One minute, children are calm, sleeping creatures that stay in one place. Then, in the blink of an eye, they become pint-sized bundles of energy that never stop moving. That constant energy can make toddler photography feel impossible.
When it comes to child photography, you have to use the term ‘poses’ loosely. Adults are easy to direct. You tell them the pose you want, and they’ll do it. Toddlers, on the other hand, don’t even want to sit still.
When shooting toddler photography, it’s more about creating a scenario. You need a relaxed atmosphere where the youngster will smile naturally and stay in a position that’s a bit more photo-friendly.
Say goodbye to those blurred child photos. My tips for children’s poses will help you capture their natural smiles and create intimate photos you can treasure.
1. Be Flexible With Your Plan and Follow Their Lead
When shooting with toddlers, look to capture genuine shots. The best photos often stem from simply following what the toddler wants to do. You can prepare activities and plan poses, but you will have to make a change if the toddler isn’t enjoying it.
For example, I recently captured a creative beach shot of a happy 3 year old little girl playing and running on the beach. Catching moments like this will give you unique and joyful images.
If she wants to pick flowers, photograph her picking flowers. If he wants to spin in circles, let him spin in a circle and snap his laugh when he falls!
With more energetic children, you may want to start the photography session at their pace. Then, once they have let out some excitement and feel comfortable around you, they might be more willing to slow down and pose for the camera.
Shy children, on the other hand, may not want to participate at all. In these situations, you need to make the child feel at ease by taking things a bit slower. Once they’re relaxed, you’ll be able to capture those genuine smiles.
2. Approach the Shoot Like Sports Photography
If they want to run, let them run. If you’re in a picturesque setting, running shots can be a great way to photograph children. So turn on continuous autofocus, crank up the shutter speed, let them loose, and start shooting!
Is it easier to take portraits of someone sitting still? Of course, it is. But if they’re not happy sitting still, you won’t get the best photos. You will need to adapt.
Treat an active toddler portrait session like taking sports photos. Use a fast shutter speed, burst mode, and continuous autofocus. You can give them a starting point and a finishing line. This way, you’ll know where they are headed, and you can position yourself in the best spot.
3. Dancing is Easier to Shoot Than Running
If the kids aren’t keen on running, then maybe they’d like to dance. For example, if a girl has a new dress on, you can ask her to twirl. She’ll be happy to show off her dress, and you can snap the photo. It’s the same with boys too. Just ask them to show you their best dance moves.
Dancing can be less taxing on the camera’s autofocus than running. Of course, you’ll still need continuous autofocus, a fast shutter speed, and burst mode. But, you’ll be dealing with a smaller area.
If you are working with toddlers too young to understand instructions, try dancing yourself. They might join in.
7. Enlist the Help of a Smile-Maker
Asking a child to smile rarely gets the best results. Even if they do smile, it will look forced and unnatural. To get those genuine smiles, you need to try something a bit different.
I will often sit the toddler down, then ask mum or dad to stand directly behind me and do something silly. For example, they can dance, sing, or pull a funny face. The parents will know just what to do. ( In the picture above is a result from the video of my dancing and playing with this sweet little one)
11. Play a Game
Games are fun for adults and children alike. Even something as simple as peek-a-boo. You don’t need any props, just your hands and your face.
For older kids, try playing Simon Says. This is an excellent trick for getting the children to pose without them realizing. Or, you can get them to copy you or copy their parents.
These types of games are simple and silly. The child will forget they’re at a photoshoot, and you can capture those beaming smiles.
12. Use Playful Instructions to Create Genuine Poses
Some toddlers have a bit of a rebellious side. But, you can use this to your advantage! If they want to do the opposite of what they’re told, tell them not to smile. It can work for older kids too. It’s better than asking, “Say cheese!”
You can ask them to see how long they can go without smiling. Tell them to try their hardest and be ready with your camera when the smile breaks out. If you have siblings, they can have a contest to see who can go the longest without smiling. Usually, the children will end up in fits of laughter.
13. Create Interaction With Siblings
It’s hard enough getting one child to smile when they’re having their photo taken. So two or three might seem impossible. But it isn’t.
The key to photographing sisters and brothers is having them interact with each other. They can play games, tell jokes, or dance together. Siblings tend to have a knack for getting each other to smile.
Some older children tend to do well when they are tasked with getting their younger sibling to smile.