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Whether you’re a new mom or an experienced mom, you probably know what I mean when I say: photographing a toddler is hard.
Let’s get real for just a second, toddlers are constantly on the move! They never sit still! You can’t tell them to smile, either, they don’t understand it. #beentheredonethat
I’m hoping that I can give you some tips to practice with and get better at photographing your toddler. Some of these tips might come in handy for the older ones, but for the most part these tips are strictly for those of you with toddlers.
gear you’ll need
Technically speaking, you don’t need any special gear to take better pictures of your kids. Your trusty smart phone will do just fine. But if you’re curious about the type of gear I use to photograph my toddler, than I will fill you in!
My camera is the Nikon D610 – which is a full frame camera and I absolutely love it! My starting camera was the Nikon D5100 (linked is the Nikon D5300 which is really similar, just a newer version) and I would recommend that camera to anyone! I loved it so much. That is the perfect first camera.
My go to lens is the Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens. This lens is super sharp and one of my favorites because it allows you to get in close and get details shots, as well as getting environmental shots without being a thousand miles away. Since it’s so wide, my shots might make it look like I am far away from my son, but in reality, I am right next to him, making sure he is safe. I love this lens! I also love just how different each of my shots are when I use it. This lens is also great for indoor, documentary photography (which is great when photographing toddlers!). I really could use just this lens and be 100% ok with my photography.
I just recently got the Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens. This lens is great when you want a nice creamy background. I have yet to really give this lens a good review, but it’s growing on me! The downside to this lens and photographing children is that you have to be pretty far away from the child. When I use this lens, I always make sure I have a helper. One that can be fairly close to the child, but out of my frame, just in case. It’s very important to make sure the child is safe. Safety first, mamas!
And that’s pretty much it for my gear list. I like to keep it somewhat simple. Again, I could literally just use my Nikon D610 paired with the Sigma 24 all day everyday and be 100% ok with that. Find a lens that works for you and rock it! And also, smart phones work just as well. Iphones have great cameras! If I had an iphone I’m sure I’d be using it wayyyyy more. Just practice, practice, practice! That goes for any camera!
check out my Compositions to Consider When Photographing a Toddler post
photographing toddlers is easy peasy
Ok, kind of.
I feel like when you follow these tips, photographing toddlers is easy peasy. But, for me, it hasn’t always been easy!
I’m a mom to a one year old (as of this post date!) so photographing toddlers is fairly new to me. It took me a while to understand how to photograph a toddler. And I will be honest with you, it took a lot of patience and practice. And even now, I am no expert. But I now enjoy the images I get of my son.
The number one thing I can offer you is patience. You have to be patient with your child. Don’t get mad at them! Don’t get discouraged! They are, after all, only toddlers. 😉
By the way, I do send out monthly (and sometimes weekly) tips on taking better pictures of your kids. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so below!
my tips to photographing toddlers
1. plans change, you can’t expect to get that perfect shot
If you’re like me at all, you probably plan out your photos a little. You probably have some sort of ‘vision’ that you want to capture. When photographing toddlers, it’s ok to have a vision, but remember, anything can change.
You might have a vision of capturing a smiling toddler running towards you, when what you get is a cranky, crying mess who won’t move a muscle.
Or who just wants you to hold them.
Plans change. And that’s ok. The toddler is ‘in charge’ so to speak, when it comes to photography plans. Just remember to be patient!
2. make it fun
Toddlers love fun. It’s like it’s a part of them. And they’re so cute about it, too! So, remember to make taking pictures of them fun. Don’t always make them sit and be still to get a beautiful portrait of them. They love to move and run – so let them.
Pull out some bubbles and photograph the magic that happens (trust me, it’s magic). Let them run around the yard and run around with them. You’ll have fun, and they’ll have fun. Win-win in my book!
Also, making funny noises is probably my favorite trick for photographing toddlers. My son loves it when I make silly noises at him! He’ll make them right back and give me some really funny smiles!
Just for you I made an awesome cheat sheet for you to get NATURAL SMILES!
3. capture the everyday moments
Yes, getting pictures where your subject is looking at the camera is fun and important, but try to take a picture with some part of the environment in it. Take a picture of something your toddler does everyday.
Maybe nap time – try to take a picture of them sleeping! Do they always eat breakfast in their high chair? Photograph it (plus they are confined, high chairs are PERFECT for getting some of those portraits you really want…as are swings!). The everyday moments can really be quite beautiful, if you let them!
Capturing images with any older siblings is also a fun way to capture the everyday moments. I only have one child, but maybe in a few years I can come back and update this post to include a picture with siblings. 😉
4. look for light – but don’t let it hinder you
You should look for beautiful light in all of your images, but remember one thing: life doesn’t always happen in beautiful light. There have been countless times where my son has done something extremely funny and cute when it’s dark and there’s not good light. I take the picture anyways. Because down the road, the moment will mean more to me than the light.
That being said, you should look for the light whenever you can! Photography is all about the light. Remember that! When there’s good light, there’s usually a good photograph waiting to be made.
Try to persuade your child to play in the pretty light. And then wait for that special moment to happen.
5. have a helper
When you are photographing your toddler and you might need to be far away (for example, in the image above I was pretty far away because I had my Sigma 85 lens on) be sure you have a helper who will stay near the baby, just in case something were to go amiss.
In almost all of my outdoor images, I always have my trusty helper, my husband! He’s always there to keep my son in a safe place (my son loves to wander off).
Plus having a helper will help you not lose your cool when the little one doesn’t behave. Because they very rarely actually behave!!
6. put the camera down
Get your shots in, have your fun, then put the camera away and enjoy the fun with your family! Your toddler doesn’t always want to remember a camera in their face.
And your husband probably doesn’t want to be the only one providing entertainment to your toddler! So, remember to put that camera down and enjoy family time! You won’t regret it.
It will be worth it (just make sure you get the shots you want before you put the camera down!).
photographing toddlers 101
Would you be interested in a full on course of photographing toddlers/children? Let me know in the comments below! I am trying to think of some new class ideas. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by.
Alyssa (sometimes going by Aly) is a hobbyist photographer who loves to teach. Her love of photography started before she ever had any kids. Now a mom of two, she loves to photograph her kids, flowers, and landscape. She specializes in capturing her everyday life. She loves to teach fellow beginner photographers how to take control of their cameras and get the images they dream about getting.