Toddler wrangling for the perfect family portraits

As we all know the holidays are already looming around the corner. I already saw a Christmas aisle at Target! With the holidays comes the busiest season for family portraiture. Photography sessions with young children can be understandably difficult. There is a much higher chance of a successful session if you arm yourself with some tricks ahead of time!

My daughter is extremely shy around strangers. It takes her a good half hour to warm up in most situations. I always take this into consideration when working with new clients. I am a total stranger to their children and I have a very short amount of time to become their buddy. A new adult can be scary! But by befriending the kids and letting them know you are there for FUN can really help.

Most kids are VERY interested in my camera. Can’t really blame them: there are buttons EVERYWHERE! Parents are always quick to let their kids know not to touch my equipment, but sometimes that’s exactly what they need to do. Just recently, I let a beautiful 2 1/5-year-old “assist” me in snapping photos of her mommy, auntie, and grandma. After she took a few shots I let her know “OK, now it is my turn. Can you run to Mommy?” Worked like a charm!

There is not much a young child enjoys more than genuine silliness! You can’t really half-@$$ this part. Sure you might look ridiculous, but the reactions are priceless! Dancing, crazy noises, and wonky expressions are a good start. I always like to find out if they have any favorite songs that I might be able to belt out with them!

Often, the task of photographing a child can be like entering into a battle. Toddlers seem to enjoy a good argument. So occasionally, with the parent’s approval, I’ll attempt some “reverse psychology.” This tactic is used when there is a specific spot with great lighting that I want them to stand in. “I bet you can’t … jump like THIS … over here!” are the words that usually convince them.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I will stoop low for a good shot. Bribery is typically a last resort because it normally involves some sort of sweets!

There are some session basics to know. Most importantly, make sure their belly is full. Have some simple activities planned that your family can enjoy together to break the ice. This is a good way to catch your kids/family in some candids amongst the formal shots. Always bring extra clothes. You never know what can happen, even between the car ride and the shoot location.

Trying to get some real smiles and laughs out of children can be a difficult and stressful task, especially for the parent who planned every little detail. Hopefully some of these tips can help you truly enjoy your session.

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