Themed sessions are my jam.
I find them so inspiring and feel like I can be creative in any way I envision. My goal is to get photos of the child(ren) being themselves and uninhibited. Children love to play and pretend- whether it be a superhero, princess, artist, cowboy, ringmaster, or something they have fabricated in their imagination. Whatever it is, I want to grab photos of them in that moment that will portray them in a personal way.
When I mention ‘themed sessions’ to people, most can’t picture what I’m describing… the words ‘prop’ and ‘theme’ are usually associated with something cheesy or tacky. And I agree, they certainly can be. I am careful to include props that only add to the personalization of the photos- nothing to distract from the kids I’m photographing. The point of having a themed session is to show and include what is important or inspiring to these kids at this certain stage in their life. I want them to look at these photos down the road and remember what it was like to have child-like freedom and a busy imagination. (These are the essence of childhood, in my opinion.)
I tend to use wooden swords, bow and arrows, hats, blankets, or any other prop to give them something to interact with and do with their hands. Sometimes they bring their own props and outfits, and sometimes I supply them (I do have a small collection of kids clothes, accessories, and props).
Below are some photos from 4 kids styled sessions. The first is a ‘Wild Boys’ theme, based on the story of Peter Pan. One of the best parts of this session was watching the boys’ faces when we told them to go get dirty; to roll in the dirt and wipe it all over their clothes and on their faces. Kids are always expected and told to be still and smile during photos, so this was a very pleasant surprise for them! I adored showing these brothers that photography doesn’t have to be boring or stiff; that it can be relaxed and enjoyable, and they can just be who they are without standing still and smiling.
All the props and outfits were put together by the brothers’ mom and myself. We just compiled all of our ‘boy stuff’ and it came out beautifully. The wooden sword actually belongs to my husband and was made by his dad when he was young.
This next series is circus-inspred, which all started with this girl wanting photos with her horse. Instead of doing typical photos, we decided to incorporate lively props and outfits, which resulted in some fun, bold pictures. I found the pants and jacket at a local consignment shop ( Once Upon A Child). The top hat was part of a Halloween costume from Value Village, and the shirt, boots, and whip were provided by this lovely girl.
Inspiration for a themed shoot usually comes to me randomly while I’m driving, listening to music, or playing with my kids. Once I thought about how cool it would be to have an old bed in a forest… then I began visualizing it and knew I wanted to do a ‘Wendy’ theme, based on (yet again) Peter Pan. I had photographed this girl before, and knew she’d be perfect for it, so I sent her mom shopping for a nightie and I got to work on putting the set together. I have a friend who owns a vintage rental company (Something Borrowed Vintage Decor), so she provided the bed and bedding, and a family member of mine has a bunny and leant it to us for the afternoon. It all came together perfectly.
Some themed sessions use minimal, simple props, while others take a lot of pre-planning, crafting, and include more elaborate clothing and accessories. Last summer, a friend of mine and I planned a steam punk session, complete with handmade props, smoke bombs, and a trip to a tiny town in rural Alberta. This was a big vision- but the work paid off…
All props and outfits were provided by the girls, or put together by myself, or my friend, Candice. (And yes, her hair really is that blue!)
Lastly, my vision for these ‘Dorothy’ photos came from a dress and a dog. I believe I found the dress while shopping at Once Upon a Child, and knew I could use it for a future session, but didn’t have a specific one in mind. Then I remembered that a friend of mine had a huge sheepdog and an adorable daughter, and I thought it’d be perfect for a Wizard of Oz inspired session. I didn’t want it to be a typical outfit, so I thought I’d get some red Converse shoes, to replicate the ruby slippers in a more child-like (and comfortable) way. The underskirt was, again, provided by Tannis at Something Borrowed, as well as the picnic basket. This is simply my take on Dorothy and Toto.
I have a list a mile long, full of ideas for different stylized sessions- like I said, this is my jam.
Thanks for checking out my work and blog… and remember to leave some love in the comments. Also- my Instagram handle is @belovedlifephotogrpahy… just sayin.