Ok. Let’s all address the elephant in the room. Photos with a toddler can be challenging. Let me list the reasons:
- Toddlers are opinionated.
- Toddlers require a LOT for their own happiness (and also nothing – see toddler ignoring the expensive toy in favor of the box…but I digress)
- Toddlers need an endless supply of snacks to get through an hour-long session.
- If toddler didn’t nap, toddler is a nightmare.
- Wrangling a toddler will most definitely always result in a wardrobe malfunction (for mom. Dad will leave looking perfect.)
- Toddlers have the reasoning capability of a larvae. Just don’t even try.
I could go on and on…because I see a lot of toddlers…but let’s turn this around and consider the other elephant in the room: that all of the above statements came from parents or caretakers of toddlers. In *my* opinion, photos with a toddler can be fun if you proceed carefully. Let’s talk about it.
I fully acknowledge that the above statements can be true much of the time. However, ALL of it can be managed by the parentals and that is what today’s post is about…managing the miniature so that photos with a toddler can be fun.
Here are the key points I like to cover with all parents of toddlers who inquire about a photo session with me:
- Today should be the best day ever for your toddler – at least that is what he/she is going to think at the end of it. Your plan for your photo session should be full of tickles and giggles and face smooshies and “daddy, fly me like an airplane!” adventures. All parental attention should be on the toddler and it should be POSITIVE attention. Within reason, your child can do nothing wrong and everything right.
- If a toddler meltdown happens – IGNORE. That’s right, ignore. NO negative attention. Just straight up ignore that shiz and move on to something different. Your precious is just looking for attention. He’ll take it any way he can get it, good or bad. If he seeks and receives good attention (by playing and listening and smiling), he’ll most likely keep up the behavior that gets that good attention. If he gets bad attention (but it’s still attention!!), what’s to keep him from changing his behavior?? He’s getting what he wants, which is attention from mom and dad. If mom and dad ignore the bad behavior, child will revert to behavior that gets good attention, ie good behavior. Consider the following scenario: mom, dad and toddler are having an amazing time. Mom hugs toddler, dad hugs mom, they all look at each other and laugh, toddler holds hands with both mom and dad and they swing her through the air, weeeeeee! All is wonderful. Then a switch flips and toddler decides she’s having none of it. Mom and dad shrug then ignore and pair up for some snuggly couple shots without toddler. Toddler realizes that attention has been diverted away from her and scurries over wanting more hugs and love. Mom and dad comply and more fun is had by all. Sounds divine, right? Of course it’s never going to be that lovely in real life unless your baby is a puppet. However, you’re more likely to avoid major catastrophes and hard-core tantrums if you simply ignore bad behavior than if you respond negatively.
- NO ELECTRONICS PLEASE. Some parents think it’s easier to hand a device to the little one than to deal with whatever behavioral issue is occurring. What they fail to consider is the throw-down that’s coming when they try to take away said device. I’ve seen it happen, it’s NOT pretty and the overall negativity that follows is just not worth it. Keep the devices in the car and focus on all those hugs and snuggles. I promise you that authentic smiles and giggles will result from all that playing and twirling – and isn’t that, after all, what you hired me to capture??
- Along the lines of giving positive attention and withholding negative attention…please never tell your toddler that he’s being bad. He’s not. He’s being a toddler. No toddler is bad. Her behavior might be bad but she is not bad. She’s simply responding to what is happening and, as covered in #2, that is completely up to the parents to manage.
- PLEASE DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME. A lot of the issues I see go down at sessions with a toddler occur because the parents are embarrassed by the toddler’s behavior and their embarrassment prevents them from critically thinking about the situation. They’re thinking, “OMG! We’re paying this photographer for photos and little Jessie is being atrocious and we’re not going to get good shots and we’re wasting time and it’s bad, all of it is bad.” This thinking leads to threats and bribes and words spit out through gritted teeth…when what should be happening is a quiet moment, attention paid to what is bothering the mini, a cuddle and some gentle words. Not only does all that DE-escalate the situation, it also gives me, the savvy and on-the-ball photographer, opportunity to capture these precious, real-life moments that are happening. Daddy’s head bent close to upset toddler, momma’s hand gently brushing the hair away from the brow, cuddles and snuggles and a quiet moment, peace being restored. None of those moments would’ve happened if the threats and bribes and gritted teeth are the method used to correct the toddler, and certainly I’m not documenting it because who wants to remember that??? Bottom line: I shouldn’t be a photographer who photographs young families if I don’t have the patience to understand and wait out these toddler moments. You never have to worry about me during these meltdowns. Just deal sweetly and gently with your tiny tornado and we can be moving on in no time. Photos with a toddler can be fun!!
One last thing: Yes. I am attaching this blog post to new baby Ava’s lifestyle session. Yes, her big sister Renley *was* actually part – but not all – of the inspiration behind the idea for this blog post. I pulled from every toddler session I have shot to compile these tips/tricks. No, I am not calling Renley out. Not at all. She merely inspired this post because I’ve worked with a lot of families with a toddlers and they all share similar toddler characteristics. Renley is featured because she was a normal toddler doing normal toddler things. Her mood ranged from “ohmygosh this is the bestdayEVAR” to “meh, not into it, leave me alone”. Her parents’ responses were normal parent responses to normal toddler behavior. When she could be ignored, they ignored it. When she needed to be corrected, they corrected. The session ended with me on the floor reading a book to Renley, who had swung back to feeling like it was the best day ever. See? Photos with a toddler can be fun! I love this family. Want to see more? Check out this post and this post 🤗DISCLAIMER: This is not parenting advice in any way. I know that you know how to parent and what is best for your child in every day life. Photos, however, bring an extra layer of stress and anxiety that can sometimes lead to decisions that lead to behavioral issues in the wee ones and that is what I am addressing. Otherwise, you got this, warrior parents. You OWN parenting.
Liz Viernes Photography is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.
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