Photographing toddlers or young children can be challenging, but when one has just been promoted to big sister or brother status, that’s a whole new ball game. Don’t worry; with the right approach, we will help you get a beautiful photo of your smallest family members.
We aim to hold newborn photo shoots soon after your new baby arrives (usually between day 5 and 14 after birth), which means your other children will still be adapting to a significant change to their family routines. The arrival of a new baby can unsettle the calmest child and makes it essential to plan and prepare well.
In this blog, we will share our top seven tips for a successful photo shoot with your youngest family members and your new baby. From picking the right time for your session; how and why it’s essential to involve them in the process; to taking advantage of our child-friendly studio space. We will draw on our experience to help you navigate the challenges of photographing small kids and their new baby siblings.
When planning your session and the photos you would love, it’s important to consider your older children’s personalities.
Your newborn baby will likely be content once I have them swaddled, and Lynley (our resident baby whisperer) will keep them settled and calm while we get your other children ready for photographing. While some siblings will be completely in love with their new baby (especially those who are four and over) and will be keen to kiss and cuddle them at every opportunity, in our experience, most toddlers are pretty indifferent to their new baby brother or sister at this point in the journey. As such, the goal is to be as quick as possible and to make it easy for your child to be involved in the session.
We have lots of strategies for working with kids. If your child isn’t ready to cuddle their sibling safely, we will use other options such as incorporating a parent to give them more comfort; playing games like pointing to noses and toes; asking the toddler to show baby some toys, and even little tricks such as hiding toys and snacks near the baby to help get your toddler in the frame.
If you have more than one older child, we will ask the eldest to assist. Most are keen to help and hold the baby beautifully while we get their smaller siblings into the shot.
Ultimately, planning well is our best tool, so here are our top 7 tips for getting your child in the right space for a successful photoshoot:
Timing is everything: When scheduling your session, ensure the time allows for your toddler to be well-rested and fed. A cranky and hungry child will not be in the mood to have their photo taken, and it could result in a stressful photo shoot. We like to start around 10.30am. We find most toddlers respond well to a session around this time of day when they have had their morning rest and a snack. Try to wake your toddler slightly before you arrive or plan on having extra time in the car (perhaps having a non-messy snack) so they are awake when you bring them into the studio. For many children introducing a new environment before they have fully woken up can increase anxiety, so it’s best to avoid this.
Involve your child in the planning: To help them feel comfortable and engaged, involve them in the process. Tell them what will happen and show them photos of me (there is one on my website) and the studio so they know what to expect. Explain that you want a beautiful photo of them and their baby sister or brother to hang on the wall and ask them where they might like to put it. We have many pretty dresses, as well as classic shorts and t-shirts that your child can wear, and some children love the opportunity to get dressed up and wear a special outfit. However, if your toddler is shy of new places and experiences, we encourage you to bring them “photo ready” so we aren’t asking them to get changed or undertake any unnecessary steps before we get started. While preparing for the photo shoot at home, it can be helpful to get your child involved in choosing their outfit and picking a toy they love or would like to show their baby sibling during the photoshoot.
Take advantage of our child-friendly studio space: We know how important it is to create a comfortable environment for kids during a photo shoot. That's why we've designed our space to be child and toddler-friendly, with room for them to move around and explore. We have a toy box filled with age-appropriate toys to keep them entertained and help them feel more at ease — our rocking horse is always very popular! We also encourage you to bring some of your child’s favourite toys and snacks from home. These familiar items can help them to feel more relaxed and comfortable, which will lead to more natural and authentic photos. When you arrive at the studio, you will notice that I will greet your child and ask them about their new baby and if they would like to introduce us. Having a new sibling is a huge change, and we focus on making sure your older children feel special. We will judge how your toddler feels and give them the space they need to settle into our studio environment. Lynley will look after your newborn, allowing you to put your energy into helping your older child feel comfortable. Please let me know ahead of time if your child is likely to need extra time and space to settle into the studio — for example, if we know we will need to keep our distance when you arrive, we can ensure we don't crowd them and change the session plan to allow them the extra time they need to relax.
Keep it fun and relaxed: A photo shoot with a toddler can become stressful if you focus too much on getting a specific image. We aim to keep it fun and relaxed and will work towards getting a particular shot, but we will adapt the plan to meet the needs of each child. We take breaks when needed so your toddler can play, snack or explore their surroundings. While photographing, we avoid asking children to smile — as this often results in a forced expression as they try to comply. Instead, we play games with them to make them laugh, resulting in a more natural smile and expression. If we have two adults at the session, we will ask one of you to stay near your child and the other to stand with me while I shoot and help to get your toddler looking towards the camera. We can make them laugh and smile by making silly faces or playing games they enjoy, such a peek-a-boo. We often use bubbles during the session, play music and sing songs, and we have many photogenic toys we can include in the image. During the session, Lynley will be with your newborn and will ensure they are comfortable and safe so you can focus your attention on your toddler.
Patience is key: Children, particularly toddlers, can be unpredictable and sometimes getting the perfect shot requires patience. Don't be discouraged if your toddler isn't cooperating. We will help and guide you and may suggest a break so everyone can regroup. Remember, the most important thing is capturing these special moments with your growing family. Even if they're not exactly as you envisioned them they will still be beautiful and document this moment in time. You may like to come back when your baby is older (perhaps when they are around 7-9 months old and sitting comfortably), and your child has had time to adapt to their arrival, for a family milestone session. At this age, we can capture beautiful interactions and their developing friendship while they play together. These images will be full of personality and are a lovely addition to the newborn portraits.
Plan a treat for your older children to take place after the session. Something we can reference and use as a “carrot” if we feel things are getting off track. Perhaps a favourite food, a particular activity, or even a little gift — you will know what works best as an incentive for your child.
We also encourage you to plan for someone (a parent, grandparent or family friend) to take your older children away from the session, back to nursery, school or off for an adventure as soon as their role in the photo shoot is complete. If you don’t need to entertain and care for your other children, you can relax during the rest of the session. It’s also much nicer for the kids. This can also be a great excuse to get Granny in a photo!
Capturing the perfect photo of a small child or toddler who has just become a big sister or brother can be challenging, but with the right approach, it can also be incredibly rewarding. As specialists in baby and children’s photography we know that every child is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, we hope that these tips provide you with a helpful framework when planning for your photo shoot and will give you confidence that together we can create the perfect photo for your wall.
Remember, timing is everything. Plan your photoshoot around your child's schedule to ensure they are well-rested and fed, and try to schedule it when they are most likely to be in a good mood. Involve them in the process. Let them help choose outfits and props, and make sure they know what to expect when they arrive for the photo shoot by showing them photos of us and our studio.
Keeping the session relaxed and enjoyable is our priority. Don't worry too much about getting the perfect shot. Instead, focus on having fun so we can capture your child's unique personality. Children can be unpredictable, but with a little patience, we will capture beautiful, authentic moments.
As parents, we know how much you want to capture those special moments with your children, and you can be sure that we will work with your toddler and baby to get a beautiful photo for your wall. So why not get in touch to schedule your photo shoot and let us help you create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.
Need more tips on planning your newborn session?
Recently Pregnancy Bump & Baby Magazine asked me for some tips to help parents get the best photos from their newborn baby photo shoot, so if you want to learn more about timing and planning for your newborn session, you can read about it HERE.