Photographing toddlers is not naturally easy. They might have a little bit of stranger danger; it can take time for them to warm up. If they’re mobile, they generally want to be on the move constantly. They might have a runny nose or be fussy. Their parents are likely exhausted by the time they show up for the shoot. With all the hard work it takes to get everyone ready for a family photo shoot, not to mention attempts to foster good spirits, Mom and Dad are basically living on a prayer.
Here are some tried and true things I have learned over the years about working with toddlers.
- Let the parents know you’ve got this. They hired you for a reason. It’s probably because based on the looks of the photos you’ve posted on Instagram, you appear to be some sort of magician. Let’s be honest, you are. Encourage the parents to relax and roll with the waves. Ultimately what you’re trying to capture is their dynamic. That doesn’t mean everyone’s hair has to be perfect or that they are all smiling at the camera. Encourage them to be playful and happy and to let their little be little. Assure them that photographing toddlers is not about capturing perfection.
- Wear your sneakers. Make sure you’re hydrated and practically ready for a workout. You are going to be squatting, running and jumping all over the place trying to keep up with their little feet while you capture their magic. Snap on their level.
- Be the Ringmaster. I joke that each one of my family sessions has an element of Circus in it. It’s true! You are the Ringmaster. It’s your job to guide this family, and particularly this little through the wild experience of family lifestyle photography. Sure, at times you are a fly on the wall simply capturing the soulshine right in front of you. But more often than not, with toddlers, you are essentially performing with the goal of getting fun expressions out of the little ones. Be silly. Be wild. Make funny faces. Dance. Make funny noises. Sing their favorite songs. Show off your best Tyrannosaurus Rex rawr. Make it fun for them.
- Leave the snacks in the car. Hey, I’m all for bribes. The promise of ice cream goes a long way in getting smiles out of kiddos. But handing out m&ms in between shots makes for a messy, chocolatey mouth and ends up eating into your precious snap time.
- Use a fast shutter speed. The faster the shutter opens and closes, the better chance you have of freezing the action. Toddlers live on turbo mode. In order to capture clear images, you need ample natural light and a fast shutter speed.
- Go for close-ups. I photograph almost exclusively with a 35mm lens. It encourages me to use my feet as my zoom. I love to capture my clients from all different angles, meaning pullbacks, close-ups and side shots. Look for the details that make toddlers so precious. Photograph their funny faces, little hands, tiny feet, ears, curly hair – whatever it is that makes them unique. Those are the things parents will miss and cherish as their toddler grows over the years.
- Make it an adventure. Since toddlers like to keep it moving, move along with them. Choose a location where you can explore, discover various types of water, rocks, trees and views. The more variety, the better. Don’t spend too much time in one spot.
I hope these tips help you capture your next little client at their very best!
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