I am a super lucky Chocha (Aunt in Ukrainian) because I have the cutest subject available to me whenever I want, but I’m not actually responsible for him 24/7. Best of both worlds! Simon is pushing 2 and is smart, funny and just a real joy to be around. And he gives the best hugs!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of a park outing with Simon & his Mama (my lil sis) where we changed his outfit about four times but otherwise just let him be a toddler. The only prop we used other than Hemingway, who is never too far away (lucky monkey!), was a bottle of purple bubbles.
Pre-photoshoot I read a bunch of articles about shooting toddlers looking for advice and inspiration. Other than the bubble idea (which worked a bit differently with Simon), the main concept I picked up was something I think I already do. Just let them be themselves, and be ready to shoot at all times. Anyone who has spent any time with a toddler knows that you can’t make them do exactly what you want. Make sure they feel safe and comfortable, then it is your job to get in there and capture the moments when they happen.
The bubble idea is a pretty stock one, but Simon is more interested in exploring how they are made (and how they taste) than in chasing them around and squealing in delight. He was actually more entertained by his own game of throwing his monkey on the ground periodically as if Hemingway had just jumped out of his arms! The important lesson here is to just go with it. If he’s fascinated by the bubble wand and how to make them, then just hand it over and wipe the purple bubble goo off his face as required. Withholding the bubble wand would have resulted in a cranky kid, potentially ending our shoot right there. Instead I got some great shots of him being his naturally inquisitive self.
My quick tips on Shooting a Toddler:
- Go with the flow that the toddler provides and don’t bother to try to fight it. Use what they give you – there is a lot there if you are ready for it. Always be ready!
- Make sure they feel safe and comfy.
- Be prepared to change course constantly, lie in the dirt and run around a bit (a lot).
- Props are good but don’t expect them to work for long. Get your shots fast.
- Outfit changes are fun if (and only if) the toddler thinks so too.
- Bubbles. They do work. Just be prepared to have them work in a different way than you originally planned.
- Final thought – I love shooting with my old-school manual lenses, but I can definitely see the value of auto-focus for shooting a toddler.