As a family photographer, and mom of two myself, I deeply understand the challenges that toddlerhood presents. Between being in a new enviornment and having a camera in front of them, it can be feel overwhelming to them, which can lead to an overwhelmed mom and dad, understandably. Today I am sharing my arsenal of my favorite tips and tricks to keeping your toddler and young children happy during family photos. Inside, you’ll find the strategies I use with OWN children to maximize the amount of cheerful cooperation during our family sessions!
A family photographer’s guide on how to have successful family photos with toddlers & young children
Preparing before the session
First, try to avoid any big changes to your routines in the days before your session. Things like cutting out the paci or having out of town guests will disrupt the little one’s day-to-day, making it much harder for them to regulate the day of the photo shoot.
Next, talk up the family session! Simple foreshadowing can go such a long way when it comes to little ones. Explain how excited I am to meet them & how much fun we’re all going to have.
Get your child excited for the photo session by practicing saying “cheese!” Then, plan something special for after the session, like going for ice cream or another treat. (This tends to work well for dad’s with beer, too!)
Lastly, be sure to carve out time for yourself to feel your absolute best for photos. Whether that’s going to get your hair freshened up or getting a mani/pedi, it’s important that you are feeling your best during your family photo session. I cannot emphasize how much your energy impacts theirs, so be sure you take care of you before your session day!
Related Article: Session Styling for Expecting Mothers
Preparing the day of the session
If your child(ren) are of napping age, try to ensure they stick with as normal of a schedule as possible.
We also want to ensure they are well fed before arriving to the studio. Hell hath no fury like a hangry toddler, so feed them right before your session. This includes babies, as well! If you are nursing or bottle feeding, do so right before coming to the studio.
Have your bag properly stocked with:
- snacks that won’t turn their mouth colors (think puffs, mini marshmallows, or cheerios)
- small stickers (light colors ideal!) to place on a belly bump or baby sibling to encourage holding or gentle touches
- neutral color shoes, in case they don’t want to go barefoot
- favorite toys to play with when they are not in the photos themselves
- pajamas to change them into at the end, especially if it’s an evening session. They can comfortably fall asleep in the car ride home and you’ll enjoy a quiet ride!
Lastly, build extra time into your day. Give yourself a buffer for the inevitable potty or snack breaks, a forgotten empty gas tank, or any of the myriad of other things that can happen unexpectedly with young children.
During the session
Little ones notoriously have a short attention span, so I work fast to capture those sweet moments everyone wants in their gallery.
You can best help by staying upbeat and excited regardless of what is happening with your children. Even if they are screaming, JUST KEEP SMILING!! It only takes a quick moment to snap a photo between tantrums, so we need to ensure that when that moment happens, you are camera ready.
Roll with whatever happens. Small children are so incredibly sensitive to our energy and if they sense frustration, things will go south, quickly.
Look for the small moments of connection. Be intentionally affectionate, hold hands with them, kiss foreheads, snuggle up close, give eskimo kisses, dance around, touch noses, etc. Those seemingly small moments will help a) regulate them and reassure that they are safe and b) provide small, authentic moments that photograph beautifully.
Remember, this is the season of your lives right now. Don’t worry if things seem a bit chaotic during the session – if you follow my guidance, you’ll end up with a beautiful gallery of images that really capture your family’s love and connection.
I know toddlers and young children can be a handful, and that’s why working with a seasoned professional should always be an important criteria for you when selecting your family photographer. Wondering how much you should expect to invest in your family’s session? Click here.
To learn more about family portraits with me, click here or visit my Instagram for more examples of my work.
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