Photographing toddlers can seem like a daunting task. I've had four of my own and the one thing I know about this age group is that they don't. sit. still! Their language skills are developing but they typically have their minds made up about what they WANT (now!) and what they DON'T WANT-ha!
Despite the challenges that come with photographing toddlers, they are some of my favorite clients. Today I want to share some tips and tricks with you for photographing toddlers, in order to make your sessions more fun and less of a sweaty endeavor. :)
Let Them Warm Up To You
When my clients first arrive, I immediately introduce myself to each member of their family. I spend a little extra time getting to know their kiddos and allowing them to warm up to me. I don't pull out my camera or even talk about taking pictures in the first few minutes of meeting each other. Instead, I talk about the pretty dress they're wearing or their shoes that must make them run fast. Anything to connect with them and calm down their anxiousness over meeting a new person.
Take Your Time Getting to Your First Session Spot
I know what it's like wrangling toddlers into clothes and loading them up in the car. That's a feat in and of itself! Usually my clients have also been in the car for a little while traveling to our session location. Rushing them to our first session spot and getting them into position to begin shooting can feel overwhelming and stressful for both parents and children. I love using the walk from the car to our session spot to get their wiggles out and allow everyone to relax. I use this time to get to know the parents and also continue interacting with their little ones.
Guide the Session But Let Them Take the Lead
As a photographer, you are the director of the session. You're the one that sets the pace, poses your families, and gives them their cues on interacting with each other in order to pull out that connection and love between them. I have a session flow I follow in order to ensure I get all of the shots I need. When it comes to photographing toddlers though, I like to take more of a relaxed approach and see myself more as a guide rather than a director. If they need a break from being in front of my camera, I use that time to photograph mom and dad alone or do headshots of older siblings. If they need to move, I use this time to photograph the family walking together, playing "red light green light", or a playing a game of tag. I still get what I need in order to deliver a beautiful and well-rounded gallery to my clients, but I don't worry about doing everything in a certain order.
Treat Your Session Like a Fun Family Outing
I say this often in my client emails and I've said it here before, I want my sessions to feel like a fun family outing rather than formal family photos. In my experience, the more relaxed and laid-back the session is, the better the product of photos are. Toddlers love running around, being tickled by mom, and (most of the time) tossed into the air by dad. Allowing families to play and engage with their kiddos creates genuine smiles, laughter, and connection which makes for beautiful lifestyle photos.
Don't Push their Limits
If your toddlers are anything like mine were, when they are done, they are DONE! I try to watch for signs of fatigue and prepare to end our session before meltdowns ensue. I snap quickly and am efficient in getting a good amount of shots in a short period of time, so I don't need any more than 45-60 minutes to get a wide variety of images for my clients' gallery. When toddlers are done exploring and snuggling and being in front of my camera, I put it away and we head back towards their car. I want their entire experience with me-start to finish-to be a positive one.