Photographing toddlers can be really hard!
So in this post, I'm giving you my tried and tested tips for photographing toddlers that will help you put them at ease, get great expressions, and hopefully nip any tantrums in the bud so that you can capture some great photos of your toddler!
I'm also going to give you some BONUS tips for camera settings for photographing your toddler, so be sure to watch right to the end of the video (and don’t forget grab your FREE aperture priority cheat sheet below the video - it’s 8 pages of pure gold!)
Click play to watch the video, but if you prefer to read, scroll on down for a transcript!
Grab your Aperture Priority Cheat Sheet!
This 8 Page Aperture Priority Cheatsheet will help you get your head around aperture and depth of field, and understand which Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings you should use! Print it out and keep it handy when shooting so you can confidently and quickly set your camera. Go here to grab it.
Tip #1: Make the session FUN!
So the first step that I have for you is to make any session regarding toddlers FUN.
Whether it's your own or you're shooting someone else's, really do try to make it as fun as possible by incorporating some activities that aren't really fun for a toddler.
So that could be things like, blowing bubbles, playing hide and seek, playing peekaboo, or it could be tickling them. It could have someone like their father or their mother holding them upside down, or it could be jumping on the bed. Anything that is fun and guaranteed put a smile on their face.
The more fun you can make the session, your more you are guaranteed to get great smiling, happy shots of your toddler.
Tip #2 - Set them up with an activity
So the second tip I have for you which is kinda linked to the first is to always make sure that you set up some form of an activity. Now, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate - it could just be setting up painting or baking, or playing in the sandbox, or playing with their cars. But if a toddler doesn't have anything to do with nothing to grab their interest, they are going to go and find something to do, and it may very well not be something that you want to photograph :-)
So if you're doing this indoors, just make sure that you set this up in a room that has lots of lovely natural light coming in and maybe clear up any clutter in that room.
Just do make sure to have your camera set up and ready to go, and all the activity set up and ready to go, so that when your toddler comes in, they can immediately start with the activity and you're ready to take their photograph. You don't want to have to fumble with your settings, as by that time they've got bored and moved onto something else. So get everything set up in that room that's got lots of natural light coming in, and have everything ready to go, and have your camera ready to go, THEN bring in the toddler and set them up with that activity. And that way you're free to start taking photos.!
Tip. #3 Bring in the Lovey
So one really guaranteed way to bring a smile to your toddler's face is to bring in their favorite comfort items. So that could be a comfort blanket, or it could be soft toy, or whatever they take to their bed at night - something that they really find comfort from and love to have around them.
So that way you'll not only capture a photo with a happy and contented smile on their face, but you also get a memory of a little part of their childhood.
Tip #4 - Enlist the help of an assistant!
Now this is probably one of the best tips I can give you for photographing a toddler, because, as I’m sure you know, simultaneously trying to entertain your toddler, make sure they don't run into the road and concentrate on your camera settings is extremely difficult!
So if you can have someone there to entertain the toddler or just to make sure that they're safe can be really helpful. So my husband will often stand behind me when I'm taking a photograph and played peekaboo from behind the camera (In fact, he has actually been known to stand there and hit himself on the head with a plastic bottle to get a laugh) or just be there to make sure that everyone's going to be safe whilst I focus on taking photos.
Now of course that could be your partner if you're photographing your own child, or if it's another family, you could enlist dad or mom's help so that you can concentrate on entertaining and taking photos and they can take care of the rest of it.
Tip #5 - Contain them if you can!
Another great tip for photographing toddlers is to contain them in some way. So for example, pop them into a swing, or a sandbox, or into one of those bumbo seats or in one of those trailers that you pull around - anything that can keep them contained for long enough to rattle off a few shot!
This just helps make your life that little bit easier cause you don't have to worry about them running off and running after them at the same time!
Tip #6 - Anticipate any movement
Rather than kind of blindly running after your toddler and letting them kind of call the shots, you can try to anticipate their movement as much as you can can. There are several ways to do this, but one thing I like to do is a traffic light game.
