4 Tips for Easier Photo Sessions with Toddlers

Be nice to everyone... t-shirt wisdom about toddlers
I can’t remember what the battle was about, but I remember the feeling very well!  My very independent then-toddler daughter was not seeing things my way.  Not only was she disobeying, she started telling me what to do.  In frustration, I exclaimed. “Hey!  You’re not the boss of me!”

Not my most compelling adult argument, I agree.

But it did make me realize that I needed to take a breath and just step back for a second.  (I came to realize that timeouts were really more for me than they were for my kids.)  Turns out, she just needed me to hear her, and I just needed a different approach.

Toddlers have their own ideas about how things should go.  Can I get an “Amen!”?  That goes for everything from what to eat (even though they liked Mac-n-Cheese yesterday) to whether or not to smile for photos.

I can’t help a whole lot with the dinner table struggles (except to maybe point you to an article that makes a lot of sense).  But I can help your photo sessions go a little more smoothly with some tried and true tips.

Shy Toddler Girl Isn

Four Tips for Making Photo Sessions with Toddlers Easier

1. Bring them to the Pre-Session Consultation

Some kids are comfortable meeting new people and make friends easily.   Other kids are naturally wary of strangers.  So if your child hasn’t met me before, please bring him/her with you to your pre-session consultation.  You and I will chat about your vision for the session and your plan for the artwork we create together, and having your kids present at that meeting allows them to get to know me.  Then when we meet for your photo session, I am familiar to them and they don’t feel like they’ve been put on the spot.

Toddler Stares Down Photographer at Her Birthday Photoshoot

2. Don’t Practice

No, really!

Please don’t spend even 5 minutes practicing their best smiles.  I can’t stress this enough.  A lot of parents feel like practicing is a good plan, but what they find is that their children end up being “all done” with the whole smiling thing before we even get started.  If your child is one that needs time to mentally transition from one activity to the next (and who doesn’t, honestly?), just let them know you are going to be coming to see me and I’ll be taking some pictures while you all have fun.  And leave it at that.

3. Relax!

Sometimes toddlers don’t want to cooperate. Surprise!  And I’m a mom, so I totally get it!  One of the comments I hear repeatedly after a session is “I can’t believe how patient you are!”  That is something I really strive for.  I like to give the kids space.  I build plenty of time into my sessions to account for breaks so that can happen.  Sometimes a child just needs to get up and do her own thing for a minute or two. Many times, I use that as an excuse to get a few shots of the parents together or individuals of the older siblings.

Family Photo Session with a Toddler

In the photo above left, Cassidy wanted to look at the rocks on the path.  So we let her do that for a bit.  Literally, a minute later, we got this:
Family photo with toddler sitting on dad

4. Embrace the Perfectly Imperfect

At the end of the day, what really matters is having captured this time in your lives.  Yes, of course, we all want that beautiful family portrait where everyone is looking at the camera with perfect smiles.  But sometimes those meltdowns that all parents dread–they can lead to powerful photos of you doing what you do best.  Providing a safe place for your child to express herself.  To be the voice that soothes, the hand that strokes, those arms that protect.
Mom kissing toddler boy on the forehead.

While I can’t guarantee your session will go off without a hitch, I can tell you that knowing what to expect and having a plan is half the battle.

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