"How to do a Photoshoot with a Toddler"
Video is now live on Youtube!!!
Today I am so excited to be sharing a new video with you guys that outlines six helpful tips and tricks for a successful toddler photoshoot! In this video, I model and explain these suggestions as I shoot my own one-and-a-half year old son, Odin, in a few of my favorite Boulder, CO locations. AKA all the advice you need to take some sweet toddler-focused photos for your own journey in family photography.
One thing I want to stress is that family photography is all about capturing unique family moments and personal bonds. It is SO important that this connection is reflected in your own pictures, and a point I stressed again and again (and again!) in this video is that meaningful pictures sell. I’ll say it one more time: meaningful pictures sell.
Before we get into a breakdown of the six tips and tricks, my number one rule around photographing toddlers is things NEVER go as planned. Need an example? During our photoshoot we were interrupted by an insane out-of-the-blue Boulder thunderstorm. It seems like things like that always happen when you need them the least, right? No matter what happens, as long as you’re flexible and prepared for unexpected hiccups, you’ll be ready for anything.
So without further ado, let’s break down these tips!
Tip #1: Keep Little Hands Busy
For my first tip, the title says it all. I often tell parents to bring antique, vintage, or wooden props that create a sort of quintessential and authentic childhood feel.
Photoshoot props can really be divided into two main categories. First, there are meaningful props like baby blankets or favorite toys that are personal. Second, there are aesthetic props whose purpose are to make the photo look good, for example the vintage or antique items I mentioned earlier. Some of my favorites and ones I frequently recommend/love using are a red wagon (the cute vintage metal ones, not the bright red modern ones), or a patchwork quilt.
If all else fails and props don’t seem to be keeping your toddler occupied, I like to put a flower or plant inside their pocket. Not only is this incorporating nature into the shoot, but it also gives them time to take it out of their pocket and explore it.
Tip #2: Keep Moving
For toddlers, everything is new and exciting. In your photos, you always want to capture their connection with the world. While you’re taking pictures, it’s important for you to share and more importantly match the toddlers energy. During shoots, I am CONSTANTLY moving - I’m running around, trying different angles, and talking and engaging with the kids. When it comes down to it (and a point I make sure to highlight in the video), the more energy you bring to your work, the more money you inevitably end up making.
Remember, family photography is about capturing fleeting moments. These pictures are what allow us to immortalize times that are difficult to remember, and in order to be successful we need to give it our all during these shoots.
Tip #3: Go With the Flow
I will reiterate again what I said at the beginning of this post: Things NEVER go as planned!!! It’s important to be flexible and understand that things rarely go perfectly, but that’s totally okay. Personally, before my shoots I often like to meditate to ground myself.
If you’re at the beginning of your photography journey, it can be helpful to take inspiration from other photographers whose style you admire. Instagram is a fantastic tool for this -- and I always make an effort to do that extra step and share some behind-the-scenes peeks at shoots from my instagram story. Please check out my instagram @sweet_bright_being for these cool extras and first-look pictures from new shoots. :)
If the toddler you’re working with is being fussy or distracted, there are a couple of strategies you can use to grab their attention. You can play peek-a-boo from around the camera or rest a stuffed animal on top of the camera as a vantage point. Personally, I think making sounds is a great way to grab their attention. Try rolling your tongue, barking, or singing songs. My favorite is the itsy bitsy spider. Toddlers especially love it when the rain comes and washes the spider out. <3
Tip #4: Bring an Assistant
Data shows that you make SOOOO much more money with an assistant. Pictures shot with an assistant are more engaging, and intimate photos always sell more.
If you’re in the market for assistance, there are so many ways and to start searching. Great places to start are Facebook jobs, Craigslist, or other similar platforms. For this shoot, my assistant was my ten year old daughter, Amelia. :) Keep in mind that the best interns are your target audience. For me, this is other moms who want to start a photography business. People with similar interests will be excited to tag along and see how you do things by watching your strategies and techniques. And finally, you also want to make sure you and your assistant have really good chemistry. You guys are working together to make this happen!
The key to becoming a better photographer is to simply keep on shooting. Practice makes perfect, and the more you’re getting out there and just taking pictures, the better you’re going to be.
Tip #5: Contain Them
Toddlers are super busy and super curious. Once again, the entire world is new to them! This makes verbal instruction difficult, and oftentimes we cannot rely on instructions to get us through the shoot. In my case, the thunderstorm was an obstacle to getting Odin’s attention. I mean, who is more interesting, his mother asking him to do something or the loud banging in the sky?
Oftentimes, props like a chair are a great way to contain the toddler and incorporate a couple of fun new types of angles and shots. Another option would be to set up curated areas with new props. This allows them to explore a new location while being stimulated.
A warning: DO NOT try to do a pose with a baby or toddler more than two times. Take frequent breaks!! Not only does this allow you to regain some energy so you can continue matching theirs, but it also allows for moments of connection. As I said before, the more energy you bring to your shoot, the more money you will make. Your enthusiasm will show through in your photos.
A final great way to contain the toddler is in their parents arms. When all else fails, a picture of the parent holding their baby is an intimate pose that creates a fantastic picture of that sacred parent-child relationship.
Tip #6: Get Them Walking Away
My final tip is get a shot of the toddler walking away. A shot from behind is a beautiful metaphor for them walking into a beautiful and bright future. This is a perfect last image for the end of the shoot that expresses limitless possibilities.
With parent permission and weather permitting, (I generally say over 48 degrees fahrenheit) I love to get some from-the-back tushy pics. I don’t generally like to post pictures like this on social media, but they're adorable photos for the family.
My final tip is to try one of my number one selling pictures: Their face from above. A picture of the toddler looking up at the sky while you’re shooting from above them never fails. For the best quality, focus on the inside of their eye.
Hope you all enjoyed this condensed outline of the 6 tips I discussed in my most recent video. Check out my youtube channel for more family photography DIYs and my instagram for more behind-the-scenes of my photoshoots. Much love to you all!
Stacey Potter is a renowned family photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her photography has been featured in a variety of magazines, but she is most well-known for work as a family photographer. To schedule your own family session in Boulder or to ask any questions, please contact her at 303.818.7757 or email firstname.lastname@example.org