Today we celebrate the first year of Payton Elizabeth Mowry, my first Grandchild.
She recently picked up a new skill: she’s a walker! She walks.
And that means I needed to become better at photographing my favorite toddler. Here are some tips for you to get the most out of the pictures that will be oh-so-important to you and yours when you are fortunate enough to have a toddler around.
You are not in control. I really don’t care who you are, if you can read this, you’re not in control. The person in control is the little one, with the least communication skill, the least physical control … and TOTAL emotional control of your photographic event. Get used to it.
Schedule a window of opportunity. Go back to point # 1. Collaborate with the toddler’s mother, and come up with a range of times that might work between naps, meal time, the phase of the moon, and whatever else might control the beloved toddler’s schedule. And then, pray that you guessed right. (We didn’t.)
Survey the photo shoot location. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting in the kitchen or a park … have several different shots in mind when the toddler is ready for their close up. Different colors will work with different outfits (remember, they’ll stain the best outfit before they get there, so don’t be surprised if they’re in a different color than you expected), so be ready with some variety.
Props are good. Your toddler may want to play with something, and props look good in photos. Everybody loves a rubber ducky, a baseball, or a fluffy toy.
Mommy’s important. She’s the one that the toddler will naturally focus on, so make sure Mommy’s on board with her responsibility to help focus the toddler’s eyes where you need them. You can have a squeaky toy … but you’ll never be as important as Mommy at this age.
Remember the lighting. The sun will move, the angle of light will change, and toddlers will not accept having bright sun in their eyes. Have the shady spots picked out, or have someone ready with an umbrella, window covering or convenient move of a tree branch.
Move quickly. Have several locations in mind, and methodically move through them in a few minutes. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the toddler’s sweet face with a smile on it for a couple of minutes. If the event hasn’t descended into tears in 15 minutes, you are indeed fortunate. We ended up using 9 different set-ups in 35 minutes.
Take a lot of shots. You are shooting digitally, right? Keep shooting. You’re looking for that one perfect shot, and you don’t know when an accidental event will trigger that perfect smile, that cute pose, that serendipitous moment that you MUST CAPTURE. Keep shooting. Shoot at the highest quality, so you can print the best shot. Have extra chips for your camera, and fill’em up. You can always hit delete later. In this shoot, I took 255 shots in 35 minutes. That’s an average of 7 shots every minute … and we didn’t get a great shot!
Process quickly. In today’s society, you need to have the pictures up on Facebook within the hour, or you’ll be getting snide comments from the family. Get a fun shot or two up on your photo sharing platform of choice as quickly as possible … and then add more as quickly as possible. Of course you’ll need more time for the ultimate processing for those perfect prints you’re going to give out as gifts, but you’re not ordering prints first. You’re posting the immediate shots that you can get up on social media as quickly as possible. You’ll probably not be fast enough (because the Mom, Aunt or Grandmother is probably shooting with her cellphone and uploading the pictures DURING the shoot.).
Print rough copies. I use our color laser printer to get pix up on the refrigerator ASAP. The quality isn’t perfect … but not only does the family appreciate the pictures on the fridge, we’ve found that Payton loves to look at the baby on the fridge! Don’t miss that.
Order prints. Most people still display treasured photographic prints somewhere. Order them, ship them. Out-of-state relatives will thank you. Seriously.