Common Pitfalls of Toddler Photography and How to Avoid Them

two children holding hands

From crying newborns, to fidgety toddlers, to camera-shy preschoolers, photographing children at different ages comes with its own challenges and requires different strategies to overcome them. Read on to learn what pitfalls to avoid when trying to capture the fleeting beauty of childhood between the first and third years of age.


While undeniably cute, toddlers are not the most obliging models. They won’t sit still for anything, they rarely look where you want them to and you most certainly can’t get a good smile from them just by asking for one. At the same time, they are blissfully unaware of the camera’s presence, turning your ordinary staged shots into true-to-life photographic souvenirs that capture raw emotions and genuine moments of a childhood well spent.

1. Containing the restlessness

toddler playing on the floor

Toddlers wiggle and fidget and squirm. Especially, it would seem, when someone is trying to take a decent photo of them. Not that we blame them – having a camera shoved in your face and being told not to move isn’t much fun for anyone, let alone a beginning walker, eager to test their new motor skills every waking minute. So, how to tackle the problem of restlessness? One way to make a child hold still long enough for a picture to be taken is by providing them with somewhere to sit.

So, rather than chasing the little wiggler around, put them in a high chair or on a rocking horse, hand them a toy or a rattle and let them do their thing. This should buy you a minute or two of momentary stillness in which you can manage to sneak a few shots before they resume their squirming and try to get off.

2. Getting them to look into the camera

baby crawling on the floor

Left to their own devices, toddlers will always explore their surroundings, looking everywhere but at the camera. It is your job to direct their gaze to where you need them to look. To that end, grab an item – anything, really, as long as it doesn’t pose a choking hazard to the child – to get their attention and hold it up in front of them. You can then hand the object to the toddler and give them some time to inspect and play with it. At some point, they are bound to look up at you to show their delight. That’s the moment you have to be ready for! Alternatively, you can try making noises with a squeaky toy, but don’t overuse it or after a while the child will get bored and ignore the sound altogether.

If possible, have a family member keep the child entertained and looking in the right direction. This will make the whole experience a lot less stressful. Remember that whatever you try will work for a very short time, so use your tricks sparingly and only right before snapping the photo. 

3. Making them smile

laughing toddler

Until around the age of three, children are mostly unaware of the camera’s presence. That’s when it’s the easiest to elicit genuine emotion from them and capture all the joyous candid moments of laughter and toothless grins. But don’t worry, even as they grow older and develop enough self-consciousness to feel inhibited by the camera, you can still bring out the giggles in them! If your toddler is on the younger end and talking to them isn’t working, simply act a little goofy with them! Make funny animal noises. Play peekaboo behind your camera. Heck, dust off your best chicken dance moves if need be! If they are older, engage in silly talk.

You can also play the old reverse psychology game and tell them they must keep a serious face, and under no circumstances are they allowed to smile or laugh. Asked not to smile, kids usually can’t help but crack up every single time!

What to do with your toddler photographs

girl holding camera toy

From the first tooth to the first wobbly step, toddler photos are absolutely heart-melting and a family keepsake for generations. Here are three ways to display toddler images that never go out of fashion.

  1. Create a canvas print. You can start with one or a gallery (3-4 smaller images from a scene). It is sure to become a timeless family heirloom and a talking point on any wall.
  2. Make a photo book. Put together a custom baby book that showcases their first days in photos. Easy to make and fun to look through, a photo book is a perfect gift for proud parents, grandparents and other family members.
  3. Have your images printed. Sometimes the easiest way to get those photos off your computer is to print them out and compile in a good old-fashioned photo album.

Toddler photography isn’t a piece of cake, but it’s not impossible, either. If you’ve encountered any other challenges when photographing toddlers, let us know in the comments!



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