A little girl in a white dress sitting in the grass with yellow balloons.

Toddler Photography Tips, Ideas, Props and More

Discover expert toddler photography tips, creative ideas, and prop suggestions to capture enchanting moments and create lasting memories with your little one.

If you’re looking to improve your toddler photography, this is the guide for you.

Photographing toddlers is challenging for a few reasons – toddlers can be unpredictable; they don’t like to sit still, they get bored easily, etc.

These are challenges you face whether they’re your own kids or the clients’.

In this guide, you’ll find useful tips to deal with young children and make them and their parents have a good experience.

You’ll also discover ideas to choose the best props and activities for taking photos that really capture their personality.

While the article is centred on toddlers, you’ll find great tips that can work in all types of child photography.

So, let’s get started.

9 Toddler Photography Tips for Success with Little Ones

Do you want to take better pictures of your toddler? Maybe you want to make toddler photography your career path.

Here are nine tips that will set you up for success!

1. Plan and prep

A little girl is sitting in the grass and looking at daffodils.

Credit: Tetyana Kovyrina

You might think that planning a photoshoot is only about outfits, location, lights, etc. However, when photographing toddlers, it implies much more.

The first thing you need is to talk to the parents. Ask them about their expectations and ideas. Then, ask at least a couple of questions about the child’s personality and interests. Then, you need to balance both things, which often clash.

You also need to reassure them about your expertise when it comes to photographing children. This isn’t about your technical knowledge but about the fact that you know how to get the best results.

Let them know that you understand that children are spontaneous and unpredictable – yet, that you can handle them to get great shots.

Discuss with the parents what’s allowed and what isn’t. This involves the use of rewards, how much they can get involved, how much they should trust you, etc. Also, manage their expectations.

Then you can move on to the more practical part. Where are you taking pictures? Outdoors or inside? If you want to go on location, consider that natural light is best at certain times of day – such as the golden hour.

This isn’t always compatible with the child’s nap time or meal time.

You need to time the photo session around the toddler’s routine. If you have a sleepy, hungry, tired child – there’s no way you’re getting a great photo.

Now you can discuss about theme, outfit, and props. The props are especially important. Use props that are safe and age-appropriate. You can also choose them strategically to help you manage the poses and activities.

You can use rocking horses, colourful blocks, colorful clay or paint for them to get creative, etc. A small toy is always useful, so they have something to hold, but also, a giant teddy bear makes for great photos.

Find things that are fun and creative – the parents can bring toys from their house as well. Also, ask them to bring a snack, a change of clothes, wipes, etc.

2. Have someone to assist you

A woman and her daughter are sitting on a bed in front of a window.

Credit: Tatiana Syrikova

If you’re a professional photographer, you may have an assistant on your staff. If you don’t, or if you’re not a photographer but just want photos of your own children – then have a family member helping you out.

This is important when photographing little kids because you need to concentrate on all the photographic stuff. You need to adjust the light and settings, make sure the background is right, find the best composition, etc.

If you also need to take care of entertaining the child, making sure that they don’t do anything dangerous, etc., is a bit much.

So, having extra hands and eyes is one of the best toddler photography tips for successful photo sessions.

3. Use comfort items

A baby is sitting on a wooden floor playing with a yellow cloth.

Credit: Pixabay

The best way to make a toddler relax and smile for their photo session is to include their comfort items. For most toddlers, this is a blanket or a plush toy – but it can be anything.

Most of these items can easily be used as photo props. So you can include them in the photo without any issues. If they’re not very eye-catching, you can just have them around and let them play with them in between shots.

Maybe, you can have one of the parents or your assistant hold it next to you. This way, you can have the toddler looking at the camera and smiling.

4. Respect the toddler’s feelings and boundaries

A brown teddy bear and a toddler.

Credit: Pixabay

While a child is still developing, and it’s mostly the parents who make the decisions, it doesn’t mean that the toddler’s opinions, feelings, and boundaries shouldn’t matter.

Maybe you or the parents had certain photos in mind or expectations of how the photoshoot should go. However, if the kids aren’t comfortable with what’s asked of them, you shouldn’t force them.

If the child isn’t feeling well, if the concept clashes with their personality or if they’re feeling uncomfortable interacting with a stranger – find a different approach.

Also, reassure the parents about this matter. If they stress thinking that you won’t be able to take the photos or anything like that – they may stress the kid as well.

Try to follow the toddler’s lead and connect with them. Not only is this an easier way to have better photos, but it will also let the child enjoy the photo session.

Also, be patient and flexible. You should remember that children have a shorter attention span, and they haven’t fully developed control over their emotions.

5. Adjust your point of view

A young boy in a green shirt is standing in front of a tree.

Credit: Abdul Kadher Akib

The perspective and camera angle are important when you photograph toddlers.

Shooting at your own level and tilting the camera down is a good idea when you want to highlight the children’s eyes and vulnerability.

However, lowering the camera so you can be at their level is the best angle for most photos of toddlers.

To add some variety, you can also make a few shots from the ground – this is called a worm’s eye view. This will make them look bigger, and it gives them a sense of power.

So, depending on what you want your photos to say, you need to choose the right angle. A mix of perspectives is always a good idea for a child photography session.

6. Action shots

A little girl riding a red tricycle on a road.

Credit: Tuan PM

Some of the most precious moments you can capture when photographing toddlers are the action shots. The toddler years are when they reach many milestones, such as walking or jumping.

