Love, Joleen: 6 Tips for Photographing Your Toddler

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

6 Tips for Photographing Your Toddler

* Please note that this is an adaption of a guest blog post I wrote in 2014.

Photographing your toddler can be is usually a pretty challenging task. Let's face it -- at this age, they're movers and shakers, and it's typically not very FUN sitting for your portrait being taken. As a photographer and mama to a 14 month old terror toddler 3 year old, myself, I have learned a lot of tricks along the way. I know, first hand, that it's easier to work with other people's children than your own in many ways. I will be honest and say that my feelings toward photographing my son, as a newly established runner were not the most pleasant for a while. It was really, rather frustrating for me. I had to take a step back, mentally, and think about what I was doing all of this for. As a professional photographer and blogger, I take photos of Benjamin constantly. Instead of being stressed about everything being "perfect" I've learned to [mostly] let it be. I never want my son or myself to look back on our experiences with this negatively. Since changing my attitude and approach, we have produced some of my most favorite photos of him to date! It is in this spirit that I've come up with 6 tips to share with you, for photographing your own toddler!

Tip #1 PROPS!
Even if you don't have a full-on set up, you can still incorporate props. You want to engage your toddler by having them HOLD something. This can even be part of their wardrobe, in the form of accessories like a hat, scarf, or sunglasses. Other ideas include signs, favorite toys or books, and various garland, depending on the theme or time of year. Don't worry if they're not holding it "right". For example, even though Miss Harper is covering portions of  "Love", we still know what it says!
Tip #2 Don't Fret!
During my photo sessions and shoots, you will never hear me say, "Say Cheese". I might say, "Show me your smile" at some point, if I'm unable to conjure one up naturally, but that's not very common. In most instances, I truly don't mind no smiling. In fact, my advice to you is simply, don't fret! Kids tend to offer up a plethora of expressions, from the most serious and thoughtful, to the hysterical. If your toddler won't even look at the camera, don't worry about that either! Photos of children engaging in their own little world, oftentimes make for the most interesting photos in a series. Try to think up a couple go-to "make you laugh" scenarios before attempting your "session". For my son, it means saying, "I'm going to tickle you!", in a sing song voice while moving toward him. Harper's mama knew the trick with her was to have her sing to us!

Tip #3 Engage! 
Another way to engage with your toddler and get cute, natural poses at the same time, would be to ask questions ("Where is your belly button?") or offer gentle and fun directions ("Blow Mommy  kisses!").

Tip #4 Incorporate Something "Special"!  
Most children adore balloons! Try to think of something new or special to introduce during your photo session. Want something special in your toddler's birthday photos? These balloons, the handmade tissue paper tassels, and felt hearts, though they did take quite a bit of time, cost me less than $15 total. Bam. Also, consider a "special" seat and say things like, "Can you be a big girl (or boy) and sit in this special seat?" And if that doesn't work and you're in a safe environment with another adult to help you, you might consider allowing something truly different on the special seat - standing! *gasp*

Tip #5 Bribes? I think YES!

This tip isn't for everyone, which is totally fine, but I am definitely not above bribery. I will even ask parent clients of toddlers/young children if "trading" in this way is okay and half the time they've already bribed their kid on the way over to our shoot location anyway. The trick for photographing my nephew is jellybeans. For some babes, Cheerios or gold fish work just fine. You can get organic suckers from Trader Joe's, like we do, for just such special occasions. Food, in general, can make a really cute prop, too! I've done a "hot chocolate picnic" themed session with sisters, that turned out super cute! I've also done hot chocolate and lemonade stand. In this photo shoot, we used gum balls as a prop for color, with no intentions at all for her to eat, (which she didn't, though she tried).. and how adorable is she with them?! Nom nom.

Tip #6 It's All in the Details!
This might actually be my favorite tips because this is what it's all about: the details. Photographing your toddler is about capturing that moment in time. You'll look back at your photos with wonder and nostalgia. Your children will adore pouring over the albums and scrapbooks you put together with photos and memories of them. They will thank you for capturing the most "mundane" of details. The pigtails. The chubby fingers. The pure joy. The tears. All of it is important. All of it is what makes up your toddler. Next time you have 5 minutes to chase around your toddler taking photos, try to zoom in and see what you get. I think you're going to like it!
Photography: Joleen Pete Photography
Model: Miss Harper, daughter of Jessica from Little Baby Garvin
Prop/Set Design + Styling: Joleen Pete Photography // Love, Joleen
Chalkboard: J&Paper // Little Baby Garvin
Wardrobe: Sophie & Lili for House of Mia XOXO print leggings, headband, and infinity scarf // Frosted Rose and Cherry Moccasins c/o Freshly Picked // Garvin & Co. for SaSeaDecor "Olive You" Raglan Baseball Tee
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