Oh… it looks easy, but trust me when I tell you it isn’t. I am not a professional photographer, but I’m not an amateur either. I have several years of experience with black and white photography, using a manual camera, developing my own film and pictures. I would actually consider photography to be one of my greatest passions, one that I was able to recapture when I had my daughters. The proof is in the hundreds of dollars I spend printing photos of my girls, making cards, books, posters, etc. Okay, make that thousands. I can’t help it, I have ridiculously cute kids. (see below)
Currently I use a Canon Rebel, the go-to camera for most new parents. I receive a lot of compliments on my photos, but the truth is for every amazing shot of my curious and cute toddlers, there are at least 50 that I consider to be totally unusable. The good news is with experience you become better at photographing the little devils, making everyone think they are always the little angels they appear to be in photos.
Here are 6 tips to help achieve better results when photographing toddlers:
1. The photographer should be the only adult in the room. Other people mean well by trying to help get their attention by jumping up and down behind you, yelling their names, but all that results in is pictures of the kiddos looking up or away from the lens rather than at you. These shots can be lovely, but the money shot for any portrait photographer is the one of their subject looking intently at the camera. If you are the only person across from them, guaranteed they will look at you eventually. To get their attention, sing their favourite song or make funny noises, you might even get a smile out of them.
2. Shoot near a window, in daylight, slightly overcast, no flash. This is the perfect light. Take plenty of pictures, they move A LOT, you will have more blurry shots than crisp ones since you are not relying on a flash. But this is the best lighting conditions to compliment their delicate little features and perfect complexions.
3. Introduce a new toy or something that the kiddos don’t normally get to play with, then capture them discovering it. The moment of discovery is a magical time that always looks great captured on film. For example, I often allow my girls to play with my coveted accessory collection when we take pictures. They stay relatively still during this time since they get to explore something normally forbidden. Be aware that any prop you introduce will most definitely be a part of your images, so choose wisely.
4. Keep it simple and classic, the focus is the kiddos. Don’t over-dress them, a dress and a hair clip or a shirt and pants, that’s enough. Cardigans, shoes, hats and so on, are not necessary. I am, however, totally guilty of over-accessorizing them, but that’s because I love how adult jewellery looks on babies. Most importantly though, try to stick to neutral backgrounds. Plain walls and headboards work great as backdrops that don’t compete with the cuties and provide them with fewer escape options!
5. Shoot in at a variety of locations. If the kiddos are getting fussy or bored, change rooms, you will see that a new environment can inspire new moods. If your location options are limited, try positioning them differently, lie them down or have them stand up. They will probably be game for something new.
6. Bribery works. After the shoots, my mini models often enjoy a treat, making them look forward to our next photo shoot and serve as a reminder to be extra cooperative every time!
The photos above are edited using iPhoto (Photos), usually using only the straightening and cropping tools on my MacBook Pro. It’s easy to feel inspired when you get to work with such adorable mini-models, even when they can be a little uncooperative at times. I find keeping my shoots organized, fast-paced and short helps to achieve optimal results.
Check out A (Half) Year of Mila and Marlowe, my photography project this year for added inspiration.