Followers of this blog will know that I do a lot of work with the adoptive community here in Korea. Over the years, I’ve photographed approximately 300 families and I get a lot of questions about how these sessions go. In this post we’ll join the Osbeck family for their post-custody photos in Seoul. Many adoptive families come to me to make some images on one of their first few days as a forever family but it can be tough to know how things will go. We’ll use this gorgeous session as a way to explore those questions as we hit all the points I usually get asked about in just one session!
Scheduling the Session
When scheduling a session, we’re looking at several different factors. First up, the family’s schedule. Usually, there are only a couple of moments that will work before flying home. Amongst those, we need to find one that works for the location and, of course, the little one’s schedule. Then there’s the weather! For the Osbeck family, we had only one time that would work. There was even rain on the forecast, but we decided to brave it and use the undercover sections of the location if it got wet.
We scheduled our session for late afternoon following the family’s embassy visit. Thankfully, the forecast rain was not happening until later in the evening and we would be able to get our session in before that came down. Thanks to the clouds, as well, we didn’t have to worry about starting a little earlier in the day. With Seoul’s palaces, light is usually best in the first hour after opening and the last hour before closing.
Being so soon after custody and knowing that Hayeon might be a little cautious around new people, we decided to get a coffee before the session and warm up a little. Sure enough, she was hesitant at first. So, we enjoyed our coffee before heading over to the palace. I made reassuring eye-contact as often as possible with Hayeon to let her know everything was okay. As children have been through such a major life event when we meet, I am always cautious with my initial interactions. The last thing we want is to cause any distress.
When we made it inside, it was clear that Hayeon would still need a little time to warm up. She held tight to her monkey and kept her pacifier held in her mouth. She wasn’t quite ready to let someone else into her life yet. Luckily for us, we were patient and determined. Starting with my longer lens to ensure I could keep a comfortable distance between myself and the family, we made some initial photos. While I always try to ensure there’s plenty of fun and gregariousness in these sessions, it wasn’t time for that yet.
We spent the first 15 minutes of the session slowly walking through the palace. Hayeon got to dictate who she wanted to hold her and when. We made some simple frames to commemorate our moments in each place we visited. While I called her name and made some jokes in her language, I wasn’t expecting a response right away. I just wanted to get her used to the fact that I was there and we would be making some pictures.
Finally, we made our way around to a quiet corner that I love to use for family sessions. Here, we would stop for a while and see if we could get closer to where I wanted to take the session. After a nice geometric image of the family, I wanted to get a few frames of mother and daughter. Knowing that Hayeon wasn’t afraid but just wary, I decided to see if I could get a little closer and if jokes might start to have their intended effect. Below you can see the first little smile I got from her. It was at this moment, I knew we were getting somewhere.
While we were making this image, dad remembered he’d brought along some bubble mix. While I’m always cautious about bubble mix in a historical location like this, we were extremely careful to only make a couple of bubbles and ensure they didn’t get on the palace. After each of us had a turn, the smiles started to flow a little more freely. We slowly took away the pacifier to allow her to have a turn blowing bubbles. Then we removed monkey so she could hold the bubble wand. Eventually, we replaced the bubble wand with my silly jokes again and the session was underway.
Once the smiles started coming, there was nothing we could do to stop them. Hayeon just needed some time to come out of her shell and we could begin our session. With the cool March weather, I knew I’d need to work quickly and get as much done as we could before she noticed the cold. We made a few more frames in the location we were in to ensure we didn’t miss the laughter we were getting. Varying my distance at this point was not only a way to get some different images, but to ensure Hayeon was comfortable with me getting that close for our next set.
We’d established that Hayeon was now completely comfortable with me being there. So, we took a few steps around the courtyard to test the waters. She was ready to open up for sure, but only from the comfort of her mother’s arms for now. So, I continued to play to that while we could. Her laughter was non-stop by this point and it didn’t matter what any of us did, we were absolutely hilarious to her.
With Hayeon wrapped in her blanket to ensure she stayed warm, we changed our location slightly. A quick walk around the corner took us to some beautiful latticed doors. It was here where we went back to our original image from the beginning of this post. This time, the little lady was ready to hold hands with both her parents. In a matter of moments, we had a series of frames of the three of them together. Again, I worked quickly to get as much variety as I could. You just never know in these situations what is going to happen next.
Then, the cold settled in. I knew this moment was coming and I was glad we’d got some beautiful images of the family before the temperature dropped. I took this chance to get a few quiet frames of the family as they shared some body heat. Even if this was the end of the session, we still had plenty of photos to take away. But, again we wrapped up and started moving to see if a little warmth would help us get a couple more images. Sure enough, the giggles returned with the body heat.
Just through the next gate, we brought the energy back up to eleven for a final couple of images. Hayeon loved flying, but when she came back down she let us know she was done in the most beautiful way. I had pulled everyone together for one last snuggle with the awnings of the palace in the background. The composition was set and I was ready to bring the smiles again when she let out this huge yawn. It was the perfect end to our session, so we wrapped up and finished it there.
I hope that this window into how a session typically goes has been helpful and that you’ve enjoyed the images. Please do reach out if you’d like to book a session or have questions about having your own family photographed in Seoul. A big thanks again to the Osbecks for allowing me to be a part of their lives at this time. It was an honour and I hope that the images are treasured for years to come.