Kids, especially toddlers, have boundless energy and they’re always busy, aren’t they? As soon as they wake up, they’re on the move, off to an adventure and causing quite a ruckus wherever they go!

And taking a picture? Forget about it! Toddlers are notoriously hard to take a picture of, they can’t keep still!

When you do get a small child to sit still long enough to take a quick picture, s/he’ll probably pull a wacky face or give you a frozen smile that looks totally staged before running in the opposite direction.  

Having two kids myself, I can tell you how challenging it is taking a good picture of a toddler. And with no fake smiles! But when you do get a nice picture, all that effort is worth it. Over the years, I’ve learned so many tricks that could help create better photos and I’ll be dishing out some of these toddler portrait tips today.

1. Candid is the Best Way to Go

From experience, I learned that it’s much harder to get a small child to pose for the camera just because kids, being kids, they want things their way. So one of the most important toddler portrait tips that I learned is that candid shots are the best way to go.

With candid shots, you’ll capture your kids just as they are, no fake smiles, no fake emotions. And this technique adds a deep sense of realness to your pictures. Some kids don’t want a staged setup, most don’t want to dress up for a photo shoot, and they just can’t keep still.

When you think about it, the best moments happen candidly anyway so instead of insisting on a staged scene and forcing your kids to fake their emotion, leave them in their natural environment and let them have fun! If you are shooting multiple kids, be sure that all the subjects have the right emotion or expression. That means taking as many shots as possible because children’s expressions change at a drop of a hat.  

toddler portrait tips

2. Get to Know Your (Phone) Camera

If you’ve been depending on your smartphone camera’s automatic settings then you probably ended up with not-so-nice looking shots in the past. That’s normal because the automatic settings do not work for certain environments or lighting. It’s not enough to take a shot as a great scene happens, you have to be mindful of your camera settings too.

During your free time, get to know your smartphone camera, play with different settings, tweak some features, and see which settings are best for certain environments. So by the time you’re taking a shot, you know the camera enough to choose the ideal setting for that specific moment and avoid fiddling with the settings and missing out on moments that would’ve made amazing photos.

Find out how to turn the flash on and off your camera, experiment with the aperture setting for creative, softly blurred shots, and learn how to adjust the shutter speed so you can take a picture of a highly uncooperative subject. I’d also recommend adjusting the ISO of your smartphone camera so you can take a picture in low light conditions without using the flash!

3. Hold the Camera Properly

One of the best toddler portrait tips that I learned while taking pictures of my kids is how you hold your camera affects the quality of the images. I’ve discussed this topic at great length in another post (read it here) and it’s worth mentioning again because it will improve the overall quality of the image you captured. You really don’t want a beautiful image ruined by blur!

When it comes to holding the phone for a picture, there’s no need to use a tripod. You need a stable surface to support your arms, like a table or a stack of books. In a pinch, keep your arms close to the sides of your body, hold your camera with your dominant hand and use the other hand for support to get a clear, sharp image.

4. Go Low (to the Ground)

You’re taller than your subjects so you have to get down to their level to get a good picture. Children, unlike adults, aren’t good at faking their emotions or facial expressions and you cannot expect great results if you keep pointing a massive lens on your child’s face and clicking away. Also, it’s hard to take a good picture if you keep towering over your subjects.

toddler portrait tips

When it comes to taking pictures of young children, you need to get as low to the ground as possible to 1) establish a connection with the child and 2) to get a clear shot of genuine expression or emotion that you’d like to capture. 

I’ve put together a guide on this very topic. The guide is packed with simple toddler portrait tips that will improve your photos instantly and drastically, no fancy camera or software needed! All you have to do is to sign up for my mailing list below this post and you’ll receive the guide for free. You’re welcome!

5. Pay Close Attention to the Lighting

While you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take beautiful pictures, it’s important to learn some of the basic rules of photography. Photography is all about the play of light, if you want to capture a sharp, well-composed picture, you need to pay close attention to the lighting conditions.

If you’re taking natural portraits, it makes sense to shoot in natural light. A playground, a park, a garden, or a spot in your home that’s near a window are the best places for taking natural portraits of the kids. These well-lit places have great light and shadows that will add interest to the image.

Before taking a picture, check the direction of the light, the harshness of the light, the hue of the light and adjust the direction that your subjects are facing so you can capture the emotion on raw light. Diffused light is perfect for portraits because the lighting is soft and flattering.

If you are shooting outdoors, the golden hour is the best time for a photoshoot. If you’re shooting indoors, you’ll have to be mindful of the time and day to get the best light.

Young children may be hard to take a good picture up but with these toddler portrait tips, it’s possible to take gorgeous shots of your kids, genuine smiles and all! It helps if you make the photoshoot a fun outing so the kids won’t get bored as you take pictures. My final advice, keep the photo sesh short and sweet – wrap up as quickly as possible.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty, don’t expect a straightforward photoshoot because kids want to have fun and they have to be as relaxed as possible to get the emotions right. As soon as you’ve got great shots of the kids, work quickly because toddlers have a short attention span. Don’t forget to have fun too because photoshoots should be a lighthearted, fun affair, something that you and your kids should look forward to!

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