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.

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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. 😉

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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.

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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.

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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!