This year marked three years of annual family photos and the first year with two kids in the picture for our family. Each year of photos was significantly different from the last simply because our son changed so much between years. Now that our youngest son is in the picture, I have some grasp on what to expect next year thanks to big brother.
Family photos with toddlers and young kids can be a challenge. There's no question about it - strong willed little humans who aren't too sure about this stranger with a big camera will usually do what they please.
I want to share my experience both as a mom and as a family photographer by offering these three tips for better family photos with toddlers and young kids.
Share Your Toddler's Interests with Your Photographer
Tired of hearing 'Wheels on the Bus' over and over? Your toddler sure isn't! Let's sing together during your photos!
Share their favorite songs and characters with your photographer before your session.
Imagine your little one completely unsure of this stranger taking pictures only to find out that they know ALL the words to Baby Shark. Their mind will be blown! All of the sudden this stranger has some street cred in their mind and maybe, just maybe, they'll look at the camera.
When I know what your little ones like, I can pepper in these references throughout your session. I'll happily start singing If You're Happy and You Know It to get their attention - maybe even get them clapping along, which is pretty cute in photos!
Set the Example for Your Toddler
As a mom, I went into my family photo session with one goal in mind - one nice picture where we're all looking at the camera. Simple enough but what happened? Well, I instinctually checked on my boys to see if they were looking at the camera. Result? A lot of photos of me looking at them - whoops! We did get several great photos including a classic portrait where we're all looking.
I see it happen all too often during my photo sessions. Parents are doing anything they can to get their kids to look forward and smile. What usually ends up happening is a sequence of photos that illustrate one parent ensuring the child is looking while the other parent smiles and then vice versa. It's life! But if you can remember to be the example and talk through what you're modeling, then more often than not your little ones will start to follow suit.
Allow Your Toddler to Explore Their Surroundings
As long as it's safe - let's explore during your session! Your little one is curious about their surroundings so giving them some freedom to roam around, touch, and pick up what they can get their hands on.
The key to this one, however, is to get on their level. Crouch down (or pick them up to a higher spot) and explore with them, smiling while doing it. Your toddler would love to show you what interests them and that will help put a genuine smile on their face.
Then when it comes time for a posed photo, they'll likely feel more relaxed and comfortable knowing they have some control over the session and more fun is ahead.
On a personal note, my oldest son LOVES a new playground. So when there was a playground he hadn't explored where we took our photos, naturally we had to stop and explore for a few minutes. Our photographer snapped a few shots while he was playing and they're some of my favorite because he's so happy and in his element!
Bonus Tip: Sit Back and Enjoy This Season of Life
Prepping for family photos can be a hectic experience figuring out how to coordinate outfits, getting everyone ready, arriving on time, etc. Odds are you're reading this post in preparation for your upcoming family photos with young children. Allow this bonus tip to serve as a gentle reminder to be in the moment during your photos.
Something or someone will inevitably go awry during your photo session but that's the beauty of this season of life. I have a hard time following my own advice and definitely was worried that my hair was a total mess or that my oldest son wouldn't come close to my youngest son for one single picture. Fortunately I had an extraordinary photographer who found creative ways to navigate around that last concern - like mom and dad lay on their backs and hold the boys up side-by-side.
Those moments where everything seems to be going off-script may actually be the improv you need to remember these fleeting moments!
Ready to capture your family in this season of life? Let's explore, sing, and have some fun together! Send me a note and we'll find a great spot in Northern Virginia for family photos.