When you’re photographing younger toddlers, you can focus on crawling, while in the second year, they’re already moving more and exploring their surroundings. Instead, older toddlers can jump and ride a tricycle.

7. Try photo prompts

A little girl is sitting in front of a cake.

Credit: Alexander Dummer

Getting toddlers to sit still is quite difficult. Posing people can get you some beautiful photos, but it’s not always easy to make a toddler pose. Maybe you can try a few funny poses, but they can get bored quickly or simply refuse to do them.  It depends on the age, personality, etc.

So, using photo prompts can be the trick up your sleeve that helps you capture gorgeous toddler pictures. Photo prompts are phrases or instructions that prompt the child’s reaction.

For example, you can tell a silly joke or make some funny noises to make them laugh. You can also ask them to think about something ridiculous or that time when they gave peanut butter to their dog.

You can also give the toddler prompts that involve an action. Ask them to twirl five times and stop or to show you their best superhero pose. There are tons of great ideas to achieve a good smile.

8. Be playful

Child hiding behind the curtain

Credit: Vika Yagupa

Young children are curious and playful by nature. So, when photographing toddlers, you can’t expect them to stay still.

I already mentioned the use of photo prompts – another way to get good pictures is by getting playful with them. You can play copycat, Simon says, or peek-a-boo.

For example, a great copycat trick is to have them copy dad’s face – this is the best way to get them to smile naturally.

If they are a bit older or you feel like props can help, you can play catch or use a rocking horse.

9. Use the right camera settings

A man holding a baby up in the air.

Credit: Dominika Roseclay

When photographing toddlers, you need to consider a high shutter speed. This is because even when posing, they tend to move quite a lot. This is even more so if you’re not using poses but prompts or activities.

Something around 1/200 should cover most situations – unless you want to freeze them while jumping or running.

You can use a wide aperture as toddler photography – like any portrait, benefits from a blurred background. This also compensates for the fast shutter speed.

You should also set the focus to auto mode for fast-moving subjects. This is called AI Servo on Canon cameras or AF-C for Nikon. If your camera has a face or eye-tracking mode – you better turn it on.

How to Make Photographing Toddlers Easier

Photographing toddlers presents specific challenges. Here’s a cheat sheet with toddler photography tips to make your next photoshoot run smoothly.

A young boy with a face covered in stickers.

Credit: Cottonbro Studio

The Unpredictability of Toddlers

  • Embracing spontaneity in shoots.
  • Always have your camera ready.
  • Don’t expect them to stay still for long periods of time.

Reading Toddler Moods

  • Identifying signs of restlessness or discomfort.
  • Using playful techniques to engage them.
  • Recognize when it’s time for a break.
  • Try other poses that help them get comfortable.

Choosing the Right Time

  • Scheduling around nap and meal times.
  • The “golden hours” for natural lighting.
  • Use artificial light if necessary.

Setting the Scene

  • Selecting appropriate locations: home, park, studio.
  • Creating a safe and toddler-friendly environment.
  • Use props to create the atmosphere.
  • Make a scene that fits the child’s personality.

Building Rapport

  • Interacting with toddlers before the shoot.
  • Using toys, music, or games to build trust.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Ask them about their interests or the story of their favourite toy.

Dealing with Restlessness

  • Take short breaks often, considering that toddlers have a short attention span.
  • Avoid distractions such as the parents promising a treat when the shoot is over.
  • Change the scene or the activity.
  • Show them the pictures to get them engaged and excited.
  • Understand if it’s time to call it quits.
  • Be patient and flexible.

Achieving Sharp Focus

Toddler Photography Props & Ideas to Enhance Your Photos

While the main focus should be the child, using props and outfits can be helpful in creating a playful and visually interesting environment.

Two boys sitting in front of a christmas tree with teddy bears.

Credit: Kateryna Hliznitsova

Here are some toddler photography ideas to enhance your images.

Age-Appropriate Toys

  • Using familiar items to comfort and engage.
  • Choose toys that are easy to handle.
  • Use colorful toys to make more vibrant photos.

Costumes and Outfits

  • You can use costumes if you’re doing a themed photo shoot.
  • Discuss a color palette with the parents.
  • Don’t use new clothes as they may cause a rash or be uncomfortable for the child.
  • Choose something cute or fun – depending on the mood you’re creating.

Background Elements

  • Blankets are great for adding color and texture.
  • Chairs are a good way to pose the toddler while adding visual interest.
  • Natural elements such as flowers look beautiful in toddler photography.

Post-Processing Tips for Natural Toddler Photography

There are two types of toddler pictures – natural photography and creative photography.

Enhancing Natural Beauty

A photo of a baby lying on a rug in adobe photoshop.

Credit: 100 Files

Natural editing involves very light editing. You should consider retouching light and color to enhance the picture and achieve your personal style. These are some actions you can do in this type of post-processing.

  • Correct the white balance.
  • Adjust the highlights and shadows.
  • Gentle edits to highlight toddler features.
  • Use color to create the right mood.
  • Apply presets.

Creative Edits

A photo collage of a child screaming in front of dinosaurs in Photoshop

Credit original photo: Kevin Fai

Creative portrait photography involves photo compositing and more complex editing techniques. Usually, creative edits aim to recreate a fantasy world or a surreal situation.

AI photo tools can be very helpful for this type of photography. Here are some examples of what you can do.

  • Adding effects – for example, make the child look like it’s underwater.
  • Change the background – for example, place them in a fairyland.
  • Use themes such as the old Wild West or space.
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Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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