5 Tough Love Tips for Photographing Toddlers

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I’ve had quite a few toddler sessions recently and have discovered a few things: They actually love being sent to the corner. A girl really does need an extra set of hands and they just move faster with their feet on the ground!

1. Put them in the corner. I’ve found that a great corner (I love bricks) can be very useful when photographing little ones on the run. They really have nowhere to go! Of course, that won’t stop them from running right between your legs, but it always buys me enough time for a few great shots and when they run away, we just go back to the corner again!

2. Ground them. Getting their little feet off the ground will give you time to get the shot. And by time, I mean 20 seconds tops. And that’s a lot of time for a toddler to not be moving so get ready before you set up the shot. For this shot, we sat him on an old tire which got his feet off the ground and satisfied the grubby boy in him for a moment. He didn’t sit still on the chair, but boy that tire was fun!

3. Bring a chaperone. They’ll hate you for it when they’re teenagers, but a partner in crime is much appreciated during a toddler photo session. They get sick of the whole idea pretty fast, but if you’ve got on-hand entertainment via a super bubbly (and kid friendly) ‘baby wrangler’, then you’re in business.

4. Include their parents without ruining their street cred. I rarely photograph families. My sessions are entirely focused on the little person. Have you ever noticed in cartoons like Muppet Babies (from the 80s) the parents were present, but never shown above the knee? The premise was to stay down low in baby world. I love bringing this idea into my sessions with something as simple as a mother’s guiding hand like in the shot on the right –>

5. Shout at them. I love this spot on the farm where I shoot. The fence on the left, the trees on the right. Not much space to escape. So I have them run away but at the right time, I shout their name and wait for them to look back. Let them do what they want and when you feel the moment, shout their name. But don’t waste your shouts because if you just keep shouting, they’ll drown you out pretty fast. I find that I get one chance – two if I’m lucky – to get a true reflex-reaction out of shouting their name.

I love toddlers. They’re so honest. They don’t know how to fake it yet and I feel like when I get ‘the shot’, I’ve really earned it.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin' photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english".

  • Robert T.

    Great article. Thanks for the tips.

  • I already use all of them except the corner. What a great idea! I’m always excited to find a new tip to try out!

  • I had a toddler session yesterday. I photographed a one year old’s birthday party. It was so much fun. I agree, getting on their level is where it’s at. And, I would add don’t forget to zoom in on their hands and feet. Those chubby little fingers and toes are just wonderful!

    You can see a few of the photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=61433&id=134452903248585

    Vicki~

  • English Geek

    Wow, great ideas!

  • Good tips, I’ve used some of them with my own kids before, but haven’t every really done a serious shooting session with a toddler… it must be a real challenge.

  • I have taken photos of toddlers and they can be little devils! You certainly get your exercise. I do appreciate these suggestions and I will definitely use them. Thank you very much!

  • Ramon Paxus

    After you’ve exhausted shouting their name, you can get another one of two looks out of surprising sounds. Blow a loud raspberry, or snort like a pig when they’re not expecting it, and their curiosity will win out, rewarding you with a genuine surprised look.

  • These are some great hints and I adore all of them. One of the other tips I would add is to have some clothes for dress up. Most toddlers love dress up – and the more outfits you have the better.

  • Tunia

    Really nice photos and some good advice. I have a toddler at home and it is sooooooooo difficult to get a good schot of her![eimg url=’https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_bFx1nnH-DkA/TWwWni-qo7I/AAAAAAAAEvY/B_AHDDyseWA/s576/luty%202011%20338.jpg’ title=’luty%202011%20338.jpg’]

  • Hi

    Its always cute to take pictures of toddlers feet. Here are two of a different age – sort of like when one used to make handprints in fresh cement. Got low, get close!

    Human Element – shots: http://t.co/egEs70z

    Cheers, Erik

  • I photograph my nieces and nephews all the time, and one of my favorite techniques is to get down with them and encourage them to play with whatever it is they’re interested in, and then in a similar fashion to the shout technique, say their name. It adds a nice context – their favorite game or toy.

    I’m going to use some of the ones suggested here! Thanks!

  • This post came at just the right time for me. I’ve been trying to take photos of my granddaughter, with only limited success. Now I have some great techniques to try. Thank you.

  • very nice pics and very useful tips thank you.

