Blog Home Contributor Featured Contributors How to Take Better Pictures of Young Children and Babies

It’s tough to capture cute shots of little kids—they’re squirmy and, well, prone to tantrums. Try these expert tips on catching special moments.

Laura Froese is a photographer and instructor known for her warm, playful, and beautifully-lit pictures of young children. “I began taking photos of couples—weddings, engagements, that sort of thing—but when I started having my own kids, I shifted my focus to families and newborns,” Froese says.

Toddler in Pajamas
Image via Laura Froese.

With small, adorable models on call 24/7, Froese was able to hone her skills and create a beautiful and varied library of lifestyle photos perfect for licensing.

She’s also learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to get the most out of even the fussiest and most seemingly disinterested or uncooperative toddlers. Lessons she’s more than happy to share.

Toddler Cuddling Dinosaur
Image via Laura Froese.

1. Make Them Part of the Process

“I very rarely tell my kids, ‘Come stand over here. Mommy needs to take a photo,’” Froese says. “If I’m trying to set up a specific shot, with my older kid, I try to collaborate and be like, ‘This is what I’m thinking for this photo. Would you like to be a part of that? Would you like to add anything to that?'”

Toddler Drinking Cocoa
Image via Laura Froese.

“And, with my younger kids, honestly, I just straight up bribe them. I have a little box of mini cookies that I call my photo cookies—whoever my helper is gets a cookie. I kind of view it as payment for me taking their play time. And, now they actually argue over who gets to be in the photos, because they all want the cookie.” 

Kids Playing with Bubbles
Image via Laura Froese.

2. Instead of Giving Orders, Ask Questions

“I very rarely say things like, ‘Look at me’ or ‘Look here,’” Froese says. “Instead, I try to get them to engage with their environment. So, if I need them to look toward the light coming in from a window, I’ll ask, ‘Do you see any birds in that tree out there?’ Or, if I need them to look at me, I might ask them to show me whatever it is that they are playing with. Little prompts like those are really helpful.”

Toddlers Eating Carrots
Image via Laura Froese.

3. No Smiles, No Problem

Sometimes, kids just don’t want to be photographed. Especially when their parents have brought them to a strange place—with a photographer and other adults they don’t know—where they are expected to be and act and dress a certain special way.

Toddler Napping
Image via Laura Froese.

But, just because a kid is feeling sulky or anti-social, doesn’t mean you can’t get some beautiful photos out of the session. “I always tell my clients, ‘No smiles, no problem,’” Froese says.

Father Carrying Son
Image via Laura Froese.

“We might not be able to do a formal portrait, but we can still get some beautiful lifestyle shots of the parents cuddling their moody toddlers, and those will be beautiful, too.”


4. Make Sure to Bang out the Most Difficult or Complex Photos First 

Toddlers Cuddling on Couch
Image via Laura Froese.

“I always try to get the Christmas photo done right at the beginning of the shoot, because when kids meet someone new, they’re usually a bit more [obedient],” Froese says. “Once they start having fun and see me as fun, that’s when I’ve lost them, and then we just do lifestyle pictures from that point on.”


5. Use Games to Get the Most out of Shy or Uncooperative Kids

“I just find that games help kids to become more authentically involved,” Froese says. “Recently, I was doing a shoot with a little girl who was absolutely not going to stand anywhere I wanted and would only look at the ground.”

Toddler Chasing Bubbles
Image via Laura Froese.

“So, I got her to go behind her dad and play peekaboo with me. Every time she would pop out to say peekaboo, I’d spray my shutter and try to capture it, and we actually got some great moments that way.”


6. Provide Your Clients with a Style Guide to Help Them Choose the Best Outfits

This one is important for kids and adults alike, as bad outfits can doom any photo shoot from the beginning. “I always tell my clients not to be too matchy. Like, don’t all wear the same color shirt, avoid logos, and stuff that is going to pull the viewer’s eye away from your face. And then, I include a bunch of visual examples of clients and families that I have worked with and explain why their outfits work.”

Toddlers at the Pond
Image via Laura Froese.

“For example, ‘This works because they’ve chosen a pink and blue color palette. And, notice how this scarf brings in a bit of pattern and a bit of interest without being overbearing?’ Then, I encourage them to send me pictures of what they’ve got, so we can choose outfits together.”

Toddler with Stuffed Fox
Image via Laura Froese.

7. Create a More Pleasing Scene

Turn off the overhead lights. If they’re on the couch, knock everything they aren’t playing with onto the floor, and then just crop it out. 

Kids Playing with Dinosaurs
Image via Laura Froese.

“My friends always ask me how I keep my house so clean, and I say, “My house is not clean. I’m just shooting with the floor cropped out,’” Froese says. “People think they have to have this studio-ready house to take nice photos, but they don’t. Just clear a little clutter before you start and be aware of what is in your frame.”


8. Pair Your Kids with Accessories that Contrast the Colors of the Walls

Doing this will allow you to take more visually appealing photos every time you pick up your camera. Start by printing out a color wheel and looking at what colors are opposite each other. Opposite colors go best together.

So, for example, red looks best next to green, and orange looks good with blue

Toddler Carrying a Pumpkin
Image via Laura Froese.

“I chose to paint my house blue,” says Froese, “So, naturally, yellow and orange are going to look really nice against the walls of my house. So, when I buy stuffed animals for my kids, I usually buy foxes, because they’re orange. Or, if I’m picking an accent rug or something, I might choose something yellow.” 

Toddler Eating an Apple
Image via Laura Froese.

9. Manage Your Expectations

“Just because you have a vision for a photo doesn’t mean it’s going to look exactly like that,” Froese says. And, that’s okay! If you stay open, you might find that you end up with something better, or at least more interesting than what you thought you wanted when you set out.

Toddlers Playing on Couch
Image via Laura Froese.

“Sometimes, I will set up the location and the light, and the kids just won’t do what I want them to. And, that’s fine. That’s just the photo I’m going to get that day. And, honestly, ‘Done’ is better than ‘Perfect.’”


Cover image via Laura Froese.