10 Tips for a Great Photoshoot with a Toddler

olive chan —  September 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

As an early Christmas gift this year, Tim and I decided to give my parents a family photoshoot while they were in town earlier this month. It was our first time doing an outdoor photo session with Allie – and the first time all five of us had nice pictures taken together. Our friend Karis, from Karis Truman Photography, took our photos and we were thrilled with how they turned out. In the process, we learned a few tricks about getting great shots with a toddler!

10 tips for a great photoshoot with a toddler

Tip #1: Determine Some Shots Beforehand

A couple days before our session, I spent an hour or so looking for family photo ideas that piqued my interest. I created a Pinterest board and sent it along to Karis so that she could get a better sense of what kind of pictures we were going for. Having some shots in mind made the photoshoot process go a lot quicker and translated into photos that we actually liked at the end.

Tip #2: Pick A Good Time

Our daughter is generally most energetic and happiest in the morning so we chose 10am for our photoshoot. I’m not as cheery in the mornings, but I managed to overcome my grogginess by the time we made it to the park.

family photoshoot 4Tip #3: Use Props

Books, bubbles, an empty picture frame and a large blanket were all great to have on hand for the photoshoot. Having props made for more interesting pictures but also served to keep our toddler’s attention.

Tip #4: Pack Snacks and Water

Being a model is hard work! Partway through our session, Allie needed a snack break. While she and I sat on a bench and shared some animal crackers, Karis continued taking some photos of my parents.

family photoshoot 3Tip #5: Choose a Fun Location

Allie and I often go to a fantastic park by our place. When I thought about potential locations for our photos, I knew that this park would work really well. Aside from the regular playground equipment which we could use as props, the park also had a large grassy area which gave us a lot of flexibility and variety to work with. The fact that Allie was already familiar with the park also worked to our advantage because she felt right at home.

Tip #6: Coordinate Your Outfits

Having colour coordinated clothing is perhaps an optional thing, but it does make your photos seem more professional. One suggestion I’d read before was to go with a neutral base and add one other colour. We looked at the clothes we had (i.e., what was in my parents’ suitcase) and decided to go with blue as our accent colour. If you’re unsure of what to wear, a quick search will give you lots of ideas for colour combinations.

Allie is being entertained by cartwheels here.

Allie is being entertained by cartwheels here.

Tip #7: Bring an Extra Person

I admit, this was Karis’ expert photographer idea. She brought her oldest daughter along as her helper which turned out to be awesome. One of the hardest parts of photo-taking with a young child is getting the child to look up at the camera. While we set up for a photo, Karis’ daughter did cartwheels behind her mother which kept Allie’s attention. Watching cartwheels was a great way to get Allie not only to look up, but also to smile.

Tip #8: Hope for Cooperative Weather

OK, so this one’s pretty much out of your control, but one can still hope, right? The morning of our photo session, the sky looked overcast and we thought it might rain. Thankfully, it did not. Instead, the cloud cover provided some pretty perfect diffuse light and we weren’t left squinting into the sun. Moral of the story: clouds can be a good thing.

family photoshoot 6Tip #9: Know When to Stop

A toddler’s capacity for staying still and looking at a camera is quite limited. Before an hour was up, we could tell that Allie was getting restless and wanted to go home. We were actually pretty thrilled that she’d lasted that long. We didn’t get through all the photo ideas I had in mind but I knew I had to let it go and simply be grateful for the photos we did get.

Tip #10: Have Fun!

Doing a family photoshoot is a wonderful opportunity to create memories with family members. The artist in me tends toward wanting the “perfect” set of pictures but I realize that in the end, it’s not about looking good. It’s about enjoying the time spent with the people I love most. And the more fun we have, the better the pictures turn out anyway.


Special thanks to Karis Truman for these fantastic photos and a memorable Saturday morning.


  • Arnilie

    I love the pics! Absolutely amazing! Lots of great tips in the article as well. Thanks for sharing.

    • olivechan

      Thanks Arnilie!