1. Be ready to start shooting the moment the session starts. Toddlers are usually a little shy and coy in the very beginning. This is your golden opportunity to get him or her to sit still for a few moments, and perhaps get some good close ups and other natural shots. Therefore it is crucial to have all gear tested and ready before session starts.
2. Sit the toddler down. When the toddler starts feeling confident and wants to move around and explore all the exciting things in your studio this is the time to sit or place them. The toddler can be seated on a chair or stool, in a box or a bucket, whatever you have handy in your studio. If you are outside look for a bench, a big rock, or anything similar. This way you have a few moments to shoot while the toddler is occupied with sitting. For bigger (and faster) toddlers, I try sitting them on higher chairs so it takes a few moments for them to figure out how to get down. (And of course I keep mummy close by to avoid any accidents!)
3. Bubbles. Lots of bubbles. They never fail to get the toddlers attention. I even have small bottles of bubbles to give away after the session.
4. Dancing. Another way of getting your toddler in the mood is to get them dancing. And for a photo session everything is allowed, even dancing on the bed!
5. Change your angles. I am sure you already know to get down to the child’s level when taking pictures of children, and I am happy to state that I spend about half of my work day lying on my belly. But, like every other rule, it has its exceptions. During a session I always try to get as many angles in as I can. Front, 45 degrees above, 90 degrees above, etc. And to get even more variety, if the kid is willing to sit still, I change her angles too, to shoot her from the front, diagonal, from the side, looking outside (I have a window in my studio and I always ask my kids to look out and see if they can see the birdies…). And I even love pictures where the toddler is sitting or standing with her back to me, or walking away from me.
6. Magic tricks. I know I am steeling this trick from someone, but I am using it anyway, it works wonders for older toddlers. The penny-trick. Place a penny or any other coin on the floor, and make the toddler hide it with his little feet. Another version of this for slightly smaller kids: stickers. Have them stand on the sticker, just be careful to get the stickers that are easy to remove, so you aren’t stuck with editing them out in every single frame afterwards.
7. Talking about stickers, there is another funny way of keeping the toddler busy, and that is putting a little bit of scotch tape on his finger. The kid will give all his attention to getting the tape off and in the meantime you have some moments to shoot. (Do I sound like a really mean photographer by now???)
8. Noises! How could I almost forget this trick? I always always always have squeaky toys up my sleeve; no exception. It is the most effective way to get the toddler look at me (and in the camera), and it will work for at least three or four times. After that the toddler gets “immune” to the noise.
These tips came from MCP Actions