There’s nothing quite as unpredictable as a toddler who has missed a nap. Will she be all giggles or will she be mad? Or more likely, she’ll be both, there is just a point when giggles become hangry. What will be the tipping point between the two? I’ve been photographing children for 17 years now and I was a pre-k teacher before this, so I have a few tips for getting those kids to work with you before someone explodes.
1: Be patient
Getting stressed out is a sure way to make the kids stressed too. You know how things always seem to be a disaster on the day you’re in a hurry? That’s why.. because you’re in a hurry and stressed out. Breathe, be calm, be patient, let them take their time.. you’ll get better photos in the end.
2: Make it fun
Play stupid games, let them jump in the puddles or on the bed, encourage that kid to yell or scream as much as she wants, pick flowers, listen to the birds, ask her about poop.. Anything that takes their focus off of having to sit down and smile at you.
3: Distraction-free locations
You and I sadly cannot compete with a playground or a firetruck with sirens rolling. We are not that exciting. If you take your kids for pictures and they can see the playground RIGHT THERE then guess what you’re going to have to battle with the whole time? It’s going to be a hot mess for everyone. Just skip all that and pick a location where the most exciting things you’ll see are the bugs and flowers.
4: No bribes
I know it’s tempting, but don’t use bribes. It just makes them want to be done faster, then then they get angry when you keep telling them there are more pictures to do. You can entertain them with ridiculous games for an hour instead of promising them something!
5: Lots of activity
Not this one is a fine line between too much energy and too tired. Overtired kids are no one’s idea of a good time, but you want to at least give kids some physical activity for your photo session or they’ll just be a wiggle-worm the whole time. For my photo sessions, I like to take a walk-pictures-walk approach, where the entire session is a combo sit-here-and-laugh and then we go walk some more, then find another place for pictures, then walk. The new locations are a boredom-buster for the kids.
6: Use a chair
A chair (or a bench or basket or table or rock or log or whatever) they can sit on is like magic containment that stops those wiggling feet for a few minutes. It’s like a mental barrier that happens to look nice in pictures too.
7: Give them a job
Give the kids a job to do. They want to like an important part of the event too. Something as simple as “Stand on this leaf to make sure it doesn’t float away.” is stunningly effective. More jobs include picking the next location for pictures, keeping mommy from tickling the photographer, tearing up these weeds here.. anything.
8: Reverse Phycology
Telling the kids NOT to do something (especially toddlers) is great for getting them to do that exact thing. Don’t smile. That’s my chair, you can’t sit there. Do not go jump off that rock. Don’t smell those flowers. Guess what they all want to do all of the sudden? This can occasionally backfire with kids who know what they want to do and it doesn’t include sitting in that chair. You tell them not to they’re like “Okay fine, I didn’t want to anyway.” and they’re running off while you’re trying to get yourself set up.
9: Use Siblings
Use siblings at every opportunity. Some have a great relationship and the older one can help make the baby laugh. Other times they have a rivalry going and the grouchy kid will suddenly be the sweetest most compliant kid ever when you want to take pictures of her sister instead. Don’t hesitate to actually tell them too. “Can you move out of the way so I can take pictures of your sister?” Ohhh that gets a “My turn!!” faster than anything else.