Now that you know how to photograph newborns and infants, let's move on to toddlers. Out of all the young children to photograph, toddlers are the most unpredictable. They can run, play and completely ignore you. Don't get me wrong-- when they are into the photos they can be super adorable, but it can be a challenge to keep them engaged. Toddlers haven't quite learned to sit still and smile at the camera, so you have to get a little creative when trying to get family portraits.
Here are a few things you can do to help make a shoot with a toddler run a little smoother.
1. Bring an assistant.
There are so many times I wish I had an extra "me" to stand next to me, jump up and down and keep the toddler's attention facing toward the camera. When scheduling a shoot, see if the family can bring an extra person the toddler is familiar with to get them smiling. If they can get grandma, a family member or even a friend to come it can make the experience a little more fun. Parents like to look at their child to see if they are doing what they are telling them to do, but when it comes to a family portrait they just need to look ahead and ignore what their little one is doing. Having someone they trust acting silly behind you it can lighten the mood and keep the parents less stressed.
2. Pick a fun location.
I love finishing all my toddler shoots at a playground. It's like a reward for being so good in the "sit still" photos. Some of my favorite photos of toddlers are on a playground. They can really let loose and be themselves, making for some fun candid, natural photos. You can also get some great natural interactions with the parents as well. There are a lot of fun locations to take photos but parks are the best since they are public places and there are no rules about shooting there. If you try to go to a private business you might run into problems, since most businesses want to protect their name and copyright. So try to avoid them or get clearance before you go.
3. Let them play.
Even if you can't go to a playground let the toddler play, especially if there are a lot of siblings or cousins. Once we get the posed family photos out of the way, I like to let the toddlers show me some of their favorite things like toys or even costumes. One little boy went upstairs and came back down in his Iron Man costume. I have even gotten some great photos of toddlers acting like their favorite super heroes. Most adults will just freeze if you ask them to make a funny face but toddlers eat it up. Toddlers are old enough to answer you when you ask them a question so have fun with it and try to get them to show you their personality.
Toddlers are unpredictable and usually hilarious. Getting on a toddler's good side in the beginning will really help the course of the shoot. If you can play on their personalities your photos will portray their growing personalities and make great memories for families. Maybe it's the photojournalist in me but I love to get the more natural and candid photos. They are usually the extra photos families didn't even expect to get but love since they capture their true essence. When photographing any young children it's better to be a "go with the flow" photographer instead of a very controlled static photographer.