Throughout the years, I've worked in both photography studios and on-location, and I assure you there IS a way to get (almost) effortless photos of your toddler. It doesn't involve bribing, yelling, or giving up either. Developmentally, toddlers, or kids ages 1 to 3, love to explore their environment and play. They simply just don't understand us when we want them to stand still and smile at a stranger with really interesting looking cameras and lights all around them! They aren't being bad - they are just being themselves! As a mommy, you'll want to do everything you can before your session to make things go as smoothly as possible, meaning if your kid is sick, reschedule; if your kid is hungry, give them a snack; if your kid usually naps during your session, bump it back. The mom of the sweetie featured in this post had some extra time in the car to drive around while the baby napped, making for a VERY pleasant little girl in front of the camera! Here's two things that this mom totally "got", and that I want to tell every mom that feels stressed out, panicked, or defeated when their three-nager is due for a photoshoot:
Change Your Mindset
You have to know your kid, and what they usually behave like, BEFORE you set your photo expectations. If your little one loves to run around and explore and touch everything, chances are they will NOT sit/stand/pose for a photoshoot. If you absolutely have your heart set on a studio style session with a perfect little outfit, let me know your vision before the shoot. I like to plan props to bring along that they can play and interact with that will still fit your vision. For example, oversized shiny Christmas tree balls work wonders for kiddos in the studio at Christmas time!
Let Them Play
The most successful shoots, in my opinion, are the ones where the parents understand that kids just want to play and trust that I'm up for the task of outrunning them! A great family photographer will choose a location that's beautiful, safe, and interesting for the child. This way, he or she can explore the environment and I can stay a few steps ahead of them, documenting their child-like wonder and effortless cuteness! For this session, we literally took a family walk around the lake, and Eliana was happy to look up at the goofy lady making funny noises! This method doesn't mean that you never pose them, but posing is more of a "check out what over there" and guide them to stand at the place of your choosing - the rest is up to their curiosity and how much you can make them laugh! One of the most crucial things about photographic toddlers, though, is that you have to be fast. You camera has to be fast, your legs have to be fast, and the experience has to be fast. Toddlers get bored in literally 2 seconds, so shooting in a location where you can walk and constantly change your surroundings makes it (almost) effortless!