I’m not going to lie, it can be hard. It can be hard as parents and photographer to want the “perfect” photo so badly that we brush aside the toddlers during a family or newborn session. They may be small, but they matter so much even if it is during a newborn session because they can control how the session will turn out. Here are just a few practical tips and examples that I try to remember and incorporate during my sessions.
Instead of telling them “not to do something,” I try to watch my words by rephrasing it to sound positive instead of a reprimand. For example, I was trying to swaddle a fussy baby during a newborn session and was struggling to get the baby settled. Just as she was falling asleep the toddler burst into the room and hit the bed, startling the newborn. In that unexpected moment we have a choice: and if you think the Mother doesn’t notice or feel the tension, they do! How I conduct myself and respond will relax the child and the parents. When the toddler senses they did something wrong I try to stop whatever I am doing and address the child right away. I ask them what they love about their new sibling, what their favorite color or animal is at the moment. This takes the negative vibe away and makes the child feel important. Sometimes I actually see the Mom sigh with relief.
Toddlers are usually very excited to welcome me into their home and in the excitement they can get “underfoot.” I always let them watch while I move through the newborn portraits, but this can also lend it’s challenges. For you natural-light photographers you know how important light is. During one session, the little girl wanted to stand over my shoulder and in turn was blocking all the good light. Instead of asking her to move and risking her feeling bad, I asked if she would like an important job to do. Of course she excitedly agreed! Here you can ask them anything: hold the baby’s Paci, go get your a drink of water, get the next swaddle or blanket I plan to use next….you can come up with hundreds of ideas on the spot.
One great way to win a toddler over is promising something special at the end of their session. This can be so simple like a lollipop, sticker, or small toy. The dollar isle at Target always has great options. The thing about toddlers is they remember! If you leave the session on a good note, they will be willing to do whatever you ask the next time you photograph his/her family.