Kids are constantly changing, so you want to capture them at every stage of their journey. This is easier said than done! Posing a toddler is akin to herding cats.
You’re more likely to end up with blurry shots of crying faces than innocent angelic expressions if you try too hard to force a pose.
You need posing techniques that allow the personality of the child to shine through. Don’t focus on capturing perfection. Instead, let the toddler move and play, and photo them as they have fun.
That doesn’t mean you need to let the toddler dictate the shoot. That’s likely to end in disaster! Come up with some easy games that allow for downtime and playtime, for a good range of flattering toddler photos. Use these tips and tricks for easier ways to pose toddlers.
1. Have Them Sit Down
A simple starting point, but a good one — a sit-down pose is often the easiest way to photograph a toddler. It encourages them to be still for a moment, so you can get a photo with good focus and lighting.
You can have the toddler sit in any place they feel comfortable. If you’re heading outdoors to shoot, look for logs and rocks that act as a chair.
Try and position their legs so that they’re at a natural angle (we know this can be difficult)! Indoors, a chair or cushion will work.
For a particularly restless toddler, you might need to act quickly! Once they’re in place, snap a few shots before they have a chance to get bored. Use props to encourage them to sit still. Distract them quickly with a prop, before calling their attention to the camera.
Alternatively, use a seat that keeps the toddler in place. No, we’re not talking about strapping them in! But buckets, bathtubs, and bean bag chairs are all methods for keeping younger toddlers in place as you take your photos.
2. Have Them Lie Down
Asking a toddler to lie down and photographing them from above is an excellent way to get young kids engaging with the camera.
It can be difficult to get toddlers to look straight into the lens from a front-on perspective. Photos from above are an easier way to create eye contact.
Lying down is also a good way to get an active toddler to stay still for a few minutes! Keep the frame close to the face so that most of the body is out of shot. That allows the child to move their arms and legs about as much as they like, without affecting the image.
This is a pretty simple method, and you want to keep the pose simple. Don’t try to force extra arm movements and complex angles. Instead, let the giggles take over as the kid has fun posing from the floor.
3. Add Props For Them To Interact With
A few props can be the difference between a successful photoshoot and a toddler tantrum. Props not only help the child to pose, but they can also bring about some order when the photography session starts to get stressful.
A favorite toy can be held behind the camera to encourage eye contact. The toy will draw the attention of the toddler, bringing a natural smile to their face. You can then get some excellent photos of the toddler smiling at and reaching for the toy.
But these toys/props don’t need to stay behind the camera! Instead, let the child interact with the toy. As they play you can get photos of them relaxing and having a good time.
4. Get The Hands Involved
For most people who aren’t professional models, it’s always a little awkward to find what to do with your hands when being photographed.
While it’s almost impossible to get a younger toddler to pose with their hands, older toddlers are a little easier to direct. Getting the hands involved is important if you want a flattering photograph. Otherwise, you might find drooping hands make the photos look miserable.
A good way to engage the hands is with a game of copycat. Ask the toddler to copy the poses that you do. Start with a few funny ones to loosen them up and get them smiling.
Then, you can move into some photo-friendly poses. Try using hands on the face, hands on the head, hands under the chin, and so on. Ask them to copy your pose, shout “freeze”, and take the photo.
5. Pose Them In Front Of A Light Source
Lighting a subject from behind is rarely a popular choice in photography, but it can be a good way to capture flattering images of a toddler.
Most of the time, we prefer to have light shining on the subject. This allows us to capture all the details clearly. However, when you shine lights on a child’s face, you’re more likely to capture them squinting or turning away.
A gentle light coming from behind or just off to one side can create a subtle glow around your subject.
Use props to gently block the strong light, so the child doesn’t appear in silhouette. Alternatively, pose the toddler in front of the light source, to help diffuse the brightness.
If parent and toddler are in photos together, a spinning pose is a fantastic way to capture natural smiles. Simply have the parent hold the toddler against their side. The toddler should be held close to eye level, so both smiles are in focus.
Countdown to the spin so that everyone is prepared. This countdown will ramp up the feeling of anticipation, for an even bigger smile in the final picture. Plus, it gives the photographer time to prepare the shot.
The first few photos might be a little awkward, but as the toddler starts to anticipate the movement, you’ll get big smiles right as the shutter goes down.
This is a great option if you’re dealing with a particularly shy toddler. If they’re feeling a little awkward about interacting with the camera, spinning into the shot can dissolve that initial reluctance.
7. Countdown To An Action
Flattering toddler photography is rarely about trying to rein a toddler in. You might get one or two good shots from forcing them to sit still and stare at the camera, but most of the images will be disrupted. Instead, you need to lean into a toddler’s natural playful side.
Counting down to action is a good way to get lots of kinds of photos. Ask the toddler to stand in one place and to jump, dance, run, etc. when you shout “go”. You can then take photos of them waiting in anticipation, and capture the final action.
By turning posing into an exciting moment before they get to play, you can capture the natural energy of a toddler. Mischievous toddlers will start to grin and giggle as they wait for their chance to get playing.
8. Keep Things Natural — Just Let Them Have Fun!
Overly posed photos of toddlers are rarely flattering. You can see the frustration radiating off the toddler! Focusing too much on still poses might get you a few good photos, but nothing that really captures the personality of the child.
Instead, allow the child room to play and have fun. Get them to move about and interact with objects, snapping photos as they go. Dancing is a really good option.
For older toddlers, ask them to show off their best moves. For younger toddlers, try playing a bit of music. Move behind the camera to encourage them to start dancing.
These photos might not have the elegant sheen of a perfectly posed portrait, but they’ll show the spirit of the toddler. And once they’ve tired themselves out running around, you’ll have a better chance at grabbing some quiet sitting-down photos!
Taking flattering photos of toddlers is often a game of patience and going with the flow. If you try too hard to force still poses and big smiles you’ll end up with awkward shots.
Instead, encourage movement and use toys to create engagement. As you capture the natural energy and personality of your subject, you’ll get flattering shots.
Frequently Asked Questions
When photographing young children it’s important to work with them, rather than against them.
Give them toys and props to play with, encourage them to move around, and give lots of praise when you get a good pose. Shoot in a place with excellent lighting, so even candid snaps are usable.
If you want to get a toddler to pose for photos, you have to give them something in return. They aren’t very interested in getting nice photos.
Instead, they want to have fun! Take a few pictures, and then give them their favorite toy. They’ll see it as a reward and start playing for the camera.
Spinning and anticipation games are another way to encourage natural smiles. Ask them to show you their best dance moves, or count down to an activity.