Family photos can sometimes be stressful, especially with toddlers. They definitely are in a phase of life where they have a mind of their own that is not always conducive to sitting still. As someone who has photographed over 1,000 families, here are five tips for photographing toddlers that can help set up your shoot for success. This is great for both parents and photographers!
Tip #1: Schedule Your Shoot Strategically
What exactly does this mean? Let me break it down for you. If you are working with a natural light outdoor photographer, you will want to schedule at Golden Hour, which is right before sunrise or an hour before sunset. This can vary tremendously based on the time of year. In the Boston area, July Golden Hour is almost to 8:30PM, which means a 7:30PM shoot time. On the other hand, October Golden Hour is 6PM, which means a 5PM shoot time. Those 2.5 hours are a HUGE deal to your tiny toddler and can make the difference between a smooth shoot versus an epic meltdown. This is one of my favorite tips for photographing toddlers, because it makes a huge difference. Clients, make sure you are scheduling your session during a time of year that will work for your toddler’s nap. Photographers, make sure you are very clear about your shoot times so you make sure that the booking works for the family. If your toddler has a more erratic schedule, consider going with an indoor studio photographer. This will be the most flexible in terms of shoot times.
Tip #2: Location Matters
With toddlers, it’s important to select a location that gives them room to run, play, and explore. They will not stay still for more than a couple minutes at most, and that is just part of their beautiful nature. Many parents mistakingly think mini sessions are the only solution to their toddler’s attention span, but it’s quite the opposite. Selecting a location that gives your toddler room to get comfortable and explore will ultimately result in the best photos. This isn’t usually possible with minis. You also want to make sure that you select a location that is safe for toddlers. Avoid places with steep drop offs or rocky floors where they might run and fall. This will help everyone be super comfortable. You also want to select a location with variation. A toddler is going to get bored in a field where you’ll be in the same spot. Instead, select a location with a variety of backdrops so that you’re spending time walking and there are new things for them to explore.
Tip #3: Learn Their Favorites
It’s important that as a photographer, you learn about your subjects prior to your shoot. Send out a questionnaire and ask your families what their toddler’s favorite songs and shows are. This will help you interact with them so you can ask about their favorite characters or even play some songs on Spotify to help them get comfortable. This helps them build trust with you, too, and is another one of my favorite tips for photographing toddlers.
Tip #4: Lifestyle Over Posed
This is such a fun, curious age where toddlers are happy to roam free and be silly. Capitalize on that and don’t fight their wild nature. Sure, you can get a couple posed photos, but then let them loose to explore and be their shadow. If they show interest in some flowers, get in close and ask them to smell them, pick them for Mom, and even dance in them. You’ll capture genuine personality and emotion by giving them freedom to play. Plus, don’t you want photos that truly showcase your child and who they are at this stage of life?
Tip #5: Bribes and More Bribes
Toddlers are not too young for bribes! If the toddler is old enough and parents approve, bring some fun things to bribe them with. My favorite is to bring along mini marshmallows because they are mess free and blend in with teeth. Kids seem to love them! Have a little baggy where you give them away to your toddlers every so often, especially after completing a task like giving Dad a kiss or running into Mom’s arms. Remember that toddlers don’t do well without instant gratification, so telling them they can do something later as a reward is not as effective as something that will give instant gratification.
Photographing toddlers can be tricky, but it’s the most fun! They are at such a special age where they really show you their authentic selves, and helping them explore is the best. What did you think of these tips for photographing toddlers? Which one was the most useful for you?