Many photographers—and parents—think portraits are for small children and high school seniors. They often don’t consider or may even avoid having professional photos made of their children during what some people feel are awkward tween years. “But we argue that the tweenage years are every bit as worthy of celebration,” says Bonnie Burton of Burton Photography in Boone, North Carolina, who, along with her husband and business partner Jonathan Burton, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, will speak on the topic at Imaging USA 2022.
“Parents don’t stop loving portraits of their children during this time period, but they don’t feel much of a push to have professional portraits created,” she says. She believes a tween portrait session can be an especially affirming, positive experience for a child navigating those difficult years between age 9 and 12. It’s also a good way for her and Jonathan to stay connected to client parents as their children grow. Her tips on tween portrait photography.
Don’t just market girls’ portraits. Tween kids benefit from the sessions equally. In fact, says Burton, “We’ve had the strongest reactions from some of our boy clients. One boy remarked to his mother on the way home from our studio that he had never felt so special. Another boy told his grandmother that it was the best day ever.”
A questionnaire will help personalize the photo and ordering sessions. The Burtons draw from the tweens’ and their parents’ responses to customize each portrait session, from props to outfits. They also use those responses to create their ordering session slideshow, which is peppered with meaningful quotations they feel will speak to that tween’s personality. The slideshow almost always evokes a strong emotional response.
Provide different products for tweens. The Burtons offer an album containing portraits and quotations as well as a wall art collection that consists of several 8x8-inch metal prints along with one inspirational quote also printed on 8x8-inch metal. All tween sessions take place in-studio in the morning and don’t compete with other portrait sessions that take place outdoors during the golden hours.
Social media isn’t the best route. Most tweens aren’t yet active on social media, so the Burtons have found other ways to market their portraits. They display their portraits in the community, have offered a photo academy for tweens, and created a community service team that tweens can join.
Amanda Arnold is the associate editor.