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Pro Tips for Photographing Toddlers


EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/200s, 40mm  

Unlike adults or teenagers, toddlers can get very temperamental or shy when exploring a new environment or interacting with strangers. This makes directing them in a photoshoot setting challenging and often unpredictable. An experienced photographer, Sharon Seow of TinyTodds, shares with us her pro tips on how she has overcome such challenges (along with helpful camera settings!) for toddler photography.


EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/200s, 40mm 

1. Engaging the toddlers

According to Sharon, play is the most efficient way to break the ice with toddlers and get them comfortable with their new surroundings. The photoshoot studios that Sharon utilises are all designed with a specific theme, supported by supplementary decorations and toys to resemble a colourful playground.

When approaching the toddler, start by showing an interest in what they’re doing. Learn what they are drawn to in the studio and use that to engage with them. After all, the main purpose of a toddler photoshoot is not for the toddler to strike a pose like a professional model, but for them to have fun and let loose so you can capture their genuine smile and laughter!

Bonus tip: use a kid-friendly scent to perfume the room and play a nursery rhyme as the background music. Toddlers will respond better in an environment that stimulates their five senses.


EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/200s, 40mm 

2. Safety measures  for little humans

Toddlers can be clumsy, so ensuring their safety is an essential priority. Sharon recommends having child-proofing measures in place like fully carpeting the studio to prevent new walkers from hurting themselves when they fall during the photoshoot session. You can also look to remove:

  • Sharp elements or edges (pick rounded tables, fabric furniture etc.).
  • Choking hazards like small beads.
  • Fragile objects like ceramic vases or glass jugs.

A bigger studio space will also allow the toddler more room to roam and feel less constricted. You should also consider the durability of the items in the studio. Will they snap easily, or can they take some manhandling from the toddler?

Bonus tip: avoid using harsh flash as this may alarm or frighten your subject. Try utilising soft indoor lighting or natural lighting by the window to capture an evenly diffused image.


EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/200s, 40mm 

3. Camera settings to use

Active as toddlers are, photographers must prepare their camera settings to match the subject’s movements. Sharon swears by the continuous shooting mode (learn 3 creative ways to use the mode here!) as a must-use setting in toddler photography as it can capture several photos in quick succession. You can also use the Shutter Priority mode (Tv) for when the toddler is actively exploring the studio space, or switch to Aperture Priority mode (Av) for still shots to achieve beautiful bokeh that’ll perfectly frame the subjects. Learn when to use Program mode, Shutter Priority mode, and Aperture Priority mode here! Another helpful setting to consider is the Eye Detection AF that tracks your subject’s eye and keeps them in focus.

For lenses, a Canon EF50mm f/1.8 STM is recommended for its similar view to the human eye, producing portraits with a realistic touch. It has a sharp index of focus that is perfect for portraitures. Another similar lens to consider is the Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM. If you’re using a camera body with an RF mount, these two lenses are the RF counterpart RF50mm f/1.8 STM and RF24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM.

Bonus tip: avoid dwarfing your subject by getting down to their level to shoot. It also helps for your camera to be equipped with a Vari-angle LCD screen so you can tackle low-angle shooting positions without much hassle.


EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/200s, 40mm 

4. Onto the parents

Be it regarding the images or managing their kids, parents will always be involved in their toddler’s photoshoot session, so be sure to maximise their participation to the fullest. To start, the photographer should advise the parents on items to prepare, things to do and what to expect during the shoot. This can range from:

  • Bringing suitable outfits for the toddler. This can play into utilising colour theory for the output shots or coordinating looks with the parents.
  • Food, drinks and treats. This is to ensure that the toddler has something to munch on when the session gets stretched out.
  • Supplying favourite toys to engage with the toddler.
  • Checking in to make sure that the toddler is not feeling unwell and is well rested before the photoshoot.

You can also ask a few questions regarding the toddler’s behaviour and plan accordingly. If the toddler is clingy or insecure when not with their parents, include the adults in the shoot. At this stage, you should also manage parent expectations by sharing ideas on what you can deliver and to communicate any unrealistic requests.

Timing the photoshoot is equally important! Communicate with parents on the toddler’s usual nap times and mealtimes to avoid clashing with the photoshoot session. More than anything, it takes real patience to photograph toddlers, so compose yourself and be prepared for many different challenges.

Bonus tip: when it comes to unexpected tantrums during a photoshoot, there’s not much a photographer can do. If it is a small tantrum, you can give the family some time and space to pacify the toddler, or in the worst-case scenario, reschedule the session.


For similar articles: 

2 Simple Tips for Beautiful, Blur-free Indoor Portrait Photographs of Children 
Aperture-Priority AE Technique #2: Create Background Bokeh for a Warm, Friendly Family Photo 
4 Ways to Create Better Baby Photos