How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

As I was researching topics to write about, I discovered that there really wasn’t an amazing tutorial out there on creating catchlights in your subjects eyes. I decided to put together this awesome guide on how to create those lights in the eyes!

I love catchlights. I use them a lot in my photography. Now, you might be asking…what is a catchlight?

A catchlight is defined as “a gleam of reflected light in the eye of a person in a photograph.” Basically, a catchlight is the light you see in someones eyes. It’s caused from reflected light entering the eye!



I love catchlights because it adds depth and dimension to your subject, it gives your subjects life. I’m kind of obsessed. Just look at all the photos on my blog, you’ll notice a good majority of them contain catch lights.

And now that I’ve mentioned these lights in the eyes, you won’t be able to stop seeing them in everyone’s eyes. Trust me, it happened to me!

Now that you know the what and the why to creating catchlights in the eyes, let’s learn the how. And, thankfully, it’s really easy! It takes a little bit of patience, practice, and eye training, but once you do that, you’ll never be able to stop seeing catchlights! Let’s get started.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

how to create catchlights in the eyes

I might be biased, but I really think this is the best catchlight tutorial out there. Like I said earlier, I was having a really hard time finding a good tutorial on catchlights. So I really hope this helps you and helps improve your photography overnight. Because, in my opinion, it will!

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

it’s all about the light

I want you to do a little experiment for me. What you’ll need:

  • a person that will sit still
  • a window
  • your camera

Pretty simple material list, if I do say so myself. Alright, next I need you to turn off all the lights in your house. Are you done with that? Next position your person who is so willing to sit still for you, right next to your window. You’ll want the window to be to the left or the right of them, have them face your camera and then have them turn their head slightly towards the window, while looking at the camera with their eyes. Snap a picture (with correct exposure, of course). What do you notice? How are the shadows on the face? How big are the catch lights? What is the catchlights shape?

Alright, next have them face away from the window tilting their head towards you and the window. Take note of the shadows and the catchlights this time. You should have two completely different looking portraits, in the same spot, with catch lights. Am I right?

Next, make them sit a little farther away from the window, but still have them facing the window and tilting their head toward your camera. Is the catchlight bigger or smaller than before? What do you notice about the light?

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

1. have them look towards the light source

My first official tip (the one above was just a fun exercise to observe the light) is to have your subject look towards the light, or in other words, facing the light.

If shooting indoors, have them facing a window or an open door. This would be having the window behind you (the photographer) and right in front of your subject.

When outdoors, find open shade that has trees in the background (behind your subject) and a big open field behind you (the photographer) to help create catchlights. If you are shooting on an overcast day, have your subject look up ever so slightly to create catch lights.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

2. move your subject around

The best thing about catch lights is you can see them before you ever press the shutter. Just look in your subject eyes. Do they have a light in them? Do you like the way they look? If not, change your perspective or move your subject. Slowly turn your subject until you have the catchlights you want.

Sometimes it’s as simple as turning them a few degrees to the right or left. Just the slightest movement can help create catchlights in the eyes.

How to Use Giant Softbox Photography | Aly Dawn Photography Self Portrait

3. the clock rule

Using a clock as your guide, you should always strive to have your catch lights at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. I don’t always follow this rule (because, it’s honestly sometimes difficult to get your catchlights exactly right) but instead, I try to do the following few things in each of my photographs:

  • have catch lights in my subject eyes
  • make sure the catchlights aren’t in the middle of the eye (don’t let them cover the pupil)
  • The higher the catch lights, the better (in my opinion) I definitely don’t like them to be at 6 o’clock. The lowest I’d let it go is probably 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock. But Ideally I like the catchlights higher.

Although this is a ‘rule’ it can definitely be broken depending on your preference. This is where practice and patience will come in play. Find out what type of catch lights you like.

4. study photos that have catchlights and those that don’t

One thing that really helped me in understanding catch lights and why it was important, was seeing examples side by side of what it looks like to have catchlights and what it looks like to not have them. I was always drawn to images with catchlights more than the others.

