Tips on Family Photos - The Way Of The Toddler
We LOVE toddlers. We love their spontaneity, their spunkiness and their curiosity. That said, once your child hits 18 months of age, they are a lot less likely to sit still for photos without some effort on the part of the parents and photographers. Our philosophy (and indeed, the philosophy of most photographers that we admire) is to minimize the amount of actual sitting in our sessions. We love candid-child-running-through-the-tunnel-screaming-“ECHO!” photos! We also work with children and have tools and tricks that have worked for us, time and time again, to get the shots that we want. However, we understand that parents want to feel armed with some tools and understanding as well. So, we’ve compiled a few tips on things that parents of toddlers can do to help make your session go smoothly.
1. PREPARATION is KEY! Talk about the session before hand. If you know your photographer’s name, talk to your toddler about meeting this “new friend” and what will happen. In our experience, some of the best prepared families have made a point to talk about Thomas and Meridith around the clock in the days before the session. Also, have a little photo session at home. Maybe have your child pretend to take photos of the family. Also, practicing their smile is always a fun game to play. Finally, if you have the time and ability, go visit the site of the session or arrive 10-15 minutes early, so that your toddler can get the lay of the land.
- GO WITH THE FLOW! From a developmental stand point, toddlerhood is all about finding independence. I know that most parents have already come to this realization. However, those same parents often mistakenly think they can pause this behavior or change it for their photo session. You can’t! However, like all the other super cute stages of development, you CAN embrace it and capture it! Honestly, this stage is one you don’t want to forget, so instead, allow us to try to capture it in photos. What does this mean for you? Let go a little bit! If your child is adamant that they want to stand instead of sit…let them stand. Try not to get into a power struggle with your little Ms./Mr. Independent, because (as you already know) it will not end well. Most of the time it just kills everyone’s spirit. This is also a great time to let your toddler make some decisions. After a shot or two, ask them what theythink you should do next. “Should we stick out our tongues, make a silly face? What do youthink we can do for our photos now?” If it is within reason… do it!
3. LET THE PHOTOGRAPHER DO YOUR DIRTY WORK. If the photographer or assistant are hands on, let them be hands on. Have you noticed that your child cooperates with strangers more often than they do with you? This is one time to use this to your advantage. Most toddlers will not get into a power struggle with the photographer…because they are not Mom and Dad. Allow the photographer to communicate with your child. There is a much greater chance that he/she will both listen and cooperate (at least a portion of the time) if the request comes from the photographer – particularly if you have already prepared them to interact with this person, as outlined in item #1..
4. DISTRACTIONARY ITEMS. If you bring a distraction (toy, food, phone, keys, etc.) There are rules to follow. First off, please do not dangle anything in front of them that you do not want in a photo. If you offer up your car keys to get cooperation, you should plan on having a million photos with your car keys in them. Secondly, please save the “big guns” for last. If you start out with the preferred loud squeak toy and your child loses interest in 15 minutes, then you have no “go to” item for the end of the session. We like to spend the beginning of a session letting the child get to know the photographer. Even children that are slow to warm up will do so eventually. Most of the time, once a connection is made with the photographer, the items are not needed. The child is too busy having fun with the new friend that they just made.
- TALK TO YOUR CHILD. The best distraction is conversation. “Let’s tell the photographer about our trip to Grandma’s House.” The photographer will probably try to engage them in conversation as well. Try to help that along with questions or things that you know your toddler likes to talk about. Favorite animal? Favorite food? If you get them talking, they will probably forget that they are supposed to be challenging you.
6. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. As a parent, the most important thing that you need to do in a photo shoot with your toddler is to remain relaxed and have fun. First of all, children absorb moods and emotions. So, even with your back turned away, your toddler will show others how YOU are feeling. Also, a toddler’s uncooperative nature probably won’t show in the photos, but adults can’t hide their stress. Even when a child is upset or “off” a good photographer can still capture a smile or cute face. After all, even crying and grumpy faces are cute on a 2 year old! Trust that your photographer will do a good job for you, regardless of your child’s behavior – and relax.
- Finally, remember that your photographer does this all of the time – and probably has a few tricks up his/her sleeve. Talk with them about how they interact with children and see if they can a) put you at ease that they’ve got it under control or b) give you some tips specific to their style of shooting.