I had a really cool session with a young man that I have photographed for a couple of years, last year we did a Blue Cup Cake Smash for his second birthday with a little number 2 candle on top. When we set up the session for his 3 year old pictures the mother wanted to incorporate a number 3 candle into the images but this time without the cake. His father was a car enthusiast so naturally, the theme of the session was going to be about cars, he was gonna be a little grease monkey in a garage. I had purchased football eye grease to smear on his face and arms and borrowed some extra large wrenches from my husband. The mother dressed him in a white tee shirt with rolled up sleeves, red high-top converse, and a pair of jeans with a couple holes in the knees rolled up at the ankles. I had a garage all set up with tires, auto parts, pallets, and tire rims- everything was perfect.
When we got there we went straight to work, he already knew me so he knew we were gonna have some fun exploring this garage. I took my football grease and told him that I needed to put some lotion on his face so he wouldn’t get burned. That made total sense to him, his mom and I exchanged a glance and a giggle, and I smeared away, putting some across his face, arms and a little on his white t-shirt.
He loved the extra large wrenches and was performing every task I asked of him. Until… Mom brought out the number 3 candle that she desperately wanted him to hold. He wanted nothing to do with that number, it was definitely not as cool as the tools I brought for him. Every time I would put the number in his hand he would let it “slip” through his finger and fall to the floor. Faster then I could get my camera back up to my eye, never mind the faces he was making as he let it drop. At this point the mom was getting frustrated, he was getting a little frustrated – but thought it was kind of funny, and I was getting a little frustrated. I decided to change locations, go explore a different part of the garage, maybe a different spot would change his attitude about this prop. Exactly the same, slipping through his finger, but at this point he was practically throwing the number.
DING, a light bulb went off. If he wanted to throw this number I was gonna let him THROW the number, but on my terms not his. Kids respond great to instruction as long as you make it fun for them. What I decided to do is count to three and then he could throw it, but he had to hold on to it until I got to the number 3. I handed him the number, raised my camera, and slowly started to count; One….Two….Two and a half…..Three! At three he launched that number three candle with the biggest grin on his face, and then of course wanted to do it again! There you have it, I captured exactly what the mother wanted but made the child feel like he was getting what he wanted at the same time. We did this trick probably 5 more times, each time I counted you could see the anticipation growing on his face and every time I got to two and a half he let out a squeal. This session is still one of my favorites ever.