  • Elizabeth,
    I can tell you love photographing children. It always amazes me up how the great child photographers are all about games. Just look at Julie Klaasmeyer – she’s got more tricks up her sleeve than a magician at a birthday party.

  • Stephanie

    Toddlers are my favorite for photograph also for many of the same reasons. They are so fun! I have a toddler at home and have gotten a lot of practice on my lil man and on my friends kiddos. I find I get a good work out when I photograph them and they are a lot of “work” or shall I say play but the pictures never disappoint.

  • Stephanie

    If anyone is interested here are a couple “treasures” of toddlers etc…
    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/55145397@N07/5530685112/’ title=’IMG_1026 – Version 2′ url=’http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5139/5530685112_42ae19e289.jpg’]

  • chandramohan

    Really great tips and some of these tip had been a great help during my toddler sessions, let me try the other once which I have not done. Thank-you

  • I love photographing toddlers: yes they are hard and difficult, but it’s a nice challenge. I agree, “They’re so honest. They don’t know how to fake it yet and I feel like when I get ‘the shot’, I’ve really earned it.”

    I love that they don’t care if I have a camera, they’re just going to do what they do best and those are the moments I love to capture. My toddler boy never poses for me, he turns his back to me when he sees me with a camera. But I’ve gotten wonderful shots of him ignoring me, and I love those the best.

  • I am so thrilled to learn some new tips…My little girl is 11 1/2 mths old…so, her 1st birthday is coming up…hopefully I can get some great shots of us just having fun!!

  • Steph, love your image – good lighting! Nice article – I liked the corner tip.

  • Annette Bryant

    I just declared to a friend that I didn’t like portrait photography…didn’t like taking pictures of people at all.
    Maybe I wasn’t taking pictures of the right people! I’m inspired by this post.

  • i really needed this tip! my sister 2 yr old seems impossable to shoot!! but these are great ideas that i have never thought of..

  • Really nice article, not only to understand easily but also to apply while shooting

  • very informative website indeed… im just starting out to learn photography….

  • Great tips! I’ve tried most of them but the corner one is a new one I’m anxious to try. I feel like even the fastest camera can’t keep up with a moving toddler….

  • Kayla Emerson

    Thaaaaank you so much for these great tips!! I have a 17mo old and omg he will not sit still for a single moment when I try to get pictures lol I can’t wait for spring so I can get him outside and use these strategies! The name shouting is one that I have down pat…..but the tip of getting their feet off the ground is really going to be helpful 🙂

  • Sarah

    Loved this article! I am a beginner photographer and my first subjects are my children and my nieces. This article will come in handy next week when I am photographing them for Mother’s Day portraits.

Some Older Comments

  • Sarah May 4, 2013 03:18 pm

    Loved this article! I am a beginner photographer and my first subjects are my children and my nieces. This article will come in handy next week when I am photographing them for Mother's Day portraits.

  • Kayla Emerson March 6, 2013 01:03 am

    Thaaaaank you so much for these great tips!! I have a 17mo old and omg he will not sit still for a single moment when I try to get pictures lol I can't wait for spring so I can get him outside and use these strategies! The name shouting is one that I have down pat.....but the tip of getting their feet off the ground is really going to be helpful :)

  • Lyla December 17, 2012 08:40 am

    Great tips! I've tried most of them but the corner one is a new one I'm anxious to try. I feel like even the fastest camera can't keep up with a moving toddler....

  • rich August 8, 2011 03:13 pm

    very informative website indeed... im just starting out to learn photography....

  • Really nice article, n also very not only to understand but also to apply while shooting, April 20, 2011 07:46 am

    Really nice article, not only to understand easily but also to apply while shooting

  • mandi March 22, 2011 02:12 pm

    i really needed this tip! my sister 2 yr old seems impossable to shoot!! but these are great ideas that i have never thought of..

  • Annette Bryant March 20, 2011 10:44 am

    I just declared to a friend that I didn't like portrait photography...didn't like taking pictures of people at all.
    Maybe I wasn't taking pictures of the right people! I'm inspired by this post.

  • Paul March 20, 2011 01:32 am

    Steph, love your image - good lighting! Nice article - I liked the corner tip.

  • Becky March 18, 2011 05:54 am

    I am so thrilled to learn some new tips...My little girl is 11 1/2 mths old...so, her 1st birthday is coming up...hopefully I can get some great shots of us just having fun!!

