As any parent can tell you, childhood is fleeting - and documenting your child's early years with good photographs is a must. Your child, on the other hand, might not agree! Trying to have a successful photo shoot with a curious, wiggly, easily bored toddler can be an exercise in futility. And it's all too easy to end up with a cranky child, a frustrated photographer, and a camera card full of unsatisfying snapshots.
For the parent, aunt, uncle, or professional photographer who is desperate to find ways to have a rewarding photoshoot with a young child - don't despair! Here are a few tips that can help you in the pursuit of that perfect, wall-worthy photograph.
1. Take advantage of your memory card
In today's era of digital photography, there's no need to be stingy with your shutter release. Most memory cards can hold hundreds of pictures easily, and it's simple to delete pictures you're not happy with later on. Although your instinct may be to carefully set up a shot and then snap one or two photos, this approach often won't yield much when you're working with a restless and uncooperative toddler.
Instead, keep the camera up at all times and snap plenty of photos, even if your child is moving around a lot or doesn't seem to be in the perfect pose. You'll have more to sort through later - but you'll also have many more chances to capture that fleeting perfect moment.
2. Interact with your child
Instead of carefully posing him and then telling him to - say cheese. Try interacting with him. Talk to him, try to make him laugh, and let him move around a little inside his space. Give him something to hold in his hands - an unobtrusive toy or book, a sign with his age or most recent milestones on it for birthday pictures, or an inexpensive Christmas ornament or string of twinkle lights for holiday photos.
By interacting with him, he's more likely to look directly at you, and his smiles will be more natural. (Hint: This is also a great way to avoid the awkward camera smiles that many toddlers learn to adopt.) Plus, you'll be capturing his unique personality, making the photos you choose to keep twice as valuable.
3. Use natural light when possible
Turning off your camera's flash and shooting in natural light whenever possible produces pictures with a more natural depth. They are also smoother, more evenly colored, and more pleasing to the eye. Most of the professional photo shoots that you might see on friends' walls or blogs are done using natural light only.
If you aren't able to do your photoshoot outside, try to stage your photos near a large window. Natural light gives creaminess to the skin tones and brings out your child's beautiful eyes. If you're shooting in manual mode, make sure that your shutter speed is high enough to avoid blurring if your child moves during the session. If you're having trouble getting enough window light without turning on the flash, supplement your natural light with overhead lighting and lamps.
4. Be patient
Photographing toddlers can sometimes feel pretty pointless. In my own small photography business, trying to get good portraits or family pictures with an uncooperative toddler can get frustrating fast. However, when trying to get good photos of small children, patience pays off.
If you're planning to set up a photo shoot with your toddler, block out at least twenty or thirty minutes that you can devote to it - even if you never move from one spot. Don't forget to take advantage of your memory card and interact with your child, and have patience while you're doing it - sometimes it takes a hundred or more pictures to get two or three really good shots. Still, those two or three will be worth it in the end, and you'll love having beautiful, high-quality photos of your toddler to keep and display!
5. Remember that not getting the specific shot you want doesn't mean your photo shoot has failed.
Although you might have set up a shoot with your child hoping to copy an adorable pose you've seen on Pinterest or a friend's blog. You'll often find when you sit down to sort through pictures at your computer that the shot you were hoping to get just didn't turn out. Although that can be disappointing, don't despair. You might be surprised by what you did get.
Sometimes the best photos come when you least expect them. And even if all you managed to capture this time around were photos of your daughter throwing a tantrum. You never know - years down the road, you might cherish those funny photos more than all of the sweet, smiling portraits in the world.
Don't forget to take advantage of your memory card and interact with your child, and have patience while you're doing it - sometimes it takes a hundred or more pictures to get two or three really good shots. Still, those two or three will be worth it in the end, and you'll love having beautiful, high-quality photos of your toddler to keep and display!
Although trying to get great photographs of a toddler can be a tricky endeavor, practicing these tips will up your chances of a good result every time! And if you're a parent trying to capture your child's earliest years, remember to keep your camera ready at all times. You never know when an unexpected, impromptu photo shoot will produce the best pictures of all.