Toddler Photography: Tips for the Struggle

For me, photography is all about FUN. I can sit, wait out the right moment, find something pleasant to the eye, and snap, capture it.  Being a mom, inevitible I have gone all camera happy on my son, William. I miss when he was an infant. Mobility has made photography him slightly more difficult. Good thing I am up for the challenge!


William right before becoming a mobile human. It was so easy getting great shots of him when he was happy hanging out in the swing. My, how quickly things change.


Life flipped a 180 when William made his first strides into the toddler era. The way I photographed him had to change as well. In a matter of a week, we went from easy, breezy fun shoots in swings and on the grass, to chasing around, never sitting still, feeling lucky if I catch his hand in the frame type of photo sessions. I was flustered, and honestly wondering if my skills in photographing kids plateaued at toddlerhood.


Thankfully, I was wrong. Taking photos of toddlers is not nearly as easy as babies, but it is possible. Here is how I became confident in photographing my toddler.


Tip 1: Be Patient


The practice of patience comes up quite frequently in photography, but it is an essential ingredient to getting the best shot. If you just aim and shoot, chances are the picture will be okay at best, especially with toddlers. It’s very easy to get frustrated with little unpredictable humans, but if you can wait it out until they find something that interests them for longer than two seconds, you will have a chance at some of the most adorable pictures.


Take my son as an example. He is constantly on the move. The only time he really stops moving is when he goes to sleep. Taking pictures of things constantly in motion is a challenge in itself. So, by remaining patient and observant, a photographer can wait for that perfect moment to snap a shot.


A rare moment of stillness from William. About 30 seconds prior to this shot, he was chasing the dog, Maxie, in circles around the Backyark. When he caught sight of the neighbor’s dog in their backyard, he stopped and stared. Click, I got my shot.


Tip 2: Use a Comfortable Environment


Toddlers can be weird. Add a strange place and a strange person who they are unfamiliar with, and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster shoot. Being still closer to a baby in age than not, toddlers tend to cling to their caregivers. For my son, he is most comfortable around his immediate family. If a stranger comes up to talk to him at the grocery, he will tuck his head in my arm being bashful. These aren’t the kinds of pictures we want of toddlers.


Pictures we want to see of toddlers are the kinds taken in their element doing  what makes them happy. The best way to do this is to either photograph the toddler at home, in their backyard, or at a park that they are comfortable at. Other places could work too as long as the toddler has a sense of confidence in that environment.


The best pictures I capture of my son are either in our backyard, or at the park. These places are also outside giving the best lighting options. The less wires and equipment around toddlers, the better. Curiosity is their specialty and the mores wires and stuff, the more trouble, guaranteed.


William frequently romps around on our dingy boat on the back porch. It was natural for him to be playing here creating a very natural setting for a photograph. If the toddler is happy, everyone is happy.


Tip 3: Have Fun


Toddlers have a keen sense of mood. The second someone in my household gets grumpy or starts acting ornery, my son acts the same. If you aren’t having fun, the toddler won’t wither. If you are stressin’, so will the toddler. My little man loves to have fun, play, run around, be crazy, laugh, and so on. So, go ahead, play peek-a-boo, spin in circles until you fall over, and get in a giggle fit with your mini-subject. The fun you have with the toddler will reflect upon your shots giving them a special element that isn’t easily captured through a lens.


Laundry basket sleigh rides, through the kitchen with Maxie, the dog, are the bomb. It’s moments like these that are my favorite to capture.

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