Studio photography of a young girl by Anna Hindocha/Warm Glow Photo

How to keep a toddler happy and occupied during a portrait session

2nd December 2014 Child photography ,

Last weekend I had a portrait session with a two year old girl in my studio. I really love the excitement of photographing toddlers, but it can be challenging!

Sometimes taking photographs on location can be easier with a toddler as I am happy for them to lead me while I chase after them. A favorite park that a child feels comfortable in often works well for this (such as this photo session). However, the day of this session it was absolutely pouring down. I’m not afraid of a little rain and even think it can add to the atmosphere (as in this session), but this was definitely not a day to be photographing outside.

This session took place at a weekend so my son was home and was very happy to welcome this little girl and share his toys with her. When we made it up to the studio she had a bag of her favourite toys and some of my son’s, which had a novelty factor. I always advise parents to bring a bag of toys to help their little one feel at home and to keep their attention.

Parents often worry about their child’s behaviour during a session but, as a mother who photographs young children every week, nothing has ever concerned me. I have done a children’s fashion shoot with four under three year olds in my studio at once and no family shoot has yet topped that for enjoyable chaos! It is totally natural for children to want to explore their environment and in the studio children are often very interested in my equipment. I find it really helps to tell them what it is for and explain what I am doing with it, even if they are very young. They especially seem to like my “suns” (big lights). This equipment is a bit delicate and I am ready to step in and re-direct any child who is being too rough with it but I have never had to yet. Children also really like to see the photos on the back of the camera after I take them, this little girl wanted to look at every one.

Another reason I love photographing young children is that the parents are always up for getting involved and these parents were no exception. Dangling a child upside down, throwing them in the air and giving horsey rides makes the session much more familiar and fun for children.

So, in addition to a mix of familiar and novel toys, letting the child explore and getting the parents involved what is the key to having a successful portrait session with a toddler? Work quickly! They don’t have the longest attention span: get as many good photos as you can before they decide they’d rather be somewhere else. Once they decide the session is over, it’s over.


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