In today’s post: Tired of chasing your toddler around to get a great photo? Check out these top 10 toddler photography tips so you can get gorgeous pictures of your little one!
Toddlers are notoriously hard to get good pictures of. There are three main obstacles: 1 – They don’t want to sit still for ANYTHING, and certainly not for a photo. 2 – Even if they do stop moving, it’s hard to get them to look into the camera. 3 – It’s almost impossible to get a good smile from a toddler just by asking for one. To help you take better toddler pictures, I’m sharing my top ten toddler photography tips with you today.
Top ten toddler photography tips: how to get them to sit still + look
Toddler Photography Tip #1: Give the toddler somewhere to sit.
This tip is especially important for younger toddlers, who have learned to walk recently enough that they do it every waking minute. It’s really hard to get your photos in focus if you’re chasing an 18 month old around the room. It’s much simpler if you provide somewhere for the child to sit – a stool, rocking horse, stump, bench, chair, etc. Have your camera out and ready before you sit the toddler down because he may only stay there a moment or two – but even a few moments of stillness is better than running around like a crazy person snapping photos while calling to the kid to please just stop and look! (not that I’ve ever done that…)
In the photos above I convinced a reluctant toddler to sit on a rocking horse. Wooden items like rocking horses, stools or benches make great seating options for photo shoots because their neutral color means they won’t be distracting in the final photo – but if you really don’t like how the “prop” looks in the photo you can usually crop it right out.
Toddler Photography Tip #2: Give her something to hold. Again, this is more helpful for the younger set. You might have your daughter trapped on a stool that she can’t get down from, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to look at you or smile at you. Be prepared with a small toy (or grab a leaf or flower it you’re outside). Hand the item to the toddler and give her a few minutes to look at and play with it. Then just wait, camera at the ready, until she looks up at you to share her delight – then capture the expression.
Toddler Photography Tip #3: Give her something to look at. Toddlers seem to know you want them to look at you, but do everything in their power to avoid making actual eye contact. Wheedling, threatening, and bribing occasionally work, but giving them something interesting to look at works better. Did you know that if you file down the feet of a Pez dispenser just a bit it fits into the external flash attachment of your dSLR? No kidding. It’s fantastic. Pick a princess Pez or a Lightning McQueen Pez and stick him on top of your camera, then show your child that the Pez gives out candy for kids who look at him. Find out how to attach a Pez dispenser to your camera here.
Or, grab a bunny ear headband from the dollar store at Easter (or a Shamrock one at St Patty’s, etc) and pop it on your head when the child’s not looking. Then keep asking them what’s on your head and how it got there. They’ll stare right at you, and probably laugh. I’ve even tied bells to my wrist and jingled them up by my camera to get a great toddler picture.
Also – move around a bit while you talk to the child – stand up, sit down, lean to the left or right. Your motion will naturally draw her eyes toward you, and you’ll be able to get photos from a variety of angles.
Toddler Photography Tip #4: Let them see themselves inside the camera. Getting pictures taken is just a chore to a little kid who’d rather be running around and playing. So snap a few whether she’s cooperative or not, then show them to her on the back of your camera. Tell her you got her inside the camera, and she’ll immediately be more interested in the camera and more likely to look at it when you start shooting again.
Toddler Photography Tip #5: Ask him to play copycat. This works better for older toddlers (2&3 yr olds) who will be able to understand what you’re asking. Sit or lie down and strike a simple pose, then ask the toddler if he can do the same thing. Try a few funny poses first to get him involved and tell him what a great copycat he is when he copies your pose. Them move on to other poses and ask him if he can be a copycat and then freeze in that position while you take his picture. As long as you keep telling him what a great job he’s doing, he’ll likely continue to copy you for at least a couple of poses.
Top ten toddler photography tips: how to get a great smile
Ever asked a three year old to smile? If you have, you know that you generally end up with something more like a grimace than a grin. Toddlers and preschoolers are tough to photograph – getting pictures taken feels like a chore to them. They’d rather be running around and playing, so if you’ve convinced them to sit still for a minute, chances are you’ll end up with a cheesy smile or a grumpy look. These next five toddler picture tips involve ways to get a great, natural looking smile.
Toddler Photography Tip #6: Ask silly questions. You CANNOT just tell a toddler to please look at you and smile for a good picture and expect it to work. Some young kids are very shy and won’t even want to make eye contact with you, let alone smile at you. And believe me, little kids are stubborn – they’ll wait forever, looking everywhere except at you, until you’re ready to throw in the towel.
When I have a reluctant toddler or preschoooler, I lower the camera and spend a few minutes making very silly small talk. With this little girl I talked for a few minutes about favorite TV shows and then started snorting like a pig and pretending I couldn’t figure out where that noise was coming from. Once you’ve grabbed the child’s attention, you can bring the camera back up and start asking silly questions: “does your Daddy wear diapers?” or “is there an elephant on my head?” or “how old are you? about 25?” Once she’s more comfortable you’ll be much more likely to get a natural smile from her.
Toddler Photography Tip #7: Offer a small, tidy treat. If your toddler is on the younger end and talking to her isn’t working you might end up with photo after photo that looks like this:
Sometimes a little something sweet can break the ice. I try to always keep Smarties handy when photographing kids – they’re tiny, they don’t make a mess, and I can dole out one at a time over and over again without giving anyone a sugar high. Hand over the candy and give your child a minute to start eating. Then be ready to snap a shot when she grins in enjoyment.
Toddler Photography Tip #8: Don’t ask for a smile – surprise him into one. If you request a smile from an obliging preschooler, you’ll probably end up with this:
Good try, but not quite what you’re looking for. Instead, ask him to close his eyes and then after a minute make a loud sound like a sneeze or a bark. He’ll be startled at first, but will probably laugh for a few minutes and maybe even smile at you afterward. (Be careful about using this with very shy kids who might get scared.)
Toddler Photography Tip #9: Ask for a sad face. When he gives you a look like this:
…you can say, “Ok, now don’t smile. Don’t smile! Not even a tiny bit – no I’m serious, don’t smile!” Most kids bust up laughing after a few minutes of trying hard not to smile. (But don’t forgot to take a picture of the sad face as well!)
Toddler Photography Tip #10: If all else fails, ask him to scream as loud as he can. It might take a little encouragement, but most little kids love to scream. And after they do – they’ll smile. You just can’t scream as loud as you can for no reason and then NOT smile. It’s a universal law of nature. Or something like that.
Remember, it’s HARD to get great toddler pictures, and you can’t expect the perfect eye-contact and a cherubic smile every time you try. Some days it just doesn’t happen. The good new is that a smile isn’t the only expression worth recording. Sometimes other expressions are just as precious:
Want more photography tips? Check out these posts: