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7 Tips for Rocking a Toddler Session


We’ve all been there…. you’ve got the most gorgeous studio set up ready to go, an adorable outfit and matching headband picked out, your batteries are charged, and your camera is ready. You are so excited! You’re going to capture the most amazing images today! You can hardly wait to post on social media and update your website! Then your clients arrive, and they’ve brought in their 2 year old. And she’s not happy. She hates your camera, she hates your lights, and she hates everything about this photographic experience. What do you do? How can you salvage this difficult session? When shooting outdoors you can use a long lens, hang back, and capture a child at play. In the studio, you are a bit more limited and it can be intimidating! These are my sure-fire tips that I use with my studio sessions to coax a shy little one out of his/her shell and make the session fun!


Tip #1: Have a Heart-to-Heart 

Before you begin, make sure to have a heart-to-heart chat with your subject. A photo shoot can be stressful for a little one, especially if it’s their first time getting professional photos taken! Introduce yourself, ask her some questions about her likes/dislikes (you might want to brush up on your Paw Patrol knowledge beforehand!), and explain that you are going to have so much fun playing together!

Become her friend before you bombard her with your camera. Ask her if it’s ok if you snap a few pictures while the two of you play together. Sometimes showing that you are on her team can go a long way!


Tip #2: What’s in my Camera? 

I like to tell my little model that there is a red bird that lives inside my lens, but he only talks to me if you smile at him! I tap on my lens glass with my fingernail to “wake him up” and if I get a great smile, then I “listen” to my lens and relay what he said to me!

It can be quite magical to pretend to listen to that little bird! I like to say that he told me “He loved your smile! Can you do it again?”


Tip #3: Make a Drum 

This tip works wonders for the 1-3 yr old crowd! I simply flip over a prop and demonstrate how to use it as a drum! You can add in a “Freeze! Ok 1-2-3 go!” if you need a quick moment to pause and grab her attention.

Little ones love to make their own music!


Tip #4: Use Your Softbox as a Hiding Place 

This is simply your traditional game of peek-a-boo, except this time you hide your whole body behind
your softbox and say “Where did I go?” Then, do an exaggerated hop from out behind it and say “Here I am! Peek-a-boo!”

Try hopping out, peeking underneath, and sneaking just your lens around to capture a giggle and a smile.      


Tip #5: Let Them be the Photographer

Carefully allow your subject to review their own image on the back of your camera and show them how
to press the shutter. Ask them “Woah! How did I do that?! Do you want to try?”

I usually allow my subject to take a photo of me, or their parent to make it more fun! Make sure to compliment the great job she did! (While doing this, be sure to keep your camera safe!)


Tip #6: Play a Game

I keep a large jingle bell in my stash to help entertain my littles! You can toss it back and forth, or roll it to each other if you are both sitting. I like to do some pretend throws while counting to 3 and then act surprised when the bell got stuck in my hand!

The moment right before I toss the bell is always good for a big smile!


Tip #7: Bring out the Phone

This is a tip I like reserve for when I really really need it. It doesn’t always lead to a smile, but Baby Shark on Youtube is usually good for a few calm moments.

Make sure you hold the phone right above your lens vs. off to the side as it will bring her eyes in the right general direction.


Melissa Prout is an award winning and multi published photographer based in Central Michigan. She has specialized in Maternity, Newborn, and Children’s photography for almost 9 years. She is a mother of 3, and loves seeing little ones grow up in front of her lens!

This article was featured in Summerana’s Magazine – The Floral Issue. See the full issue here.

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