Have toddlers? Here's how to ensure they (and you) have fun during your session!

Okay. I get it...you want family photos but you are slightly concerned how your young child might behave. Will it be a good day? Will it be a bad day? Will they listen and participate, or will they cry and refuse to get out of the car? Below are some tips and tricks to having a super successful photoshoot with those young humans you love so much (even when they drive you bonkers).

Tip 1: Short Term Bribes

First off, what are the different bribe types? In my world of parenting there are short term bribes (eat your veggies and you can have dessert) and long term (have a great day and we'll go out for ice cream later). Now, you know your child the best, and you may know that they will respond better to one or the other, but in my experience, short term bribes, ones that pay out during the photo session instead of after the photo session, work much better. Want to stop so you can give your kiddo a snack half way through? Awesome! Want to reward each photo location with a small treat? Perfect! Some small, but seemingly "special" treats for kiddos can be as simple as goldfish crackers or mini-marshmallows. While I suggest avoiding things that will change the color of lips/mouths or could stain clothing, the goal is to have an on-going reward with things that are quickly consumed & easy to carry around. Most toddlers respond much more favorably to snacks they can see (and eat) as opposed to the big treat "at the end of the session"...in their mind, they have no idea when the session will end and an hour is a LONG time for most of them to wait.

tip 2: let them be little

Do not try to change who they are for the sake of a "good" family photo. Toddlers have endless personality and character, and letting those shine during sessions produces epic photographs. During my sessions I will often spend the first part getting to know your little one - if they are shy, I'll give them time and space. Contrary, if they are lit up and ready to go, I will let them lead our session. Letting them feel in control of the session works wonders for their spirit! We will do things like letting them choose between two spots for pictures, or even letting them help me to take a picture of their parents. We might let them do "special things" like standing on a bench instead of just sitting on it, or climbing rocks, or simply exploring. Letting them be little can lead to some incredible moments you'll be so thankful to have documented.

Tip 3: Let me do the worrying

One of the absolute BEST ways to keep your little one engaged and having fun starts with YOU being engaged and having fun. Don't worry about pointing at the camera so they look and smile, I promise your child knows I'm there. Don't worry about your kiddo acting silly or playing games, in fact, EMBRACE those moments. Capturing photos of parents enjoying their kids is my absolute favorite part of this business. I promise I have literally seen it all - if not from my clients kids, but from my own children. The fact is that kids are kids and they are only this age for such a short period of time. Embracing it and enjoying it will pay off ten fold when you view your final gallery.

tip 4: expect the unexpected

Does your toddler usually smile on command? Does your toddler usually shy away from the camera? Whatever you might be used to, you know by now that your little one is just waiting for the opportunity to surprise you by changing things up. The little ones who nap religiously twice a day will refuse naps on family photo days, and the ones who never take an afternoon nap will fall asleep on the drive to the session. It is all good! Sleepy kiddos are usually snuggly which makes for some amazingly sentimental images, while well rested little ones might become balls of energy which will produce playful and loving photos. Look back at tip 3 and let me do the worrying...it will all work out the way it was meant to work out!

Tip 5: be comfortable and be yourself

This is a bit of styling advice wrapped into a blog post about photographing toddlers, BUT, it's pretty important. Dress comfortably and in a way that works with having a toddler. You might have to run around, bend over, squat, sit on the grass, or carry your two year old (in your arms or on your back, ha!) and the last thing you want is to be too uncomfortable in your outfit. Avoid short dresses/skirts or plunging necklines and embrace long flowing dresses with more modest necklines. I don't go heavy on styling my sessions because I always strive to document your family as you are, but making sure that you can move comfortably in your outfit to allow for a playful session with your little one is important. The most important way to look good in your images is to feel good during the session.

In conclusion...

Allow yourself to have fun, allow your little one to be themselves, and don't sweat any of the small stuff (and trust me, it's almost all small stuff). Your toddler is perfect and is going to shine in the photos as long as we (the adults) stay out of their way! Below are a few images from sessions that followed the tips above, enjoy them and know that your little one has everything it takes to create amazing images you'll enjoy for a lifetime (even if you have to feed them KitKat bars or play a quick game of chase).

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