Here an example of that. The below images where taken seconds apart. It was an overcast day, the lighting wasn’t amazing by any means. I had my son look directly at my camera. Notice how there aren’t any catch lights in his eyes? The eyes are dark and unflattering. Then I had my son look up at me and my camera. This created some beautiful catchlights!

Which one do you prefer? I sure hope you say the one with catch lights in it! Because that’s the correct answer. 😉

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes
no catchlights
How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes
catchlights

I really feel like the catch lights add so much to a portrait. By creating catchlights in your images, it will just give it that nice little sparkle it needs to take it to the next level.

5. notice the difference in catchlights

Depending on your light source, your catchlights will have different shapes to them. For example, a window or a softbox will have more of a square shape, whereas an outdoor catchlight using the biggest light source there is (the sun and sky) will create beautiful even catchlights. If you use an on-camera or off-camera flash, it will create tiny catch lights. These are my least favorite type of catch lights and I try to avoid them.

If you use a ring light, you will create those neat circle catch lights you so often see in YouTube videos. I personally like the more natural looking catchlights, but this is a cool technique I’m interested in trying out.

Let’s dive into the different types of catchlights to really understand them.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

overcast skies

When photographing in overcast skies, your catchlights will be more spread out as opposed to concentrated to one area of the eye. This is possibly the most natural looking of all the catch lights. It is even across the eyes.

Remember that to achieve catchlights on overcast skies, you have to have your subject look up just a little bit, to help the eyes capture the light. If you have them looking straight at the camera, you won’t get much catchlights (as you can see in tip number 4).

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

sunny skies

For a few different reasons you’ll want to find open shade when photographing on a sunny day. The best time to photograph on a sunny day is an hour before sunset. When finding a location, I like to have treelines behind my subject, blocking the sun (the sun will be behind your subject) and an open field behind me (the photographer). By doing this you’ll allow the light behind you to bounce back on your subject and act as a kind of reflector.

Since there’s a lot of light bouncing around, you will get some beautiful catchlights!

How to use Catch Light Reflector

window light – overcast skies

Using window light on an overcast day is one of my favorite ways to get catchlights in my subjects. The light that comes in is softened because of the overcast sky, but then it’s even softer since it’s coming in through the window. It creates my favorite type of shadows and I love the look of my images when I shoot indoors on an overcast day.

The catchlights produced from overcast days indoors will be bigger and more concentrated depending on the size of your window.

when light isn’t ideal for catchlights

There are a lot of instances in capturing my daily life where the light just isn’t working out for capturing light in the eyes. When this happens, I focus on something else. I usually tend to photograph faceless images. Or I’ll take a picture of my son asleep. It’s ok to not always have catchlights, sometimes it adds to the mood.

The most important thing for you to do is to be intentional with when to not include catch lights. You want your viewer to understand why there isn’t a light in your subjects eye (for example, if they are crying and the mood of the overall image is a little darker).

Slow down, think about how to achieve catch lights, how to turn your subject, where to have them look. It’s not a race. (Well, sometimes it is with toddlers). Be intentional.

Did you start practicing using catch lights in your photography? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!



How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

I’m really excited to share with you how to take better pictures of your kids today. I find sometimes it’s easier to take pictures of other peoples kids and then we get to our kids and…we just aren’t getting what we want. OR you are a newer photographer and find taking pictures of your kids frustrating. Whatever your story is for being here…I feel you.

My son hates to get his picture taken sometimes.

He’ll even go so far to tell me ‘No camera, mom!’ and will push the camera away.

He’s two.

So I feel you. I understand. And I’m here to help!

Let’s get started!

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I’m creating a course called ‘How to Capture Your Everyday Life and Create Art’. If you’re interested in finding out more about this course and when it will air, please subscribe below! I promise to only send updates regarding Aly Dawn Photography courses.

