One minute, children are calm, sleeping creatures that stay in one place. Then, in the blink of an eye, they become pint-sized bundles of energy that never stop moving. That constant energy can make toddler photography feel impossible.
When it comes to child photography, you have to use the term ‘poses’ loosely. Adults are easy to direct. You tell them the pose you want, and they’ll do it. Toddlers, on the other hand, don’t even want to sit still.
When shooting toddler photography, it’s more about creating a scenario. You need a relaxed atmosphere where the youngster will smile naturally and stay in a position that’s a bit more photo-friendly.
Say goodbye to those blurred child photos. Our tips for children’s poses will help you capture their natural smiles and create intimate photos you can treasure.
1. Be Flexible With Your Plan and Follow Their Lead
When shooting with toddlers, look to capture genuine shots. The best photos often stem from simply following what the toddler wants to do. You can prepare activities and plan poses, but you will have to make a change if the toddler isn’t enjoying it.
For example, we recently captured a creative wedding shot of a happy young ring bearer running away from the kissing bride and groom in the background. Catching moments like this will give you unique and joyful images.
If she wants to pick flowers, photograph her picking flowers. If he wants to spin in circles, let him spin in a circle and snap his laugh when he falls!
With more energetic children, you may want to start the photography session at their pace. Then, once they have let out some excitement, they might be more willing to slow down and pose for the camera.
Shy children, on the other hand, may not want to participate at all. In these situations, you need to make the child feel at ease by taking things a bit slower. Once they’re relaxed, you’ll be able to capture those genuine smiles.
2. Approach the Shoot Like Sports Photography
If they want to run, let them run. If you’re in a picturesque setting, running shots can be a great way to photograph children. So turn on continuous autofocus, crank up the shutter speed, let them loose, and start shooting!
Is it easier to take portraits of someone sitting still? Of course, it is. But if they’re not happy sitting still, you won’t get the best photos. You will need to adapt.
Treat an active toddler portrait session like taking sports photos. Use a fast shutter speed, burst mode, and continuous autofocus. You can give them a starting point and a finishing line. This way, you’ll know where they are headed, and you can position yourself in the best spot.
If you’re shooting with siblings, you can ask them to race. They’ll be smiling and having fun, and you can get the shots you need.
3. Dancing is Easier to Shoot Than Running
If the kids aren’t keen on running, then maybe they’d like to dance. For example, if a girl has a new dress on, you can ask her to twirl. She’ll be happy to show off her dress, and you can snap the photo. It’s the same with boys too. Just ask them to show you their best dance moves.
If you are working with toddlers too young to understand instructions, try dancing yourself. They might join in.
4. Explore Nature for Candid Shots
Selecting a beautiful location can elevate your child and toddler photography. Meadows and country paths are beautiful landscapes even on their own. Using them for child photography is ideal.
Children will have fun on location, which can be great for capturing more candid moments. You can also ask the children to interact with their surroundings. For example, have them smell the flowers or throw leaves in the air while taking the picture.
At a recent wedding, a one-year-old flower girl had very little interest in having her picture taken. All her attention was focused on a nearby apple tree. We used this to our advantage and snapped some adorable photos of her picking apples.
5. Use Props That Encourage Stillness
Chasing after an anarchic toddler can become tiresome, even for the most patient of people. One strategy is to use props that will keep the child’s attention in one place.
A toddler might be more interested in staying in one place if you give them somewhere fun to sit. Large baskets and buckets, for example, can work well with toddlers. Chairs, rocking horses, and sledges are great for slightly older children.
It’s easy to work these props into a theme. For example, using a wash bucket with bubbles for a bath time photo is a popular setup.
Whenever you are using props, make sure they are safe beforehand. For example, be wary of tall buckets and baskets that can tip and avoid hazardous chipping or peeling props. You can’t be too careful.
6. Photograph Them With a Favourite Toy
Getting toddlers to stay in one place is only half the battle. Most won’t want to look at the camera either. So a great way to get their attention is to enlist the help of their favourite toy.
A toy that makes noises is a bonus. Hold the toy near the camera and activate the sounds. This will draw the toddler’s attention, and you’ll be able to get a great photo of their smiling face.
But remember, it’s their toy. Let the child play with it too. When they have their favourite toy, the child will be happy and relaxed. Your hands will then be free to use your camera.
Adding their toys to the photos adds an extra emotional element. As children grow up, toys are broken and lost. So it’s often nice to remember the joy toys can bring to a child, and their moments shared are to be treasured.
7. Enlist the Help of a Smile-Maker
Asking a child to smile rarely gets the best results. Even if they do smile, it will look forced and unnatural. To get those genuine smiles, you need to try something a bit different.
I will often sit the toddler down, then ask mum or dad to stand directly behind me and do something silly. For example, they can dance, sing, or pull a funny face. The parents will know just what to do.
