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.

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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.

Do you need some more help learning photography? Join ClickinMoms forums to get loads of tutorials everyday!

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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9 Photography Tips for Mom’s

9 Photography Tips for Mom’s

When I first started photography, I knew that one day I would want good images of my kids. I got into photography about two years before I had my son. Most mom’s start photography because they had a child and then decided to learn photography. Whatever the reason, photography is a great creative outlook for mom’s. It’s something that will help them have their own special time to be creative and learn new things. Be careful, though, it’s very addicting to continue learning photography!!

There is a lot of information out there to help improve your photography. One piece of advice is just take it one day at a time. Another thing to remember is to practice what you read. I could tell you a bunch of information and it mean absolutely nothing if you don’t practice what you read!

check out my 5 Tips to Getting Better Pictures of Your Infant post

9 Photography Tips for Moms

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

what gear should I use

Some mom’s buy a new camera at the birth of their first born child. Other mom’s just wing it with what they have. I will tell you what gear I use and what gear I recommend for beginner photographers/mom photographers. I don’t want you to spend a fortune getting new gear though. I am 100% for using whatever gear you have to the fullest.

When I was in high school, I bought myself a nice point and shoot camera – it was a fantastic purchase and I got a lot of good shots using that camera. I also realized that I really liked photography. So if you’re not sure about spending a ton of money on a camera you might not use, use any camera you have at your disposal! Or you could even borrow a camera from a friend or family member. Us mom’s gotta stick together. 😉

The gear that I use for photographing my toddler are as follows:

  • The Nikon D610 full frame camera – I really love this camera and it’s a great first full frame camera. I will eventually upgrade this, but for now this gets the job done for what I need in a camera.
  • Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens – this lens is amazing. I love how sharp it is and that I can get in nice and close but also backup to get the full scene. It’s a great lens to use for indoor photography – which is what most mom’s would be taking pictures of.

Now, if you are a beginner photographer and looking for a starting camera then I would recommend the following camera and lens:

  • The Nikon D5300 crop frame camera – I had the Nikon D5100 when I first started, and this is just a newer version of that same camera. You won’t break the bank by buying this. I recommend buying the body frame only. DO not get any kit lenses. Instead, save your money for the lens recommended below!
  • Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens – this lens is absolutely great for beginner photographers! It’s wide enough for indoor photography (it’s even wider on a full frame camera, but it does the job on a crop frame) and you are able to use it on a full frame when you eventually upgrade (which you will if you’re serious about photography).

The camera body and lens mentioned above are one of the cheaper cameras out there. So keep that in mind when starting your photography journey: photography is expensive!

If you don’t have the money for a camera quite yet, you can practice good photography skills on just your phone! You won’t be able to use manual exposure, but you will be in charge of light, composition, and the moment. Use whatever camera you have and by the time you buy your first DSLR, you’ll be ready for a full frame!

8 photography tips for mom’s

9 Photography Tips for Moms

1. learn manual mode

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend learning manual mode. I am writing a course about it, be sure to sign up for announcements and early bird pricing! You won’t want to miss the early bird pricing. 😉

Manual mode can seem intimidating if you learn by yourself, but it can dramatically improve your images over night. It takes a lot of work and practice, but once you get it, it will become second nature to you. If you have a camera that allows you to use manual mode, then learn it as soon as possible! I promise that your photography with change overnight. Mine did when I took a class!

If you haven’t already learned about manual mode, it’s essential! Especially when photographing in tricky light and photographing those fast toddlers! I have a new class –  LEARN MANUAL: how to take control of your camera (by clicking on this link and signing up, you’ll get updates on anything new to this course). It’s not complete yet, but by signing up for updates you’ll be the first to know when it is ready! Plus some early bird pricing (yes, please!).

9 Photography Tips for Moms

2. higher shutter speed

This will only benefit you if you know manual mode – keep your shutter speed way up! Kids are fast and you’re going to want to freeze their movements (there might be a few times when you’ll want to show motion – like maybe showing them speed by on a bike) so get those shutter speeds up! As a rule of thumb, I tend to use a starting point of 1/250 – but keep in mind that if you have a longer focal length (say 85mm) you will need a higher starting point. I start at 1/250 but I sometimes see movement, especially when photographing my son. I find that 1/400 is a good shutter speed as well. I start there but usually go up. I never go below 1/250 though!

