How to Take Toddler Photos at Home

One of the most asked questions from parents is how to take photos of their toddlers. The expectation is that the toddler should be able to sit still, smile, and pose for the camera. However, many parents complain that their toddlers don’t ‘cooperate’. They also come to my sessions, terrified that their toddler is not going to look and smile at my camera. 

The first important assurance I provide to parents is, they will. They all do. The key is to be patient with them, and not to start the session without demanding anything. 

My number one priority if I already don’t know the toddler is to get to know them. I spend the first few minutes talking to them before I even take my camera out. I naturally connect with kids, so it’s easier for me, but you also know your child the best. You know what makes your child happy, what gets them excited, and when they are in the mood.

Here are some tips on getting your child ready to take their photos at home:

1. Before you start the session, have everything ready. Have them in the outfit you want them to wear for the session. Setup the area where the session will take place. If you’re using a camera, have your settings ready to go based on lighting. Don’t rush it, and make sure you have enough time. Once you’re all set to go, start interacting with your toddler, and have them join you.

2. If you’re going for a posed look, don’t start directing them right away. Warm up, and then direct your toddler to a specific position. Kids younger then 3 years old are usually not the best to follow instructions. You’ll need lots of patience with them. 

3. With younger kids, I play pick-a-boo behind the camera to get them to look and smile at me. Have your finger on the shutter to snap quickly. With older kids, I play Simon says, and prompt them within the game. “Simon says, look out the window!” or “Simon says, give me a smile!” You can ask them questions like “Do you see what’s in my camera?” or “Do you see the little bug in my camera?”

4. Candid shots are less structured, so you can have more fun with it. Putting on their favourite music usually does the trick. You can have them dance, jump in place, sing along, and capture those moments while actually enjoying it.

5. Tip #1 comes in handy for this one. Camera settings are very important to get sharp images of a toddler, especially when they are moving. Your settings will change based on the type of camera you have, and the role the light plays. 

In the photo below, my camera settings using a 35 mm lens were: 

ISO 320  (light) 

f/1.4 (aperture)  

1/500 sec (shutter)

You can see that my windows are located on Liya’s left, and it’s my only source of light in this room. I typically shoot near a window to get the most light available, and never use a flash. It was a bright day, so the light was good, and my ISO stayed relatively low. I always shoot with the lowest aperture to get the blurred background, however if you’re a beginner, I would suggest starting at 2.2. A fast shutter speed is essential when photographing toddlers because they are always on the move. I find shutter speed above 200 works for me to avoid motion blur. 

Once you set your aperture to 2.2, and shutter speed no less than 200, you can play around with your ISO based on your needs. I adjust my lighting from the camera display view to make sure my settings are true to how my eyes see it. 

Camera settings probably need a post of its own, so I’ll link that here for a more detailed explanation. 

I think becoming familiar with your camera will allow you to enjoy taking photos of your toddler a lot more. It can be frustrating when you have the perfect setup, and your toddler is cooperating, but you just can’t get the settings right. What matters the most is that you continue practicing, and enjoy the moment with your family along the way.

Practice does make perfect!