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7 Tips for having a Successful Photo Session with your Toddler

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

We all know our toddlers don't stay young for long. They will grow up sooner than we expect, and then all of a sudden 'mommy' turns to 'mama', which turns to 'mom'. They won't be on our hip constantly, or wanting us to read them a book, or cuddle with them. A family session is a perfect way to capture this magical age, let your family's unique personality show, and also have beautiful photos that you can treasure for years to come. But, a photoshoot with a toddler can be scary to think about, because let's be honest... toddlers are crazy. I know! I have 2 young daughters who are full of energy, extremely active, and hard to handle at times - it's easy to see how the thought of a family session with toddlers could fill a parent with anxiety. Yes, toddlers are a handful, but they're also curious, silly, loving, eager to learn, and hilarious - that is what I aim to capture at sessions!

So, how in the world do you get your child to cooperate and smile at the camera during the whole session?!

The secret is not to force a smile, but to create a space for families to interact naturally. Read below for tips on how I work with my clients to accomplish this!

I'm a lifestyle photographer, so we will play games and you will interact with your family to create natural smiles on you and your kids! I'm not going to have your family sit still and just tell you to smile for the whole session. I will direct your family on how to position yourselves, but then I will have you interact with each other in various ways. My goal is to capture genuine smiles, and for your family's personality to show through your images with the least amount of stress possible. Below are some tips to help you prepare for your family session so that it goes smoothly and is as stress-free as possible!

  1. Have Realistic Expectations: This tip is maybe the most important. Don't expect a small child to sit still and smile for a whole photoshoot. Expect them to be active - and that's OK! The chaos is where the magic happens.

  2. Be Positive: Our kids pick up on our attitudes towards things. So if you talk about your upcoming session in a negative way in front of your kids, or in a way that shows you are dreading it, your kids will pick up on that and likely adopt your negative attitude towards the session. But, if you have a positive attitude and say, for example: "We're going on an adventure! A photographer will be taking pictures of all of us - we're going to have so much fun!" (Super cheesy.... I know, but you get the picture) Or something along those lines, they will likely mirror your positive attitude going into the session which may make a huge difference!

  3. Make Sure Toddlers are Well Rested and Well Fed: This one is self explanatory, but especially on session day.... have your toddlers take their nap. And I know, sometimes our kids just won't nap - Or your 2 year old could be in that awkward stage of just starting to give up her nap, but she still kindof needs one (my 2 year old right now). We can still have a great session using the other tips!

  4. Be Prepared to Play: In my family sessions with young kids, my goal is for it to be fun! We play games and it's super relaxed.

  5. Trust Your Photographer: What do I mean by that? Let me direct you and your family. You don't have to worry about anything - I will tell you what I want you to do. Please Please don't tell your kids to look at the camera and smile! It's almost automatic for parents to tell their kids to look at the camera and smile, but as I mentioned above, that's not how I approach photography. I can't get the natural smiles and emotion from you and your kids if they are forcing a smile - Also, it just puts so much stress on everybody! It stresses me out, it stresses your kids out, and you're stressed because you're stressing over your kids' smiles.

  6. Take Breaks During the Session: I encourage parents to take breaks during the session if needed! If your child just isn't having it for whatever reason - No worries - We'll take a break!

  7. Be Flexible: You can be extremely prepared for your session, and still, your toddler can have a meltdown, because sometimes that's just what toddlers do. It's OK - We can take a break, and still capture amazing pictures at your session.

I hope these tips help you to prepare for your next family session. Please don't stress over the process! All you need to do is show up dressed, and be ready to have fun. I handle the rest - the posing, the direction, everything. I know how important it is to capture these fleeting moments with your kids. We will get those moments captured and have fun doing it!


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