Making the Toddler Happy

Any other photographer who does children’s portraits knows that from about 18 months to age 3 they are not going to always be cooperative. Over the many years I have learned tricks to turn a toddler’s behavior from mad to happy (in most cases!). This is to help new photographers or parents who have scheduled a photo session for their toddler(s). This applies mostly to outdoor sessions (I recommend outdoor because there is a lot to see and they are not confined to sitting in one area), but indoor as well. Here are some tricks to avoid images looking like this…

The parent clinger: Unless the parent wants to be in every picture, we need to get the child to let go and happily look into the camera. Things that have worked for me are: 1) Parent that toddler wants to cling to next to child, but out of camera frame, and another parent (or friend, or another family member) totally making a crazy scene next to or behind photographer… singing, dancing, jumping, making hideous faces, etc. 2) Loud music from phone or cell phone videos (from parent or I have even held a cell phone while shooting). 3) Bribing. “If you look into the camera and smile I will give you these fruit snacks, gummy bears, or race car.” (don’t forget to bring bribes). 3) Bubbles. I usually bring these on my shoots. Children are mesmerized by them for the most part. 4) Chairs. Kids love little kid chairs, especially rocking chairs. Always bring one!

The screaming “I want my race car or blanket, or stuffed Olaf” child: Pretty much the same that applies to the clinger. Also if the parent has the item that the toddler wants so badly give it to the photographer and say “I will let you have this once you smile for the camera.” Make sure to have tissues or baby wipes for the crier, so they can have a clean face after crying. Also to wipe the boogies.

The one who hasn’t napped in hours: I do not recommend a child who has missed a nap. I try to schedule these sessions right after their nap time so they are happiest.

The child that wants nothing to do with their sibling(s): They need distractions, also bribes. If this isn’t working, try candids. Once they are close together, say “if you give your sister a hug and kiss I will get you a giant ice cream cone.” Also I have noticed showing videos that you have taken of themselves are a great distraction, especially funny ones. If you don’t have videos of the toddlers on your phone, take some before!

The one who has a cold: Don’t do it. Reschedule.

Usually I do these sessions in about 30-45 minutes, because the child can fade fast. Don’t spend too much time in one area/outfit when you know you have a few more. Once you get enough of the shots you wanted, switch to next! Always expect the toddler is not going to behave, then when they do it’s a breeze!

Hope this helps!

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