Parents want to capture every moment of their little one’s lives, and these toddler photography tips can make the difference between a great shot and a missed opportunity. Kids change so fast from day to day, but you don’t have to lose that timeless photo with a little help learning your way around the camera.

Check your social media feeds, especially during the holidays. Nearly every other post proudly features children in Kodak moments. Anyone who has tried to capture one of these precious moments with a toddler knows the struggle to achieve a great picture. Whether you aspire to pursue photography as a career or simply want to document your own children’s lives with better shots, here are five simple, practical ways to improve your toddler photography results.

Get to Know Your Subject

One of the best toddler photography tips is to learn to anticipate your subject. Learn to predict the child’s behavior, and you will save yourself both time and energy. Half the battle of toddler photography is convincing the subject to behave and look a certain way. You need to convince them that it was their own idea. If you are taking pictures of your own little one, you have a head start on this one! Before taking pictures of a professional client or a friend’s child you don’t know well, take time to send the parent a short list of questions to help you get to know the child better prior to the photo shoot.

Ask about their favorite outfits, comfort items, games, toys, pets, and even friends. Find out what bothers them and plan to avoid it. You are more likely to win a genuine, long-lasting smile when you ask the toddler about something you already know captures their attention. The photo session is less likely to end in tantrums and tears when you know ahead of time what buttons to avoid pressing.

1. Ensure the Toddler Is Prepared for a Photo Shoot

As part of your research for the previous suggestion, take care that their nap and meal schedule remain unchanged for the photo shoot. Bend to the toddler’s will on this one. One of the first toddler photography tips is understanding that a well-fed, rested toddler who has not been confronted with the shock of a change in their routine is more likely to enjoy the photo shoot with you.

Have an equally cute backup outfit ready in case of an unexpected mess or protest. Have the child wear the chosen outfit prior to the shoot in a clean, safe setting so they are not finding their new outfit itches or pinches while you are trying to convince them to smile. Bring a raincoat or other accessory in anticipation of weather changes. Remember the comfort items and toys we mentioned above? Keep a couple of them on hand to help your little toddler photography subject feel at ease.

2. Pick the an Appropriate Place

As you acquaint yourself with your photography subject, form a list of potential locations that would put them at ease. If the 3-year-old you’re photographing is an animal lover, meet them at home with their pets or at a local farm. Take the child with boundless energy to an open field or park with plenty of safe space to roam. Daylight produces far better results than indoor shadows and harsh fluorescent light.

Make every effort to bring the children outside, even if it’s just on their porch. As long as they know you or their parent is close by, most toddler photography subjects prefer open air to confined spaces. You are better off planning around the weather and waiting until you can enjoy the outdoors than trying to convince a toddler to relax and smile for the camera inside. The second of these toddler photography tips is to take advantage of natural light whenever possible.

3. Keep them Contained

As conducive to beautiful lighting and pictures as the great outdoors can be, it does have one major risk: escape. Sure, action shots are special in their own way, but parents usually want to frame shots of their toddlers sitting still—probably to prove that quiet moments can occasionally happen. Be prepared with a child-sized chair, wagon, swing, or even the back of a pickup truck set with a blanket.

happy toddlers watching TV - toddler photography tips


Ask a parent or gentle older sibling to serve as your helper; have them dress in neutrals or to match the theme of the photo shoot and invite them to hold the toddler in their lap and encourage them to sit still. If necessary, ask your helper to corral a runaway toddler and redirect the little one toward you, giving you an opportunity for a natural action shot. Zoom in to capture the toddler’s eyes, face, and upper body without making the helper a focus of the shot. The shorter your session, the easier it will be to keep the child in place until all photos are taken.

4. Forget the Pose

The purpose of toddler photography is to preserve specific memories, not give a false illusion. Avoid forcing an unnatural posture on a child. For the first few minutes of your photo session, let the child do what they want—eat, talk, walk around, face away from you, make silly faces—and use those moments to steal a few shots of them as they really are. Play their favorite music and capture their original dance moves.

Have a helper blow bubbles and snap away as the child’s face lights up and they reach out to pop some. Get them talking about their favorite television show or game, and you’ll be surprised at the range of emotions they’ll show as they tell. A seated, clasped-hands pose is traditional, but a photograph of a 2-year-old chasing bubbles evokes a whole different set of emotions and memories. If you are struggling to succeed with still, seated poses and forced smiles, change gears and go with what comes naturally to your toddler photography subject. One of the vital toddler photography tips for a great shoot is to create a nurturing and relaxed atmosphere where the child can be themselves.

5. Capture Away

The beauty of toddler photography is capturing an everyday moment and turning it into a timeless treasure. Take the opportunity to get to know your own child or subject before you begin. Prepare the child and the place ahead of time so that everyone involved can enjoy the session—the little one being themselves and you practicing your toddler photography hobby. Keep the session short and let your subject be themselves. After all, you aren’t trying to direct an actor; you want to document a little one with plenty to offer on their own. Follow these toddler photography tips and capture away!

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