This is where you have them stand in a location and then you're going to tell them to run on Green. So you're going to go red, yellow, green - and then they're going to run. So you have the benefit of knowing when they're going to take off!
You can get some great shots as you're counting down from red to amber and then to green (that look of excitement as they play the game!)
Also, if you have them run to a designated spot - i.e they have to run from point A to point B - you can set yourself up there at point B and you know exactly where they're going to run to.
So the more you can anticipate the movement, the easier you are going to find it. Don't try and just blindly follow them around the garden: try and set up some kind of activity, like the traffic light game, where you can anticipate the movement.
Tip #7: Come down to their level.
Most of the time, be sure to come down to their level when you're taking your photograph.
Your toddlers is just a little slip of a thing, so you'll kind of miss all kinds of expressions if you're taking photos from your height down on them, plus you're going to dwarf them in every shot.
So get yourself down on to their level and you're gonna be able to capture much better expressions on the face. So for most of this time you're going to be crouching down, or even in some cases, you'll be lying on your tummy to get yourself onto the same level as them!
Now that doesn't mean to say that you ALWAYS need to shoot from the same eye level as them. Sometimes you can get some really interesting shots from shooting from above them and looking down on them. So it can be a really interesting perspective, plus it can help get catch lights in the eyes as they look up at you.
Tip #8: Capture the smaller details
So the next tip I have for you is to capture the details.
So if your child drops off to sleep on the couch or they're happily watching TV (or they're absorbed in that activity that you set up earlier on!) make sure you get in close and capture some of the details.
It could be their little hands as they're holding onto their toy. It could be their eyelashes. It could be their little feet. Anything that is that little details that you're really going to want to remember.
Tip #9: Keep the “session” short!
Don't expect a toddler's attention for any longer than 40 minutes, cause they're gonna want to go and do something else and they're going to be completely bored of this whole photography game within the hour.
If your session is with your own toddler, I would even actually say it's slightly less than that, maybe 20 to 30 minutes at a push.
But if you're prepared, you have an activity set up, you know what you're going to do, then it's perfectly doable to get some great shots within 30 minutes!
So that's the tips I have for you for photographing your toddler by also promised you some bonus tips on your camera settings, so let's dive into those right now!
Tip #10 - Shoot in aperture priority mode.
This mode is that kind of perfect balance between taking control of your settings - because you really don't want to be shooting on auto - and full manual mode, which can sometimes be tricky if you are running around after a toddler. So shooting in aperture priority mode can be the kind of perfect middle balance.
Tip #11 - Use a Faster Shutter Speed
Now one of the benefits of NOT using auto and using aperture priority mode is that you get to use a faster shutter speed. And a faster shutter speed is crucial when you're photographing toddlers because they tend to move around pretty quickly!
So they can move quite fast, even though they're quite small and even when they're sitting in one one place, their movements tend to be quite quick and they can move unexpectedly, so always make sure that you're using a fast shutter speed.
I would recommend at a minimum of around 1/250 as a minimum - I would go faster than that if you can!
Tip #12 - Use a Smaller Aperture
And my final tip is to use a smaller aperture than maybe you normally would.
Aperture controls depth of field, which is how much of your scene is in focus. and if you're using a really wide aperture, the depth the field can be extremely narrow.
When you're photographing a toddler who tends to move around a lot, then it can be more difficult to make sure that you get everything you want in focus, so for that reason, close up your aperture by using that larger f number, and that's going to help you get more in focus.
I do have something that's going to help you with your camera settings and that's my aperture priority cheat sheet. So if you're not entirely sure how to shoot an aperture priority mode, or you’re confused about which aperture or shutter speed to use, then be sure to download it! Click here to download it.
So now I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know which of these tips you're going to incorporate into your next toddler photography session. What activities are you going to do? What kind of fun things are you going to do? Are you going to have an assistant? Let me know!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for photographing toddlers and it's going to help you get amazing images of your toddler!