Meet Austin, aged 2 years old, who has to be one of the smiliest and energetic kids I've ever photographed! As any parent will know, toddlers typically tend not to stay still for any length of time and are one of the most challenging of subjects to photograph - basically I consider toddler photography as a type of sports photography! That said, with a few basics in mind, this age group can be very rewarding to photograph as they are generally so exuberant, un-selfconscious and full of natural, delighted expression. I have become somewhat of a specialist in this age range so I thought it would be helpful to give some of my top tips for photographing toddlers!
How to photograph toddlers outdoors
First of all I probably have an advantage, in that I specialise in outdoor family photography, which I find really helps when photographing kids. There’s space for them to run, new things to examine and places to explore. Even if it’s a park they visit often, I find being out in the fresh air (and hopefully sunshine!) with other people around, animals, birds and planes overhead can generate energy and interesting expressions. There’s usually pigeons and squirrels if nothing else, although recently there’s a certain peacock in Holland Park who likes to come and say hello during my sessions!
Here Austin loved running down the little pathways between the flowerbeds, examining the brightly-coloured flowers, playing with a stick he found, looking at the bees on the lavender, walking along the low walls, climbing on dad’s shoulders and being thrown in the air! All these activities made for great portraits, especially where one or other of the parents was naturally involved. It’s really important to have lots of ideas for things kids might want to do (although of course these will often be shot down in flames), and be ready to move onto the next idea once an activity gets old.
It also helps to bring toys or other distractions, once toddlers run out of interest in the natural environment! For example, Austin’s parents brought his cute wooden scooter along with them for the photoshoot - it was great for him to burn off some energy on a favourite toy, and lovely to capture that memory for the family.
On the technical side of things, I like to use a long zoom lens, particularly in busy parks where the compression softens distractions in the background and the narrow field of view cuts out other people to either side. The zoom means I can keep up with toddlers sprinting into the distance and also running towards me! My go-to lens is my 70-200mm. I also make sure to keep my shutter speed up, to at least 1/500 sec, by having my aperture wide open, and upping my ISO if need be so that the movement of the child is frozen. I only use natural light.
Contemporary family portraits
These family photos were commissioned in honour of Austin’s second birthday and I think we achieved a lovely range of expressions by keeping him happy and busy in the park. These are the sort of natural and modern family photos which are a true record of a child at that particular age - and something I try to achieve with all my photo shoots. Here's some favourites from this session!
"We had a great experience with Heather, she is a very friendly and professional photographer who knows how to capture those most precious family moment so beautifully! We feel very lucky to find her to take pictures for our son and as he grows, we will always treasure those lovely moments!"