How to Take Great Photos of Toddlers with your Phone or DSLR
Toddlers might be the hardest age to do a photoshoot with, but we all know how cute they are and how badly we want to capture memories from this time that we can all cherish when they're older. While it might be a challenge, we have a few tips to make it a little easier! Make sure to read this before your next photoshoot!
Whether you're shooting with a phone or your DSLR, use these tips to get better photos that you can share and look back on fondly. We have tips for both phone and cameras, so read on no matter the level photographer you are.
1. Start with a Good Background or Setting
Before starting a photoshoot, plan ahead! Look around your house, or in your neighborhood for a great setting for your photoshoot. If you're going to shoot inside your house, make sure the area is not cluttered, doesn't have outlets or cords in the background and is near a window for natural light (more on this later). Think about whether you will need to bring in a chair if they'll be sitting, or any props, and will it work in the space. Another option if you plan to take photos frequently is to get an inexpensive backdrop stand and backdrops for your photos. Your backdrop could be curtains, or a photo roll of paper.
If you're heading outside, first and foremost, make sure the location is safe. You will be distracted while behind the camera, so a park or fenced backyard is ideal! Make sure you're not close to any roads or any other hazards your toddler can quickly run off to. Next is to look for distracting elements in the background, like signs, wires, cars, etc. Look for a plain fence, wall, trees, grassy area for the best photos.
2. Consider the Time of Day
There are two reasons to consider the time of day for your photoshoot. First will be your toddler's mood and energy level. Second will be for the best lighting. There are two times I recommend, but it will depend on your own child and your location. For us, around 10 or 11 am works best, and our second choice is in the afternoon after a nap and snack around 3 or 4 pm (not ideal for winter). You're looking for the time of day that the sun is high in the sky but not directly above. This applies for shooting inside and outside. For inside, like I mentioned earlier, ideally you have light coming in through a window and ideally through a sheer white curtain or you are far enough from the window that it is not a harsh bright white light because that will produce dark shadows and harsh bright spots.
If you're shooting outside, look for areas with a little bit of shade to get a nice even light. A slightly overcast day is great for well lit photos, but a sunny day with shadows from trees works for a dramatic look.
3. Start with a Happy Toddler
Before getting started with pictures, make sure your toddler is in a good mood. Get them dressed a few minutes ahead of time, if this is something they don't enjoy. Make sure they're fed, and maybe turn some music on to dance and clap to even before photos start to get them in a good mood. During the photoshoot, keep the music going and keep yourself upbeat, silly and happy as well. Dance with them, smile, clap, praise them...make funny faces. Anything to keep them smiling.
4. Give Them Something to Hold
Toddlers love having something to explore or play with. Save a fun prop or cute treat for the photoshoot. For example, we like to use sunglasses, wands or little flags, pretend cameras, blocks, balloons...whatever works for the theme of your shoot. Lollipops look cute, but I find them to quickly become a sticky mess, so for experienced lollipop eaters only :) When we're outside, even a picked dandelion or leaf works.
5. Have your Camera Set Up and Ready to Go
Whether you're shooting with your phone, or a camera, have it ready before you get your toddler into the space. For a phone, I recommend the portrait mode (iphone) or something similar where the background is blurred. This will give your photos a professional look and will put the focus on your cute little one, and not the stuff behind them. If you're using a dSLR, you're going to want to shoot fast to get clear photos. If you're comfortable in manual mode, you'll want your camera set to a wide open aperature (think f/4, f/2.8, f/1.4), this will allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed which should ideally be at 1/250th or faster to ensure sharp photos. Make sure your focus point is on their eyes whether you're shooting on your phone or camera.
6. Wait for the Right Moment
Toddlers move fast, so I tend to snap a lot of extra photos, but I try to wait for the best moments. For a more serious thoughtful photo, snap when they're looking sweetly at something, like the thing they're holding, or direct them to look off in the distance by pointing to something. For a cheerful photo, I smile behind camera to model for them, say cheese, or something else that will make them giggle to get that perfect smile.