Your baby is a full blown toddler. He’s on the move constantly, showing off so much personality, and becoming more and more independent. There is so much you love about this stage. The adorable way they say things, the way they test boundaries and see the world is inspiring for us adults. And yet, while you want to bottle up this stage, the thought of a photo session where your child has to sit still for a minute fills you with dread.
I want to reassure you that you can have beautiful lifestyle family photos even with a busy toddler. But the reason things will go well has little to do with how your toddler reacts and more to do with his parents. Here are my top tips for beautiful photos from your family photo session with a toddler.
Drop your expectations about your photo session.
Okay, stay with me here. I don’t mean, lose all expectations that the photos will turn out. Instead, forget the expectations of what you think your session will be like, what it will feel like. If you’re imagining a stuffy studio with weird props and everyone sitting still in awkward poses, you will be completely (maybe even pleasantly) surprised that a lifestyle family session is NOTHING like that.
I also want you to drop your expectations about how your child “should” act. I want him to act like a kid, have fun, show off his personality.
Embrace that your child is in charge.
Let’s have a heart to heart here. I’m not the type of parent that gives my children full control of anything. I am the parent and I’m a guide. But we aren’t talking about life lessons here, we are talking about family photos. I’m also not telling you to tell them that they are in charge (that would be crazy), but just mentally prepare to give them a bit extra grace when they don’t do what you want to do.
Let your child be busy. Don’t force it.
The more you try to push a child into “smiling at the camera” or sitting in a specific spot the more they will want to run the other way. Instead relax, let them explore. While you can suggest something when they try for something else, go with it. Again, see above and embrace that your child is in charge.
Just keep smiling while trusting in your photographer.
You chose your photographer for a reason. You loved their gallery of photos. I promise you, the children in those photos were not “perfectly” sitting still. Your photographer has seen it all (I know I have) and expects shoots with toddlers to be busy and full of personality.
The other point here is to keep smiling and loving your family. The last thing you want is for your child to be giving their best smiles and laughs while you’re scowling in the background. (Note these parents were rockstars. This guy wanted to explore and show me all over his property and they were amazing, trusted in me, loved on their son, and their gallery shows it!)
Join in on the fun.
Your child will love nothing more than if you’re tossing leaves, throwing rocks, dancing, running, spinning circles. When you’re silly, curious, fun right with them you will get a gallery full of authentic smiles from your entire family.
Have clean snacks on hand.
Fed kids are happy kids. And toddlers seem to be able to eat nonstop. So even if you just ate before your session, it doesn’t hurt to have snacks tucked away just in case.
Note I said “clean” snacks. This means that your child won’t get messy eating them.
Bonus tip: Fruit snacks are like gold. You want your child to sit still with you for a few minutes, hold some fruit snacks in your hand!
Dress them in something they can run, play, and get dirty in.
Of course you want everyone looking their best for photos. But stiff, itchy clothing means unhappy toddlers. Select things that are comfortable for him to move in, and be okay if they get a little dirty. When they run, they will tumble, or they will find rocks to throw and wipe their hands on their pants. It’s okay! Just don’t pick all white and they will be just fine!
Bonus tip: It is often a good idea to arrive a few minutes early and dress them once you arrive at your session location.
In the end, if you follow these tips you will have a gallery full of beautiful photos. They may not be ones where everyone is sitting “perfectly” posed, smiling straight at the camera (which if that’s what you’re looking for, you wouldn’t be following me anyways!), but they will be real, full of personality, full of your own family’s personality.
Ready to full on embrace the chaos and beauty of the toddler stage? Book your family photo session below!