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How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

how to improve your photography

Before we dive into how to take better photos of your kids, let’s review how to improve your photography in general, with any subject.

have good gear

I’m a firm believer that you can become a great photographer with whatever gear you have. However, I do recommend having at least a DSLR. Or any camera that allows you to use manual mode.

turn off flash and use manual mode

First things first, turn off your flash, always and forever. Don’t ever use it. If you are still using auto mode, I highly recommend you switching to manual mode.

Learning manual mode was a game changer for me and I got 10 times better photos after learning it! I didn’t get a new camera or lens, I just simply learned how to use my camera and how to get the settings I wanted. Manual mode took time to learn. After learning it, it took a few months of practice for it to finally click and make sense. Keep that in mind. It’s OK to go your pace and to learn it as quickly or slowly as you need, just as long as you learn it!

what to have them wear

So sometimes, I get it, you can’t always get your kids to wear what you want them to wear. But I would recommend simple, plain shirts. I also would stay away from white and black, although sometimes it just can’t be helped. My husband wears those colors all the time and I still love the images I get with him.

Avoid shirts with graphics on them. Again, sometimes it can’t be helped. In those situations I will normally turn an image black and white, avoid the shirt by focusing on their face, or simply embrace the childhood shirts.

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

type of light

The type of light you use in your photographs are really important. It depends on what type of mood you are going for in your images. But, from now on, I encourage you to use natural light. Using artificial light is very tricky when you are first starting out. So, turn off all lights in your house. Go outside. Avoid artificial lights while you are trying to improve your photography.

When you are first starting out, I would recommend photographing your children on overcast days. I personally love overcast days and find that I love the images I get when I photograph on those days.

If you want sunny images, I recommend photographing an hour before sunset for the best, warmest light. This is often called golden hour light and is the favorite type of light for most photographers. It can be a littler trickier to use than overcast light. I recommend blocking the light with trees or buildings. Let in a little bit of sun for just a little bit of haze. One last tip is to expose for your subject – it’s OK if some of your background is blown out.

how to take better pictures of your kids

Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s get started on how to take better pictures of your kids! I know that if you implement these tips into your photography, you will start to love the images you get.

Just remember, it takes practice and it takes patience!

1. get on their level

While I’m taking pictures of kids, whether my own or clients, you will often see me squat down to get on their level. This creates a connection with your viewer. They will feel like they are toddler height! It will also give you a different perspective than your own. The image above was achieved by crouching down. If I had been standing at my full height, I wouldn’t have gotten such a nice reflection and you would have mostly seen his head instead of his face.

2. engage with them

And I’m not just talking about saying ‘cheese’. Please don’t tell your children to say cheese! Instead, ask them if they like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Ask them to tell you about their favorite super hero or cartoon character. Ask them if they can see a bunny in your lens. Ask them what their favorite ice cream is. Ask them to play peak-a-boo with you.

I find this works for literally any age group. If you want genuine smiles, you can’t just ask them to smile for you. You will get fake, no emotion smiles. But if you engage with them and give them prompts, you will create connection and get those smiles and laughs you so dream of photographing. Doesn’t matter if they’re 2 or 103! This trick works for all ages.

3. ask them if it’s ok to photograph them

This works best for older children, but I’m starting to do this with my son. His answer is usually ‘no’. Ha! But if I ask him and he says no, I respect that. I won’t photograph him. I will instead give him attention and love. If they are older, definitely ask them from time to time if it’s OK to photograph them. Tell them why photography and pictures of them are important to you.

You want to create trust with your children when it comes to photography. You don’t want them to roll their eyes every time you pull out the camera. Respect their space if they tell you they don’t want their picture taken.

Another take on this is to show them the finished projects when they are done! If you take on a project where you turn your kid into a superhero (don’t ask me how to do that, that is some advanced Photoshop voodoo! Haha!) and show them the finished project. You might find your children asking (or begging!) you to do a photoshoot of them. Especially when they see how beautiful or handsome they look.

4. avoid clutter

Or, in other words, clean up your clutter before taking a picture. An image that is clean and free of clutter is usually prettier. There are some rare occasions where you might want to include the clutter as part of the story. But for the most part, I always try to tidy up a bit before taking an image. This helps me focus on just my son and makes the focus point him. I want to draw my viewers straight to my subject: my kid!