By using a higher shutter speed, it helps to not only freeze their movements, but also get sharper images. So if you feel like you aren’t getting sharp images, one thing that might be the problem is your shutter speed. I would test out how low you could go before introducing camera shake. Start at 1/250 and take a picture. Zoom in and see if there is any noticeable shake. Then lower your shutter speed by a few clicks (adjust other settings to have proper exposure) and then take another picture. Zoom in and see if there is any noticeable shake. Once you figure out how low you can go, you can be sure to never go that low. You don’t want to have any camera shake in your images – they will not appear sharp and your images will seem amateur.


3. use natural light

This is probably my favorite tip out there – use natural light. What do I mean by natural light? I mean light produced by the sun. In other words – turn of ALL the lights. Artificial light is really hard to work with. It’s possible to make this type of like look good, bu your images will look so much better if you turn off the lights and use natural light.

Pro tip: Look for catchlights in the eyes. What do I mean by catchlights? Catchlights refer to the sparkle you sometimes see in someone’s eyes. Look at my son’s eyes in the image above – do you see the ‘light in his eyes’? Those are catchlights. Now that I’ve pointed them out, you’ll see them everywhere. You’re welcome.

If you want to learn more about catchlights, this is an excellent article.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

4. don’t over edit

Seriously. There is nothing worse than an over edited image. When I first started in photography, I totally over edited each image. I made my images blue. I went crazy on the eyes. I put too much contrast on my images, I just went crazy. Don’t do that. Don’t be like beginner me. Be better! A simple edit will go a long way. For me, when it comes to editing, a little can go a long way. I am often not a fan of images you can tell are extremely edited. I love the real life, honest edits.

If you’re interested to see how I edit, check out this post I wrote about how I edit my b&w images.

Simple is better – not always for everyone, but when you’re first starting out, yes. Simple is better. I do want to encourage finding your own editing style and experiment. Experiment until you find that style. But you don’t have to share your experiments with everyone. Keep them secret. 😉


5. don’t say ‘cheese’

Now that we have all the technical aspects out of the way – on to the fun parts!

I beg of you – don’t tell your child to say ‘cheese’. I have a few problems with this. Number one is if your kid is old enough to understand what this means, they are probably old enough to decide they don’t want to participate in photos. Instead of getting a good image of your child smiling, you get a disgusted look, or even them looking away from the camera.

Pro tip: Instead of telling your kids to say ‘cheese’, you could simply say ‘look’ to get some nice eye contact. If the child is young enough, you could also tell them to look for the rainbow in your lens.

If you’re looking for a laughing image or a smile at the camera image, you could say something silly like ‘poop’ or even make silly noises! The key to this is to make photography fun for your children.


6. capture your kids naturally

This goes with the previous tip. Capture your children doing what they naturally do. This is what you want to remember in your photos – what your kids naturally do! If you stumble upon your children playing nicely together, try to sneak in some shots without your kids noticing.

Pro tip: Give your kid a prompt and then photograph their natural reaction. It could be something simple like ‘dance’ or it could be something like ‘go swing on the swing’! It just depends on what ind of shot you want.

Toddlers are so easy because they don’t really care too much for the camera, so you can just photograph them running around being them. Older kids can decide they don’t want you to photograph them. Be respectful of their feelings. If they don’t want to be photographed, focus on something else until they are ok with it. Be sure to say thank you for any image they do let you take of them.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

7. have the camera handy

You never know when a magical moment is going to happen. I try to keep my camera in the center of my home. That way, it’s easy to get to. I also strive to take my camera everywhere. You never know when a special moment will unfurl and you want to be prepared to capture it!

Pro tip: I believe the best camera you have is the one you have with you – and sometimes it’s not a fancy DSLR camera. It’s your phone! Just remember to follow the same rules you’d follow with your DSLR.


8. clean the scene

One of the simplest ways to get better images of your children is to declutter the scene. Of course unless it adds to the story, then you might want to include the mess. But, simple images can add impact. Be aware of what is in your frame. Take a shot and look to see if it looks cluttered. If it does, quickly clean the scene.

Now I’m not saying you have to live in a spotless house 24/7. Nope! I know how busy mom’s are – I am one! I know you don’t always have time to clean my house, especially not for images! I’m just saying to be mindful of what’s in your frame and if it adds to your story or not. Simple scenes can add impact to your photography and make your images 10 times better.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

9. get in the frame

I love hopping in the frame with my son. I know I won’t regret it when he’s older. Mama’s, hope in that frame with your kids! You could capture you doing something together. Like cooking or reading books. Make it fun. And it doesn’t even matter if they are technically right or not – the most important thing is that you are getting in the frame with your littles.

If you need some help with taking self portraits, check out my self portraits post.

With these tips, you are all set to taking better images of your children. Remember to practice, practice, practice! Do you have any mom photography tips? Share below!

Also, if you have any questions at all about the information covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to ask!