How to help your toddler rock your family photoshoot

June 25, 2021

Stephanie Vaccaro

Stephanie Vaccaro Photography

Phoenixville, PA, USA

FB/IG:  @Stephanievaccarophotography

Preparing your family for a photoshoot can feel like a daunting task. You have to select the right photographer, pick a date, time, and location, coordinate all the outfits, and make sure everything goes right to avoid major meltdown mode from your toddler. What if he won't smile for the camera? What if he won't sit still?

I’ve photographed many children throughout my life as well as worked in childcare, even running my own daycare, so I’ve got a pretty good strategy on how to get stunning portraits of a toddler in any mood! Below I’ve put together a list of my top tips that you can do to help prepare your littlest ones for your family photoshoot (bonus tip, they don't have to sit still)!

First, Trust your photographer!

It’s important that you find a photographer that works well with young children. Not every photographer loves to work with kids, and that can really take a toll on the end result. Be sure to ask your photographer what their experience working with children is. Take a look through their portfolio too, specifically paying attention to photos of children. Do they look forced and stiff or do the kids look happy and playful? These are important things to consider if you have young children!

#2. Lower your expectations

Kids are very intuitive and can feel pressure and expectations. It’s important to remember that your kids don’t care that you want perfect family photos, they really just want to run around and have fun, and can you blame them? Toddlers are notorious for being completely unpredictable and can quickly switch modes from “all is wonderful in the world” to “OMG I don’t want to wear a red shirt - cue meltdown 2.0” (amiright?). We have to allow your children to express themselves and be who they are, and be happy with whatever it is that they show us. After all, kids aren’t perfect when it comes to listening and smiling on demand so it’s unrealistic to expect perfection from them, but they are perfect just as they are, so let them be just that. {insert my favorite quote here - "where there is perfection there is no story to tell."}

#3. Provide some space & relinquish control

As a Mom of two and a control freak by nature, as I type this, I’m trying to remember to practice what I preach. The best strategy for a happy toddler is to give them space and allow them to explore and play during the session. It’s easy to be up there you know what’s and constantly remind them to “smile” and “look at the camera” because after all that’s what we want, but it’s important to remember here that again, capturing their authentic personalities is the goal here. They can quickly become overwhelmed thus triggering tears. Your photographer likely has many tricks up their sleeves to get your children to look and smile naturally at the camera without them even knowing that they are doing it. So I say this with a ton of respect, but Momma, give some space and allow your photographer to work their magic.

#4. A fed toddler is a happy toddler

We all know that a hungry toddler is not a happy one. So I recommend giving your toddler a full meal and/or a nourishing snack before the session. Feel free to bring water and a clean, easy snack to the photoshoot just in case a snack break is needed! Pro tip - this one also works well for husbands!

#5. Rest = energy = fun photos

Just like you don’t want a hangry toddler running around, you also want to avoid an exhausted one! If your session takes place in the morning, try putting your toddler to bed a littler earlier the night before. Likewise, if your session takes place in the evening a good nap before your session usually does the trick. Typically your session wont take place mid-day due to lighting, but if for some reason it does, avoid nap time like the plague.

#6. Honor your toddlers style preferences

While you don’t want to allow your kiddo to choose what he or she wears to the photoshoot (purple mini mouse shirt paired with green unicorn pants anyone?), it’s important to remember what likes and dislikes they have when it comes to clothing. A comfortable toddler is typically a happy one. When my daughter was 3 she HATED denim pants, literally refused to wear them or a rage monster presented herself. It had to be either a dress or soft leggings or tights. If your child has preferences, keep that In mind when selecting their outfit. No need to force them to wear a dress or bow tie if it’ll make them uncomfortable. I also recommend trying on the full outfit before the day of your session just to double check their comfort and fit.

Lastly, relaaaxx.

I say this again because it really is so important. The most important part of family photos is to be able to capture the genuine connection within your family unit. We’re not going to be able to achieve that if you're stressed out and overwhelmed. Come to your session with a deep breath and willingness to love on your babies. I love encouraging kisses, hugs, snuggles, tickles, running, dancing, and lots of love during sessions with me, and what child isn’t happy in their stress free parents arms.

I hope this has helped you to have a successful stress free photoshoot with your toddler(s) thus providing you with precious photos to crush on over the years as your babies grow.