Start training your eye on what else is in the frame besides your kids.

5. capture the story

Sometimes there are tears involved. Capture it, embrace it. It’s part of childhood. I want to remember the good and the bad. And right now, my toddler has lots of breakdowns that we have to work through each day. But, that’s OK. He’s learning how to use his emotions. And I know I will want to remember these days in the future.

Aside from capturing all ranges of emotion, you can also focus on a photograph series. This is when you capture a whole scene that tells a story in multiple shots.

6. search for the light

Out of all the tips I’ve given so far, this one might be the most important. Search for the light and use it. I often find that I love to photograph indoors when it’s an overcast day. This brings in nice, soft light into my apartment and makes for some dramatic images that I love.

One exercise I highly recommend you doing is to observe the light in your home. Make a light journal. Put what kind of day it is outside (sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, rainy, etc) and watch the light throughout the day. Write down certain times and what the light looks like in your home. Use this to find the best light during the day for better images.

7. increase your shutter speed

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: shoot at a higher shutter speed for children. Of all ages, those young children and teenagers can move fast! I typically light to have my shutter speed at around 1/250. But honestly, that is sometimes too slow and will give my son blurry hands! When I’m capturing children, I tend to set my shutter speed around 1/400. This will ensure that the kids are sharp and in focus!

Out of all the settings on your camera, watching your shutter speed when photographing children is the most important. Set that first before you set any other setting.

If you have been having camera shake, you might be using a shutter speed that is even lower than 1/250. BUMP IT UP! Don’t be afraid of having a higher shutter speed. And it’s OK to have a high ISO (which could introduce more grain) as long as you expose properly in camera, you will reduce the amount of grain.

Summer Photo Checklist: A Free Download

Summer Photo Checklist: A Free Download

Whoo summer is FINALLY here! Anyone else super excited about it like I am? I may be pregnant, but I’m determined to still have fun this summer.

And I even got a maternity bathing suit that I love and am ready to rock the swim parties in!

I’m also really excited about summer because my son was born in summer and I can’t wait to celebrate his birthday!

Along with all the fun things summer has to offer, it also has some great photo ops! I’m here to provide you with a checklist of all the photos you need to take this summer while having all the fun you can!

I also made it into a cute little graphic you can print out or pin for safe keeping. 😉

  1. A trip to the pool (or lake!)
  2. Sprinkler
  3. Ice Cream!
  4. Park
  5. Jumping on the trampoline
  6. Building a sand castle
  7. A summer picnic
  8. Eating water melon
  9. Drawing with chalk
  10. Sparklers
  11. Hiking
  12. Bubbles
  13. Umbrella in the rain
  14. S’mores
  15. Macro shot of a flower (here are some tips to get started in macro photography)
  16. Fresh fruit
  17. Pop of color
  18. A trip to the zoo
  19. BBQ Skills
  20. Lemonade Stand
  21. Camping
  22. Riding a bike
  23. Fireworks
  24. Relaxing with a good book
  25. A day at an amusement park
  26. A day in the life
  27. Sunset
  28. On the swings
  29. Water splashing
  30. Photos with mom or dad
  31. Child holding a bug or frog
  32. Picking strawberries
  33. Summer light
  34. Summer beverage
  35. Wearing sunglasses
  36. Fresh fruit

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

So, I’m listening to my readers and realizing one very important thing: you all LOVE my toddler posts! And I don’t blame you, it’s the subject I’m probably most verse in since I have a little toddler of my own.

One thing I absolutely love about photographing toddlers is their curiosity to everything. They love to explore and they see the world in such a different way than we do.

So, slow down, observe your toddler, and let expectations go out the window, because the toddler is in charge.

You might also like my other toddler posts:

Along with my toddler posts, I am actually creating a course outlining how to capture your everyday life, which is perfect for toddlers (especially since I only have a toddler, I have a lot of examples with toddlers in it). If you’re interested in learning when this course will launch and just general updates about it and other courses, please subscribe below.

