4 Tips For Working With Toddlers In Family Photography Sessions

February 3, 2022

Toddlers tend to get a bad rap when it comes to behavior… Don’t get me wrong, they can absolutely be a handful! But I am here to tell you that as a photographer, there are ways to get around their sometimes strong willed opinions when it comes to having their photos taken!There are LOTS of things you can do to guarantee that toddlers cooperate in a family photoshoot, and today we’re going to touch on my top four tips. 

First, SET EXPECTATIONS. Make sure you are educating your clients (aka the toddler’s parents) about what they can expect during your session with them. The first step to keeping toddlers cool, calm, and collected, is keeping their PARENTS cool, calm and collected. Make sure and tell them your process for their session – do you normally start with the full family? Or just toddler? Do you pause the session to pay SOLE attention to the toddler to gain their trust (cough cough – you should be!)? Do you prefer being in charge of getting them to smile? Or will you ask for their help at times? Are you experienced in toddler tantrums? Just COMMUNICATE all these things ahead of time so the parents are totally comfortable and trust that you’ve got this when it comes time for their session… Even if the toddler had a tantrum in the car on the way! 

Second, EARN THE TODDLER’S TRUST. This sounds so basic, but getting a toddler to trust you is the KEY in getting GREAT photos of them! There are many ways to gain their trust, but the first thing I want you to focus on… is just focusing on them! Toddlers love to be the center of attention, so make them that. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the session just playing with them, smiling and making eye contact, and getting down on their level. This is going to make them very interested in you, and if you keep trying, that interest is going to turn into trust. Once they trust you, it makes it a lot easier to make them laugh and have FUN, creating all those truly joyful toddler smiles. 

Third, GO OVERBOARD. Everything you do with these toddlers, take it to the extremes. If you want to get them to calm down, crouch down on their level and lower your voice to a whisper. It naturally draws them in and towards you. If you want them to laugh and giggle at you, laugh and giggle at yourself! Make it crazy fun for them to be in your presence. Ask them a question, and when they tell you the answer, be OVERLY excited about what they said. Repeat it back to them with a tone of impressed disbelief. If you go overboard in all your reactions, so will they. And that creates both genuine trust, and genuine toddler smiles… which, hello! That’s the goal! 

Lastly, HAVE PLENTY OF TRICKS UP YOUR SLEEVE! Do your best to have LOTS of prompts, topics of discussion, and games for the toddlers to play during your session. Make sure that these can all be played or prompted with the whole family, with just the toddler, or with just the toddler and his or her siblings. The goal is to keep them having fun, exploring the location where your session is, and interacting with their family in the BEST ways possible. I highly recommend having a list of prompts that you use at each session ready to go, because once you start using them session after session, it becomes totally second nature to use them! Then it doesn’t even feel like effort. I have 6 of my favorite toddler tricks for you for free RIGHT HERE! 

Toddlers are my favorite group of humans to photograph, and I truly believe they get a bad rap. We, as the adults, and HIRED PROFESSIONALS, have to be the ones to both control the chaos and pull those genuinely joyful smiles out of the tiniest of humans. If you have any questions about photographing toddlers, leave a comment below or SHOOT ME AN EMAIL. I’d love to chat with you!

If you love what you’ve read and want to learn more, you can also get my Toddler Tricks Mini Course, a 2 hour video course with specific tutorials and behind the scenes footage of me working with toddlers! It includes mindset training, a few technical tips, and 25 prompts for toddler and their families. It is going to change the way you head into photographing a session with kids ages one through five! I can’t wait for you to check it out! 

PS – I got all these shots (and many more) in 14 minutes flat. And that was WITH letting the toddler run around and us all have fun chatting during the session! There are lots of behind-the-scenes videos from this session in the Toddler Tricks Mini Course for you to watch!

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