Your little ones are growing up so fast! They will always be your precious darlings, but they’re probably at their most photogenic between the ages of one and three. If you’ve got a wee one and are looking to schedule a photo session, then I have some toddler portrait tips for you.
Let me introduce you to Melissa, Brian, and their two-year-old daughter, Segovia. We spent an hour in Forest Park a few months ago for a fantastic family portrait session. Segovia was a little shy at first, but she soon warmed up and was running all over the place by the end of the hour. Her parents had helpfully brought along her favorite stuffed animal, Pops. It was a great session from start to finish, and here are ten tips to take away for your own family portrait. (And in case you have a little one not quite a toddler yet, check out my article on baby portrait tips.)
- Select the child’s outfit based on comfort. Your child may be a happy kid when he’s running around in his play clothes, but once you put him in a scratchy suit, he will turn into a mini demon determined to be free of his costume. I don’t take stiff photos. I want my clients of all ages to be able to run, skip, and play. If your child can’t do that in his outfit, then he’s not going to enjoy his time in front of the camera. You want your child to be dressed in an outfit that permits as much natural movement as possible.
- Test the outfit at home before the shoot. By all means go for the cute little bow tie, but do your child — and your photographer — a favor by road testing the outfit at home a week before the photo shoot. Let the kid run around the living room and take a few tumbles. If there are no tears, then it’s a winner for the camera. But if the outfit doesn’t make the grade, then you have time to go to the store and bring home another option.
- Look for trip hazards in your outfit. In my photo shoots, I often ask my little clients to run as fast as they can here, there, and everywhere. I don’t want any skinned knees during the shoot, so make sure that the shoes you have selected for your toddler are comfortable and don’t have laces or straps that will potentially cause your child to trip. Make sure that hair is tucked back with barrettes, and then let them run free!
- Bring the child’s favorite toys. I always bring along bubbles and everyone’s favorite squishy frog, but if your child has a favorite toy, then bring it to the photo session. And if you are worried about the sad state of your child’s favorite blankie or woobie, just give it a wash so it looks its best before the photo shoot. You would be amazed what the washing machine can do.
- Have a few ‘moves’ in mind. Playtime is great for kids of all ages. I want you and your child to do more than simply smile for the camera. If your child has any special moves or likes to do any activities such as skipping or gymnastics, let me know so I can capture that with my lens. Some of my favorite moves for photos are as follows:
- Have dad lift up the little one for an airplane overhead shot
- Mom or dad do an overhead yoga lift from the ground
- Have each parent hold the child by an arm and swing the child between them
- Play merry-go-round
- If we’re going to dance, then we’ll need music. As parents you are asked to do many things, one of which is to play DJ for your children. Have a few of your child’s favorite songs ready to go on your phone so that we can play them during the photo session.
- Reading is an activity too! I was definitely more of a reader than a runner growing up. If your kid is more into reading, then bring a favorite book. Reading to your child always looks good on camera, and its even better if your big girl wants to read the book all by herself.
- Practice and prepare. Some kids can be more frightened of meeting strangers than others. Prepare your child for the photo shoot ahead of time by explaining that we’re going to go play as a family in front of the camera. If you’ve got a camera at home, then take it out and let the little one point and shoot. You might try a few airplane moves in the living room, or even make some silly faces in the mirror. You don’t want the child to be over-practiced or have a fake smile, but on the other hand you also want the child to know what’s going on.
- Bring snacks, drinks, and Band-Aids. As is the case with any outing with a child under the age of 18, always bring snacks, drinks, and yes, Band-Aids. I’ve seen Frozen Elsa Band-Aids do wonders for all types of boo-boos. In short, bring anything you need that might prevent a meltdown.
- End the shoot with a celebration. If this were an engagement session, I would have the couple take their final photos in a favorite bar or restaurant where they could celebrate with a glass of wine. That’s probably a little too much for a two-year-old, but a trip to the playground is just as good. Plan to end the session somewhere fun, and you can always use this as a bribe. Yes, a bribe. If your child doesn’t want to go to the playground, then maybe an ice cream or some place else fun. It’s tough work being a model!
If you are thinking about setting up a family portrait session, then give me a call!
Coming up in the next blog: solutions for a rainy wedding day
If you would like to see more images from my family photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com