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source: Krystal Griffin

11 Tricks for Photographing Babies and Toddlers

The following post is from Krystal of Krystal Griffin Photography: 11 Tricks for Photographing Babies and Toddlers

We have four kids who all arrived within five years.  There was a season of my life when all I knew were pre-schoolers, toddlers, and babies.  Like any mom, I took oodles of photographs in those days and felt the frustration of babies that couldn’t sit up, cranky toddlers, and a preschooler who hugged everyone too hard.  I learned a few tricks that helped back then, and I have learned a few more in the many days since.

Here are 11  tips and tricks for that life season when your family comprises toddlers, babies, and early preschoolers.

1. Make noise behind the camera.

The ideal photo would include the children looking right into the camera.  What often happens is that you get their face but not a connection in the eyes.  They are looking out of the frame at something else.  Aim to keep it behind the camera when making noise, either with yourself or with a toy.  Shake the rattle behind the camera, not right next to it.  Make noises or play peek-a-boo behind the camera as much as you can.  It sounds like a small adjustment, but you would be surprised what a big difference it makes in the photograph.

2. Hold down the spot.

This is good for encouraging a child to stand where you want them and be still long enough for the photo.  Point to a leaf, sticker, coin, rock, bug or anything you think might hold their interest.  Tell them you have a job for them.  You need them to hold the ____ down with their foot while you take the picture.  Whatever it is, they can keep it once they are done with their job (well, maybe not the bug).

3. Lay down babies and toddlers.

Rather than expecting your toddler to be good at holding the baby (even though they are almost babies themselves), sitting up with good posture, and staying where you place them, you need to place everyone on their backs.  Posing them on their back keeps everyone in a place and facing the camera (there aren’t many other places to look) and removes the responsibility of holding the baby.  It’s especially helpful for a baby that is newborn-pre-sitting.  If you keep using this trick, you will even find there are some variations to prevent your photos from all looking the same.

4. Have the child sit to limit mobility.

Once your baby starts to walk, they turn into a toddler – literally!  And once they start to go, they don’t want to stop.  When you sit this child down for a photo, don’t put them on the ground.  Try a chair, bench, or another piece of furniture Now, a strong warning here!  Make sure he is safe, and someone is close by while he sits there.  With that said, they are a bit more stuck when they are seated on something.  You will have a little time to grab a few frames before they figure out to out of there.

5. Acquire assistance.

Extra hands always help when taking photos of tiny people.  They can steady the baby, wipe noses, remove distractions and put children into the photo.  The helper also needs to be willing to act a fool for those kids.  Try to keep the goofy antics behind the camera. It keeps the kids looking inside the frame.  Take advantage of any chance you can get for this help.   Ask a friend when you are together for a play date to give you a hand, and do the same for them.  I’m sure they would love to do this for you.

6. Choose your timing well.

Moms and dads, I know that you know your stuff and your kids.  But sometimes, we get so busy with our plans and agenda that we forget some of the obvious things.  If you really want that photo of your child/children, it would be best to plan ahead, creating the best situation you can. And I know that with more than one child, it will be hard to get everyone in “mint condition.”  Do your best, and it will go a long way.  With something in their belly, plenty of rest, and full up on the love and attention tank, your children will be more apt to show you the most enjoyable part of their personality. : Also, if you’re unsure how long your little ones will last, consider scheduling a mini session that’s only 20-30 minutes instead.

7. Place the baby in a container.

Two reasons for a baby to go in a container:

1 .  When posing a baby (think beyond newborn) with their older sibling who isn’t ready to hold them up, it might be best to let a container do the holding.  A basket, seat, or box can give the baby some support, and the toddler can sit next to it.  If it’s an ugly container, just get creative with a blanket. I shied away from this and wish I hadn’t.  If I had gotten more creative and let go of the ideals I had of the perfect sibling love photos, I might have gotten a few more photos.

2. When a baby is old enough to crawl or walk, she is stuck in that container.  She can move up and down, but her mobility is limited, like when she is in a chair.  Now you have a moment to capture that picture.

8. Play music on the phone, behind the camera.

Kids love music at any age.  If there is a song or artist you know, they love, turn it on and hold it behind the camera.  Something upbeat that will make them smile should help if they don’t have a favorite.  And while I shudder to even put this into type, I have to mention the one that always works with little boys (quite often with the girls, too)-  Gross noises.  I leave you to your imagination on that one, but I will attest that it always gets at least a smile and usually a laugh.

9. Use colorful apps.

Can’t get your child to look at the camera?  There’s an app for that!  Like I said before, you need to engage either their eyes or ears to get a connection to the camera.  Harness the power of the technology in your hand to do that!  There are all kinds of colorful moving apps to draw your child’s eyes in.  Find a lava lamp, kaleidoscope, or any moving colorful app.  If it makes a little noise – even better!  Just make sure you hold it as close to the lens as you can so they seem connected to you and not something out of the frame.

Putting them on their backs added a lot of flexibility and safety. Not to mention removing stress from the situation.

10. Try bribes, but not any old bribes.

Does anybody have a grabby child?  They just can’t keep their hands off their siblings, clothes, dirt, and the world around them.  Sometimes that tendency is fine, but when it inhibits your photographs, you might try a bribe that keeps their hands busy.  Just like standing on something, you need to find an item they want: stickers, candy, coins.  Tell them that if they can hide the items (one for each hand) the whole time you are taking a picture, they may keep it when you are finished.  But they must hold it tight and not let go or let anyone see it.

11. Count the clicks.

As they get to the point where they have any idea of numbers, you can start telling them to count the clicks.  Tell them you want them to count the clicks, and you promise to stop at _______ ( 10, 5, 12 ), tell them to count the clicks along with you.  I feel this does two things:

1. Helps them to feel there is an end in sight.  You will not go on forever.  They are little and don’t grasp numbers well, but I still find they understand this idea of a beginning and an end.  Knowing this seems to keep them engaged long enough to get a photograph.

2 . The counting keeps their minds busy, giving them something to do.  When they have something to do, you have longer to take a photo.

If your kids just aren’t up for it, try again another day.  Chances are they will either be in a better mood or start to understand the routine of taking a photo.  Either way, you’ll both be happy that you quit before you got frustrated.  And later, you’ll be happy that you tried again, eventually getting a photograph.

What’s your favorite trick to capture beautiful photographs of little ones?

Krystal is a stay-at-home mom of four children, ages 4-9, whom she homeschools. She is acutely aware of how fast her children are changing and is passionate about keeping family memories alive through photographs. Now and then, she gets to help other families bottle up their own memories at Krystal Griffin Photography.