This is a great way to photograph them in a more traditional pose. They will be seated and looking at the camera, but they’ll have the biggest smile on their face.
If you’re photographing your own child, ask for help from someone they like. Some of our favourite images are when grandparents make a child laugh!
8. Use Bubbles and Balloons
I’ve never met a toddler that doesn’t love bubbles and balloons. But, you should always get the green light from the parents before using them. The child may have allergies, or they might think it too unsafe.
Bubbles always get a big smile from toddlers and young children. You can use them out of shot and focus on the child. Or, you can include them in the photo. They make lovely added visuals to toddler photography.
The children will want to interact with the bubbles too. Whether they are blowing or popping bubbles, the child will be happily distracted. It’s a great opportunity to snap some genuine expressions.
You can use the same strategy with the balloons. They always elicit great smiles, and they look great too.
Balloons, however, should only be used with older children. A balloon popping can be a traumatic experience for a young child, and the broken pieces are a choking hazard.
9. Try Food-Based Props
Toddlers love to eat. Maybe not broccoli or cabbage, but if you’re holding something sweet, they’ll likely want to eat it. And, food can be an excellent prop for child photography.
Something silly like a big lollipop makes a great visual with extra colour. Seasonal food can be fun too, like apples in autumn and watermelon in the summer.
If the photo shoot has a birthday theme, jelly and cake are both fun props to use. They will definitely put a smile on their faces.
If you do want to work with food, always get parents’ permission first. And make sure the food is age-appropriate.
10. Use Playful Props
Young children love trying new things and using their hands. That’s why giving them a prop they can play with is such a good idea. If they’re busy with their hands, they’ll hopefully take a break from running around. Also, it gives the photographer the chance to use their camera.
Always make sure the props are safe and age-appropriate. You can also ask the parents about the child’s interest to make sure you have something to keep them captivated. Pinterest is a great place to go for ideas for kid-friendly props.
11. Play a Game
Games are fun for adults and children alike. Even something as simple as peek-a-boo. You don’t need any props, just your hands and your face.
For older kids, try playing Simon Says. This is an excellent trick for getting the children to pose without them realising. Or, you can get them to copy you or copy their parents.
These types of games are simple and silly. The child will forget they’re at a photoshoot, and you can capture those beaming smiles.
12. Use Playful Instructions to Create Genuine Poses
Some toddlers have a bit of a rebellious side. But, you can use this to your advantage! If they want to do the opposite of what they’re told, tell them not to smile. It can work for older kids too. It’s better than asking, “Say cheese!”
You can ask them to see how long they can go without smiling. Tell them to try their hardest and be ready with your camera when the smile breaks out. If you have siblings, they can have a contest to see who can go the longest without smiling. Usually, the children will end up in fits of laughter.
13. Create Interaction With Siblings
It’s hard enough getting one child to smile when they’re having their photo taken. So two or three might seem impossible. But it isn’t.
The key to photographing siblings is having them interact with each other. They can play games, tell jokes, or dance together. Siblings tend to have a knack for getting each other to smile.
Some older children tend to do well when they are tasked with getting their younger sibling to smile.
Common Toddler Photography Questions
Q: How Do You Photograph Toddlers Indoors?
Capturing a fast-moving toddler indoors can be tough. The more light you have the better. Any location with a big window is a good idea.
If not, use a high ISO setting and a wide (i.e. low number) aperture. The posing tips above are great for getting them to stay in one place.
Q: How Do You Photograph a One-Year-Old?
One-year-olds are tough to photograph. But, the same toddler photography tips above work for one-year-olds too. You can try some with babies even younger.
Remember to work with them, not against them. Be patient, and use the camera settings that you’d use to photograph sports rather than portraits.
Keep in mind that you may not get traditional poses looking at the camera. But you’ll be able to capture some wonderfully authentic images of your children.
Q: How Do I Get My Toddler to Cooperate for Pictures?
Give them something in return. Usually, toddlers aren’t interested in having their pictures taken. If you give them their favourite toy, for example, they will think it’s a reward.
If the toddler just wants to run, they won’t be pleased if you make them sit still. To get the best smiles, you have to make them happy.
If you are getting photos done by a professional, choose a photographer that specialises in child photography. Bringing snacks that aren’t messy and a favourite toy along can help.
Working to the child’s schedule is also a handy tip. You don’t want the photoshoot to clash with meal or nap time.
Use your knowledge of what your child likes and dislikes. When they are happy, the shoot will go smoothly.
Toddlers and photographers play by different rules. They want to do their own thing. And you shouldn’t fight it! Instead, work with toddlers to get the best results.
You have to let them have fun. And, with the right tricks and props, they can have fun on your terms. In the best shoots, the child won’t even notice that they’re being photographed. Then, you can work your magic with the camera and capture some excellent child photography images.
Using these tips, you can control the fun and create some stunning photos that will be a treasure to the family
Want More? Try Our Child Photography eBook
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