Michele Dawson PHOTOGRAPHY | "Um, I Have a Two-Year-Old ... There's No Way We Can Do Photos" {Phoenix Photographer}

"Um, I Have a Two-Year-Old ... There's No Way We Can Do Photos" {Phoenix Photographer}

July 20, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It's been said to me more than once. "Oh, I'd love to get photos of my children done, but I have a two-year-old, there's no way he/she would ever sit still." And, as the mother of four kids who are now all teens/tweens, I remember all too well the stress and panic that flared up when I attempted to assemble the family for a group shot during a holiday or gathering, let alone in a formal setting for a professional photographer.

During those panic-inducing occasions, I'd march the kids into the portrait studio in their carefully coordinated holiday outfits, bribe the older two and try to get the two babies to smile. One child would have a cheesy, forced grin ("Mom, I smiled."). Another would be looking at the other kids to make sure they're smiling. A baby would be playing with his shoelace, another baby would be drooling with no smile in sight. I'd look at the photos and feel a little let down that they were less than perfect. And, really, how can you expect great photo moments when you plop kids down in an indoor studio for five minutes? You can't.

Now, as a photographer, I've learned a few things about shooting two- and three-year-olds. Yes, they're full of energy. No, they probably won't sit still or do what you want them to do. But that's OK. As they play, explore, and interact, your photographer will capture the essence of their sweet personality.

A few months back, I shot a family with an adorable three-year-old bundle of energy. He buzzed from here to there, didn't want to sit or stand by his sister and made impassioned faces at his parents (like in the photo above).

But after I focused on his sister a bit, he wanted me to look at him. All on his own, he decided to lie on the grass and gave me a beautiful, natural smile. It was a quick moment, because before I knew it he was up and running again, but I captured it and it was my favorite one of him from the session. We moved to a different location in the park and he was more interested in talking about toys and showing how he plays with them. And that provided a few more memorable images.

After the session, the mom was apologetic for what she viewed as her son not cooperating to the best of his ability. And, when she saw the images, she was shocked. "I can't believe you got all those cute shots," she said. 

As I look back on the pictures of my kids as toddlers, the ones I love the most aren't the ones where everyone is smiling perfectly into the camera. It's the ones where they're laughing and showing me their personality. Where they're looking dreamily in the sky or looking at each other as if they're sharing a private joke -- the special moments captured as if nobody else was there. If you're the parent of a toddler and are thinking about a family or child portrait session, here are some things to help your session go smoothly:

  • Plan the session at a time when your child won't be hungry or tired. In the morning right after breakfast or after an afternoon nap might be good times.
  • Allow enough time. Leave yourself enough time to get to the venue so you're not running late. That will just add to your own stress level and your child will pick up on that.
  • Bring snacks and water for your toddler.
  • Grab an extra outfit in case the one your child is wearing for the photo session gets dirty, wet, or anything else that seems to randomly happen when your toddler is outdoors.
  • Bring one of your child's favorite toys, stuffed animals, or blankets. This might help relax your child, and can also be used as a prop.
  • Talk about the photo session with your child ahead of time. Tell them how much fun it will be so they're excited for it.
  • Don't scold them if they become "energetic." A skilled photographer will keep up with your child and will be able to capture some wonderful candid moments. Let your child play and be himself/herself.
  • Don't stress out. If you're stressed, your child gets stressed. This should be a fun experience for your family or child. When they see you smiling and having fun, it's more likely they will, too. Kids will naturally feel a little more unsure in the beginning of the session, but should relax and feel more at ease once they establish a rapport with the photographer.

For questions about booking your family session, contact michele@micheledawsonphotography.com today.






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