How to Have a Relaxed Family Photo Shoot With Your Toddler

relaxed photo shoot toddler

Life with a toddler can be non-stop. Your little one is on the move and into absolutely everything. 

You’re so proud to see them grow, you’re looking forward to a time when it’s not quite so exhausting, but it’s also bittersweet. Your little one isn’t a baby anymore and part of you wants to press the pause button and keep them this little for longer.

As I write, my youngest daughter is 15 months old and I can empathise with these feelings all too well. 

We recently had our own family photo shoot and I’m so pleased that we were able to capture this time before she grows too big.

But whilst it’s so important to capture this time and preserve our memories, having a photo shoot with a toddler can be a little more challenging than at other ages. 

Once they’re on the move many toddlers have a natural preference for exploring and investigating their surroundings over sitting or standing in one place for a photograph!

So how can you make sure that your photo shoot is relaxed and enjoyable? 

A lot of it comes down to planning. And in this article I’ll share my top five my dos and don’ts for a relaxed photo shoot with your toddler.

outdoor family pictures with toddler

Do: Plan Your Shoot For A Time When Your Toddler Will Be Well Fed and Well Rested

Preparing for a relaxed photo shoot starts before you book it.

If you have a baby, toddler or young child it’s really important to consider when they are at their best during the day. For most children, this is when they’re well fed and well rested. 

Generally speaking this is when children are at their happiest and most cooperative, and scheduling your shoot for just after a nap and a meal or snack will make for a happier, more relaxed shoot.


Don’t: Feed Your Toddler During The Photo Shoot

If you’re anything like me, you definitely don’t want anyone to take your photograph whilst you have food in your mouth. It’s rare for anyone to look good in a photograph when they’re eating – even cute toddlers!

But when they’re in the middle of a photo shoot and their toddler isn’t cooperating, many parents reach for the snacks. This is totally understandable. Most young children are calm and cooperative when they have food. I know mine are! 

But it doesn’t make for great photographs. And when you’re investing in professional photographs of your children you don’t want them to be making funny chewing faces in your family photographs.

Instead I recommend making sure your toddler is well fed before the shoot, and then keeping food out of sight until afterwards.

Keeping toddlers entertained photo shoot

Do: Plan For How You Will Engage And Keep Your Toddler Focussed

My style of family photography is natural and relaxed, and during a shoot I’ll often ask families to talk, play and connect with each other whilst they try to forget that I’m there.

I find that the most effective thing parents can do ahead of the shoot is to spend some time thinking about the kinds of games you play with your child that are always guaranteed to grab their attention and make them smile or laugh. 

Perhaps it’s singing an action rhyme, pretending to be the tickle monster or making a funny voice. For others it might be putting their child on their shoulders, or swinging them up in the air. 

Having a list of different things you can do to keep your little one focussed on you or me in the moment will really help us to quickly capture a variety of different photographs and make sure that your toddler enjoys themselves.


Don’t: Bring Toys That You Don’t Want To Have In The Photographs

Similarly, a favourite toy or book can help to keep your toddler focussed during the shoot.

If you have any special toys or books that you would like to include in the photographs do pack these for the shoot too. They can make wonderful additions to the pictures, and keep your little one entertained whilst we take them. 

But… I do recommend that if you don’t want a toy or book to appear in the pictures it is better to leave it at home or in the car. 

Out of sight usually means out of mind, and we won’t have to upset your little one by taking it away from them.

Toddler reading book in photo shoot

Do: Ask The Photographer What They Would Like You To Do

If you’re at your shoot and your toddler is not feeling cooperative it can be tempting to start shouting at them, singing or jumping around to try and get their attention. This is completely understandable. You’re investing in professional photographs and you want them to be perfect.

But sometimes all this activity can have the opposite effect, and your toddler won’t be looking in the right direction, or may become even more wound up. 

If your toddler isn’t feeling cooperative the best thing you can do is stay calm and ask the photographer what they would like you to do. 

This will depend on the situation. Sometimes it is helpful for me if parents do try and grab their child’s attention or make them laugh. Sometimes it’s helpful if they distract their child and engage them in an activity. On other occasions what works best is for you to step out of your child’s sight (where you can still see them of course); without an audience children are often a lot more focussed.

Your photographer will know what your child needs to be doing for the best possible outcome so do ask them what they would like you to do.


In Summary: How To Have A Relaxed Family Photo Shoot With Your Toddler

In summary, my top 5 tips for a happy and relaxed photo shoot with your toddler are:

  1. Plan your shoot for a time when your toddler will be well fed and well rested
  2. Don’t feed your toddler during the photo shoot
  3. Plan for how you will engage your toddler and keep them focussed
  4. Don’t bring toys that you don’t want in the photographs
  5. Ask the photographer what they would like you to do

Family photo shoot with toddler

Over To You

I hope that this article has helped you to feel relaxed and prepared for your family photo shoot. 

If you have any other questions about booking a family photo shoot please let me know in the comments below and I will get back to you.

You can find out more about booking a family photo shoot with me here.


Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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