BE IN CONTROL • Working With Babies
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Monday, December 19, 2016
By Sandy Puc SPTV
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Of the 1,000 sessions I do each year, over 800 of them include children under the age of six. After so many years in the business, I have become an expert on working with little ones. Children are not impressed by your flashy equipment, years in business, or numerous awards collecting dust on your shelf. Children are won over with a generous smile, a sincere interest in their needs, and a patient and loving attitude.

To help pave the way, I keep a stash of items that I can use in an emergency. I am convinced I could do my job without a camera--I could use a shoebox and a strip of film and make do--but there are a few other things I cannot work without. The following are a few of these "safety net" items.

Silver Pom Poms
These pom poms are the same ones that cheerleaders use. Babies are very attracted to shiny objects. The shine, along with the swishing noise that a pom pom makes, seems to capture their attention for long periods of time. I usually shake it close to the baby and then slowly move back, keeping the baby's full attention.

Rattles and Bells
Small rattles and bells are another great attention grabber. Using these items along with a soft voice will bring the baby's eyes directly to the source of the voice. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to really get them interested, though, so be sure to not give up too quickly.

Soft Noises
Even though we all hate sounding silly, being a baby photographer means that it will be necessary to make a few cooing noises. These soft sounds are very much like the sounds a baby hears in utero, and they are some of the first sounds that he/she will respond to after he/she is born. Mothers are great at these noises--so if you need ideas, just ask your clients to jump in. I have found that each parent has a few special noises that their baby knows. Ask them to speak to their child and you will quickly be able to mimic those sounds. It sounds silly, but it really works.

This silly game works well with babies that are six-months-old and up. Faking a sneeze and following it up with a soft "bless you" will elicit delightful smiles. As the child gets older, I also tickle Mom and instruct her to fake a sneeze.

I recommend keeping a great variety of music on hand to soothe crying children, excite a toddlers, or even help preteens to smile. I always keep soft lullabies playing in the background when I work with infants. This creates a sound barrier that allows me to move things or change backgrounds without startling the child.

Baby Phrases
There are many baby phrases that are common all over the world. Some of my favorites are: "How big is [child's name]? Sooo big!"; "Peek-a-boo!"; and "Hands up!" I also ask the parents if there is a phrase or song that they sing when feeding or changing the baby. Most of the time, the parents will think of a special song that works. If not, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" is a great song to use.

As a last resort, bubbles have saved me many times. Because they are messy, I try to avoid using them--but when you have an upset child, nothing provides a quicker change of attitude. I am not sure where the magic comes from, but when I open the jar, smiles appear almost every time. (And here's a special piece of advice: don't store bubbles in your camera bag. That's another lesson I learned in Hard Knocks 101.)

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