How to Capture Your Everyday Course

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10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

10 best tips to photographing toddlers

By following these 10 tips to photographing your toddlers, I believe you will start to see improvement in your pictures with your toddlers.

I also have high hopes that you won’t be frustrated, I know I was at first! My son literally NEVER sat still for pictures and I was pulling my hair out. It doesn’t have to be like that, if you change your expectations and rules for photographing your toddler.

Alright, are you ready to learn the BEST tips for photographing toddlers?? Let’s go!

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

1. keep it short

This is so important: keep the photo session short. Whether you are just simply taking pictures of your toddler or if you have a client shoot that involves a toddler, keep it short. You don’t make your toddler sit there for 3 hours to color, do you? Why would you make them sit, stand where they don’t want, do things they’re not used to, for a long time? Keep it short. I find that around 10 mins is a toddlers limit.

I find I get my best images when the toddler is first fascinated by my camera. The beginning of the shoot is the most important. It’s when they’ll be the most willing to sit still.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

2. make it fun

Do you like sitting there, being told what to do, having your mom or dad telling you to smile or laugh? I mean, I think I would have a stink face on if it were me, so why do you expect your toddler to do exactly that? Instead of expecting them to sit still….expect them to run! And let them! Run after them! Chase them! Run around a tree and play ‘peek-a-boo’ with them! If you make it fun, you’ll keep their attention better.

Some more ideas to make a photo session fun:

  • Play tag with them
  • Play peek-a-boo with them
  • Play red light green light (or go and stop)
  • Ask them to make animal noises
  • Ask them to look for a bunny (or their favorite animal)
  • Ask them where mommy or daddy is
  • Tell them to jump
  • Ask them to run around

And these games can work for your own kids or for client kids. For client kids, you want them to get comfortable with you and realize that you are all about having fun!

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

3. increase your shutter speed

Kids are fast, like, really fast. So of course when you are photographing kids, you’ll want to increase your shutter speed. A general rule I keep is to always keep my shutter speed around 1/250. This helps eliminate any chance of camera shake (which is a big no-no). However, when I’m photographing toddlers, I like to keep my shutter speed 1/400 or higher. In fact, I really love 1/1600. But sometimes that’s not always an option.

When I know I’m going to photograph my son, I set my shutter speed first. I think about what he’s doing in the moment, is he running around? Then my shutter speed can be a little slower (but never below 1/250). Is he running around? Then I need my shutter speed higher! Do I want to capture motion blur? Then I will of course have a slower shutter speed (maybe even slower than 1/250, but you have to stabilize your arm when you shoot lower than that).

By increasing your shutter speed, you’ll ensure that you get crisp images of your toddler. Every time.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

4. capture them naturally

I never tell my son to say ‘cheese’. Never. Somehow he’s picked this up (probably from other family members). Instead, I try to capture his natural joy. Or maybe his natural tears. I don’t ‘pose’ my son. And I definitely don’t make him sit still for long. If he’s already sitting somewhere, then I will quickly try to capture the shot. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

By waiting for them to do something naturally, your images will look more professional. You don’t want a force ‘cheese’ smile. And sometimes I get clients who tell their kids to say cheese. I let them say it, and then I usually give the family a prompt that gets them even better smiles (I really try to not make my clients feel like they did something wrong).

I might think of a shot that I’d like to take, set up the scene, and then let my toddler explore the scene. However, I never get the shot that I was thinking of when it comes to toddler shoots. Change your expectations. Don’t force your toddler to do something they won’t like, because that will result in them being fussy and upset and your images will be full of negative emotions (which is definitely sometimes what I’m going for – I love a good cry photo). But don’t expect your images of your toddler to be exactly what you envisioned.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

5. for eye contact: tell them to look for a _____ in your camera

That headline is too long, I just know it. When I’m wanting eye contact, I tell my toddlers to look for an animal, their favorite tv show, a dinosaur, whatever you know they love. Ask them if they can see something in your lens. They will give you some great eye contact then. Of course, I’m not always striving to get eye contact, but sometimes I do want to capture my sons beautiful blue eyes, and this is how I do it.

