and instantaneous. As a photographer, our job is to portray connection with family members no matter which stage they’re in. Here are some tips to cultivate connection.
Touch. Like with any family, touch is an important element in creating a visual connection. Holding hands, linking arms, hand to arm, hand to shoulder. These things don’t typically happen in a photograph unless you tell them to happen, so before you click the shutter, make sure each of your subjects in touching in some way.
Interaction. When it comes to photo shoots, families are often prepared to sit still and smile nice for the camera. In order to break them of this, ask them to share a funny family story. Another trick is to tell them to tickle the person to their right or left. You can also tell them all to look at one person in the family, “okay, now everyone look at mom!” – usually that makes everyone laugh…if not you can say “the first person to make mom laugh wins. If there are no siblings and the child is small, you can ask the parents to play games like patty cake, or have dad scoop up a little one and fly them like a plane.
Emotion. It’s so great to have photos of smiles and laughter, but families are more than just smiles. In fact, if there is one place you can let your guard down and be real, it’s with the people that love you the most. Asking everyone to relax smiles and become expressionless can create a beautifully real moment. With older children, you can prompt them to whisper something you love about your mom or dad to them, or you can try it parent to child, “Mom, quietly whisper to Johnny one thing that you really love about him, or one reason you’re so proud of him”. Assure tell them that it’s a private thought that won’t be shared out loud. Depending on the family, this can create a very special moment for all involved.
Waiting. Sometimes you’ll be asked to photograph a family while they’re waiting for their child to come home. Think of this almost like a maternity session and try to incorporate the child into the session, even if they aren’t sure who the child is yet. It is our job, as photographers to tell a family’s story; waiting is a huge part of adoption stories. Talk to the parents beforehand and ask them for their ideas on how you can incorporate their soon-to-be child into the session. Something as simple as holding a frame with a photo (or an empty frame, if they don’t have a photo) can tell the story.