Tips for Enjoyable Family Photos with Busy Toddlers

Practical tips for having a fun experience that results in amazing family photos when active toddlers are part of the crew!

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Following a few simple tips, it’s totally possible to have an enjoyable family photos with active toddlers who are eager to explore and run around. This is such a fun stage to photograph!

As a parent to one of these tiny balls of energy, ‘enjoyable’ may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about getting family photos taken. You might even be prepping yourself for their worst behavior! Will they be the charming prince you know they can be? Or the tornado of a human that doesn’t sit still for more than 5 seconds? 

No matter what version of them shows up, it will be fine! There are things you can do before and during your session to help the photographer create the best images for your family!

The best way to have enjoyable family photos with toddlers? Let go of expectations for perfect behavior

Toddlers are full of curiosity, energy, and crazy emotions. Let them, and even encourage them to, be silly, play, and move their little bodies. 

As photographers, we have some tricks up our sleeve to encourage toddlers and preschoolers to participate in family photos. But that’s harder to do when threats of discipline are hanging over their heads.

You want these photos to bring back happy memories and not a reminder of how frustrated you were when your toddler listened to zero directions for the better part of 45 minutes. 

Here are some simple ways you can do this:

  • Follow their lead
  • Let them explore
  • Smile and laugh at their silliness
  • Go along with their antics (or shyness!) and engage with whatever they’re doing
  • Don’t make the family photos a surprise outing and tell them about it several times the week before your session
  • Avoid discipline during your session if at all possible

Let your busy toddler lead the way and focus on having fun together

It is REALLY HARD as a parent to let go of being the ring leader – I’ve been there. Unless your kids are putting themselves in harm’s way or are hurting others, it’s okay to just let them be themselves!

The best photos will happen when you allow the photographer to guide the session and your time together and simply focus on having fun with your toddler and the rest of the fam! (and don’t worry – we have no problems asking for your help if it gets to that point!)

Pro tip: having a mess-free snack on hand can help, especially if your session time is creeping up on a normal meal or snack time for them. (fruit snacks work really well!)
BUT – try not to use them as flat-out bribery! 🙂

Trust your photographer!

You’ve hired them knowing they can create beautiful images and capture those fun family moments. I can promise you that the toddlers in their photos were not perfectly behaved little cherubs 😉 

Engaging with your toddler and going with the flow of their whims will make the photographer’s job much easier and give you beautiful family photos.

If there are songs your kids like or games that are guaranteed to get their attention, bring those ideas with you and share them with your photographer!

Kids running around their parents during family photo session

By following a few simple tips, you can have a lot of fun AND get amazing photos with your toddler! Let go of those expectations of perfect behavior, trust in your photographer’s vision and guidance, and above all, embrace the laughter, silliness, and spontaneity of your little ones. The most authentic and cherished family photos often come from moments when everyone is simply being themselves and enjoying the moment!

Ready to capture your own family’s beautiful chaos?

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Ashley Morrisey

Tacoma-based lifestyle newborn and family photographer serving South Puget Sound + greater PNW


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