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Back when I was doing portraits, I had a love hate relationship with photographing toddlers. On the love side, toddlers have to be one of my favorite age groups for children. They are so inquisitive and interested in everything–that excites me on a personal level.
But on the other side, they are BUSY little people, with things to do and places to go. And since they can’t always express themselves and their actions the best, they can easily get overwhelm and frustrated (and that breaks my heart as both a mom and a photographer).
Photographing with toddlers can be a hit or miss sometimes, but I have a few tricks that I used back when I was doing portraits professionally to help the kiddos out. And now that I’m finding myself on the other side of the lens more often with a toddler of my own, I’m finding that I have more hits than misses with these tricks.
Sleep is good!
A well rested toddler is a kiddo that’s less likely to have a meltdown. I know that many parents will try to schedule photoshoots before nap time when their baby’s tired, but trust me when I say after nap photoshoots are best.
Yes, your toddler will have tons of energy at the point and will probably want to run around and explore. But they will be alert, happy and more likely to understand a few directives–all of which translate better into photos than a screaming, sleeping baby.
Hanger is real, especially with toddlers. So if you can bring your babe to a shoot with a full tummy, that would be ideal. But its always a safe bet to have a few snacks on hand as well. Snacks also make a great bribe to get kids to pay attention too and are an even better reward for a job well done!
We’ve personally been loving these pouches form Peter Rabbit Organics. They come in a huge variety of favors and are all natural, making them a great option for food conscious mamas like me. Big than you again to Peter Rabbit Organics for sending these our way!
Even when they’re trying their best, toddlers don’t have the greatest attention span. So marathon shoots are probably not your best option, especially if you have a busy body on your hands like we do. Mini shoots are a great option because it only requires 10-20 minutes of your baby’s time. This makes it much easier for them to focus and have a great shooting experience.
When booking a mini session though, make sure to follow the pervious two tips! The last thing you want to do is bring a tired and hugnry toddlers to a 10 minute session. I can almost guarantee that in that case, 90% of your time will be spent just trying to clam your baby down. But if you come into a mini with a well rest and happy kid, it will probably be one of your best shooting experiences.
Let you kid explore
Toddlers naturally have a lot of energy and need ways to expel it. So if you keep them still for too long, they tend to get frustrated. This is why I prefer to have a mix of posed and candid pics with kids. It’s really nice to have those classic and traditional photos for albums and holiday cards. But the excitement and smiles that you get from your kid when they are genuinely having fun with their photographing experience can’t be beat and will be some of your favorite photos.
Letting you kid explore can be as simple as them getting a break from poses to play with their favorite toy or things around them, to them getting the chance to interact directly with the camera and photographer in a way that is comfortable for them.
Pick a photographer who actually likes kids
Speaking of interacting with the photographer, choosing a photographer who actually likes kids makes a huge difference. While many photographers are skilled in their craft, a photographer who likes children will be way more patience as toddlers figure things out. I swear kids can sense when folks genuinely care about their feelings and it leads to a much more positive experience all around–and thus better photos.
Most seasoned photographers will be up front with you on if working with kids is one of their favorite things to do. Remember, your photographer wants you to have the best experience possible. So don’t be afraid to ask them questions on how they’ll be interacting with you and your family to make sure that they are a good fit for you.
Our family just did our holiday minis using these tips and I’m in love with how these photos came out. These are pictures that I’ll cherish forever and will remind me of just how blessed we were this year with everything going on. I’d like to give a quick shout out to the amazing photographer who did our photos this year, Alex Lasota (her photos above are all linked). She does amazing portrait work here in the PNW and does travel for weddings, so if you’re interested in booking her, check out her IG out for sure!
I hope you find these tricks just as useful as we did! Share your best toddler photography tips with us below and tag us in your toddler post on insta! We’d loved to see how they come out!