If that trick doesn’t work, then I usually resort to strange noises. And that usually gets me eye contact with a smile. Which is also great. It really just depends on what I’m going for!

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

6. close down your aperture

We talked about the importance of a fast shutter speed above, so let’s talk about your aperture this time. Having a wide open aperture (f/1.4 or f/1.8 depending on your lens) can lead to difficulty getting your subject in focus and in the focus plane. And toddlers move so much, that small sliver of focus doesn’t stay still for long. By closing down your aperture you eliminate the chance of them moving too much to get them in focus. You make it easier to get them in focus and in the focus plane. Leading you to crisp images of your toddler.

I usually like to keep my aperture at f/2.5 or higher. I like to still have bokeh and blurriness to my background, so I keep my aperture somewhat wider open. However, I believe there is a sweet spot for every lens. For my 85mm, I find that I get a lot more images in focus if my aperture is f/3 or higher. For my 24, I find I get a lot more images in focus if my aperture is f/2 or higher. You need to find that sweet spot. I very rarely shoot wide open (meaning as low of an aperture as your lens can go, for my two lenses mentioned above, that would be f/1.4) because I like to have a little bit more of my image in focus. When shooting a face up close, it’s important to close down a little bit more than you normally would because of how many planes a face has. If you don’t close down, the nose could be out of focus.

By getting crisp images of your toddler, you’re ahead of the game! That’s part of the challenge. So, fast shutter speed and closed down aperture, and you’ll be golden.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

7. capture the details

Sometimes my son really doesn’t want pictures taken, especially of his face. And he often looks away from the camera. When this happens, I can usually get some shots of the details. Try focusing on their feet (toddler feet and thighs are the best!). Get a shot without their face. Take a picture of what they’re playing with. Take a picture of their eyelashes. Capture the little details of their curly hair. Take a faceless image.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

8. give them a snack

Give your toddler a snack that isn’t messy (or maybe it is messy, I have this dream shot of an ice cream shot that I will one day be brave enough to capture!). Blueberries, cheerios, something that will look cute photographed but will also be yummy for them to chow down on. This could go hand in hand with getting a detail shot, too. It would be adorable to see their little hands reaching for a snack.

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

9. give them an activity to do

I love sticking my son in the high chair and giving him something to do. This helps him sit still and also provides something fun to photograph. Painting, drawing, eating, something that he enjoys will help him be happy. I also love to photograph my son playing with bubbles. He doesn’t care about the camera when there is bubbles. And I mean, what toddler doesn’t love bubbles!!

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

10. jump in the photo with them

So, I get it. Getting in the frame can be quite intimidating. But, I promise years down the road you won’t regret getting in the frame with your little ones. Hand the phone or camera to dad and jump in there with them. Don’t worry about it being perfect, the main goal is for you to be in the image with your toddler. Holding them, holding their hands while they walk, playing with them, dancing with them. Endless possibilities.

If you need some tips to get you started in self portraits, I have the blog post for you!

You won’t regret jumping in the photo with your toddlers, I promise!

As always, if you have any questions please leave them below. Tell me in the comments below which tip was your favorite! Thank you for reading my blog and I hope to see you around.

How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

Getting eye contact from a toddler can be extremely difficult. I want to say one thing first: getting eye contact from a toddler/baby is not my priority. But I do absolutely love eye contact. And they have such sweet expressions when they’re this age. As of the date of this post, my son is 21 months and has started to hate the camera. So much that he’ll purposefully not look at it. These tricks have helped me get some pictures with eye contact.

Are you new to my blog? Welcome! I talk a lot about photographing my toddler, self portraits, how to get better photographs of your kids, and also some blogging tips from a mom to moms. One of my favorite posts I’ve created is Photographing a Toddler 101, if you’re struggling with getting better pictures of your toddler, this is the post for you!

Let’s get started!