  • panfocusrio March 18, 2011 03:48 am

    I love photographing toddlers: yes they are hard and difficult, but it's a nice challenge. I agree, "They’re so honest. They don’t know how to fake it yet and I feel like when I get ‘the shot’, I’ve really earned it."

    I love that they don't care if I have a camera, they're just going to do what they do best and those are the moments I love to capture. My toddler boy never poses for me, he turns his back to me when he sees me with a camera. But I've gotten wonderful shots of him ignoring me, and I love those the best.

  • chandramohan March 17, 2011 05:28 am

    Really great tips and some of these tip had been a great help during my toddler sessions, let me try the other once which I have not done. Thank-you

  • Stephanie March 16, 2011 10:25 am

    If anyone is interested here are a couple "treasures" of toddlers etc...
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/55145397@N07/5530685112/' title='IMG_1026 - Version 2' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5139/5530685112_42ae19e289.jpg']

  • Stephanie March 16, 2011 10:24 am

    Toddlers are my favorite for photograph also for many of the same reasons. They are so fun! I have a toddler at home and have gotten a lot of practice on my lil man and on my friends kiddos. I find I get a good work out when I photograph them and they are a lot of "work" or shall I say play but the pictures never disappoint.

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer March 16, 2011 06:41 am

    Elizabeth,
    I can tell you love photographing children. It always amazes me up how the great child photographers are all about games. Just look at Julie Klaasmeyer - she's got more tricks up her sleeve than a magician at a birthday party.

  • amit jung kc March 14, 2011 06:55 pm

    very nice pics and very useful tips thank you.

  • Elizabeth Coughlan March 14, 2011 04:00 pm

    This post came at just the right time for me. I've been trying to take photos of my granddaughter, with only limited success. Now I have some great techniques to try. Thank you.

  • Stephanie March 14, 2011 12:19 pm

    I photograph my nieces and nephews all the time, and one of my favorite techniques is to get down with them and encourage them to play with whatever it is they're interested in, and then in a similar fashion to the shout technique, say their name. It adds a nice context - their favorite game or toy.

    I'm going to use some of the ones suggested here! Thanks!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 14, 2011 07:10 am

    Hi

    Its always cute to take pictures of toddlers feet. Here are two of a different age - sort of like when one used to make handprints in fresh cement. Got low, get close!

    Human Element - shots: http://t.co/egEs70z

    Cheers, Erik

  • Tunia March 14, 2011 06:17 am

    Really nice photos and some good advice. I have a toddler at home and it is sooooooooo difficult to get a good schot of her![eimg url='https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_bFx1nnH-DkA/TWwWni-qo7I/AAAAAAAAEvY/B_AHDDyseWA/s576/luty%202011%20338.jpg' title='luty%202011%20338.jpg']

  • Rose March 14, 2011 05:00 am

    These are some great hints and I adore all of them. One of the other tips I would add is to have some clothes for dress up. Most toddlers love dress up - and the more outfits you have the better.

  • Ramon Paxus March 14, 2011 03:56 am

    After you've exhausted shouting their name, you can get another one of two looks out of surprising sounds. Blow a loud raspberry, or snort like a pig when they're not expecting it, and their curiosity will win out, rewarding you with a genuine surprised look.

  • Bridget Casas March 14, 2011 03:29 am

    I have taken photos of toddlers and they can be little devils! You certainly get your exercise. I do appreciate these suggestions and I will definitely use them. Thank you very much!

  • Vicki M. March 14, 2011 02:41 am

    Good tips, I've used some of them with my own kids before, but haven't every really done a serious shooting session with a toddler... it must be a real challenge.

  • English Geek March 14, 2011 02:15 am

    Wow, great ideas!

  • Vicki Tate March 14, 2011 02:07 am

    I had a toddler session yesterday. I photographed a one year old's birthday party. It was so much fun. I agree, getting on their level is where it's at. And, I would add don't forget to zoom in on their hands and feet. Those chubby little fingers and toes are just wonderful!

    You can see a few of the photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=61433&id=134452903248585

    Vicki~

  • Melissa March 14, 2011 01:44 am

    I already use all of them except the corner. What a great idea! I'm always excited to find a new tip to try out!

  • Robert T. March 14, 2011 01:30 am

    Great article. Thanks for the tips.

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