Aly Dawn Photography | How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

how to get eye contact from a toddler

When I’m photographing my toddler (or any toddler) I keep one very important thing in mind: the toddler is in charge. Haha! Isn’t this how it is in real life? That toddler has a mind of their own, and they will let you know their opinion. Which leads me to my first tip:

Aly Dawn Photography | How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

play with them first

If you are wanting to get eye contact from that toddler, you need to make sure that you don’t immediately start pointing a giant camera in their face. Of course that will make them feel uncomfortable and unsure. What I like to do is to play with them first. I won’t even get the camera out at first. (This is especially important if the child is not your own child). With my son, I will set him up in pretty light and start playing with him. Tickles work, peek-a-boo works, something that grabs their attention. Then I’ll pull out my camera. If they are still unsure about me, I will let them see the camera. I’ll take a picture at them and say, ‘Look! It’s you!’ when I show them the picture I just took.

Aly Dawn Photography | How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

play peek-a-boo with your camera

I have to say, as an adult I don’t really like a big black thing in my face. So can you really blame a cute little toddler not liking it as well? I like to play peek-a-boo with my camera, meaning I will get my settings all set up, focus my shot, and then pop out from behind the camera yelling peek-a-boo and capture their response. Unfortunately this doesn’t work anymore for my son (he’s learned all my tricks!) but I think you’d definitely be able to get one or two shots from this! You have to be quick and ready, though.

Peek-a-boo will also work with other things, too. I like to use a door sometimes to play peek-a-boo. It gets a good laugh out of the toddler. 🙂

Aly Dawn Photography | How to Get Eye Contact From a Toddler

ask them if they can see something in your camera

That was a long title haha. But ask the sweet toddler if they can see…a bunny, a frog, a rainbow, themselves, in your camera lens. This trick works better for older toddlers (my son doesn’t quite get it yet). But you should get some awesome eye contact (be sure to talk to the toddler a little bit before this and find out what their favorite animal). I did this with my cousin in the above image. I asked her if she could see a rainbow, and that was the image I got. This worked well for her age group (which is three). Younger toddlers might not do this and you’ll have to try something else.

use live view mode

I often switch my camera to the live view mode. This allows me to not need my face right up against the camera the whole time. And remember how having a big black thing in your face isn’t fun? This might help ease the toddler a bit.

Aly Dawn Photography | Cute Toddler in Woods

get someone to help you

It’s always a lot easier to get my son to look towards me (if not at the camera) when his daddy is right behind me talking to me! Like in the image above, my husband was behind me talking to him and got him to look his direction. If I have the camera in my hands, my son will not look at me. I sometimes settle for ‘looking near my camera’. Just as long as I can see those sweet blue eyes. So get some help! If you are a photographer taking pictures for clients, get the mom and dad to help. Or even an older sibling! They may even make the toddler laugh (which is WAY better than a fake smile!!). Having a helper always makes it easier.

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don’t say ‘cheese’

DO not under any circumstance, ask your child to say ‘cheese’. What this teaches your child is to fake smile at you. Which is not what you want. If you’re wanting smile images, think outside the box. Don’t say, ‘*Insert name* look at me! Say cheese! Smile!” instead, you could be a tickle monster and tickle them and then jump back and grab a shot. You could say I see a booger! Or did you just fart!? I mean, seriously. Just because you have a camera in your hand doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any fun! Make it fun and you are sure to get genuine smiles, and awesome eye contact. Have them run around and chase you and capture them running after you.

Aly Dawn Photography | How to get a toddler to look at the camera

use reverse psychology

Use reverse psychology to get the eye contact you want! Instead of saying, ‘look at me! Look at the camera!’ you could say, ‘don’t you dare look at me! Don’t look! Don’t look at the camera! Don’t do it!!’. It might only work once and then they might get smart…but one shot is ALL you need! This only works with my son every once in a while, but I think he’s still a little too young to understand. I think it would work great for kids around three years of age!

Photographing toddlers can be so much fun! Be sure to check out my other blog posts related to toddlers. I hope they help you in your quest to capture cute pictures of your kids and clients!

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