What do you do when the terrible twos live up to their hype…

…during your family portrait session?

Perhaps they have a cold.  Maybe they missed their nap.  It could even be as simple as they wanted to wear their tutu to the shoot and you said no.  They are toddlers. They do what they want.

Can I just interject here?  I LOVE toddlers.  They are my favorite people to photograph.  All of their emotions are so genuine.  I love their creativity, sillyness, and pure happiness.  And a little tantrum can’t take all those great toddler traits away.  

First, you’re probably going to be in denial, and think that they’ll get better in a minute.  More than likely that’s not the case.  Now it’s time to accept their mood and try a few tricks I have learned from years of working with toddlers.

You never know when the tantrumis going to start, so it’s best to be prepared. Here’s how to be ready before you even leave the house:

  1. Make sure they are fed.  Doesn’t matter if you are going out to eat afterward.  EVERYONE is happier when their stomach is full.
  2. Bring snacks, water, or something else to drink.  But please make sure it’s nothing that’s going to turn their lips, teeth, and mouths blue.  Some good snacks for shoots are apple slices, cheerios, goldfish, milk, freeze dried veggies, etc.
  3. Pack a toy you wouldn’t mind having in your photos.  I like to use kids’ favorite toys to help make them smile, but there have been times where they get jealous and want to hold the toy themselves.  So if you bring a toy, make sure it’s one you like.
  4. Bring a bargaining chip.  You decide what that is for you kid.  Maybe it’s a piece of chocolate or cookie.  You could tell them that once we are done you’ll go out for ice cream.  But don’t let them know about this before the shoot.

You did everything you could to try to avoid a terrible two moment.  But here it is, at your shoot that you’ve had scheduled for a month.  These are the things that I do to help improve a kid’s mood, even if it is for just a second (that’s all I need for a few good shots):

  1. Take a break.  Give them a little mommy or daddy time.  If maybe they just need to feel like they need to be alone. Having some space from the shoot can be all they need to snap out of it.
  2. Hand your photographer the toy you brought.  It should at least get your little one’s attention, looking towards the camera.  I like to tickle kids with their toy and then back up pulling the toy right next to the camera.  I also like to toss the toy in the air on the count of three and catch it.  During the counting, they tend to be looking and smiling at the toy.
  3. Take a snack break.  If they are hungry, they are going to be moody.  Sometimes a little snack helps get them out of that funk zone, and into a place that is a little chiller.
  4. Play and sing.  If they really are not having it at this point, the best photos that you are going to get are candid.  Let them chase you around a little, toss them up in the air (if that’s something you do (safety first)), spin in a circle, sing songs.  The list goes on.  You know your kiddo.  Do something with them they enjoy.
  5. Now that we’ve tried everything else, pull out the big guns – the bargaining chip.  Let them know that they have something special coming their way, but first, we need to take the photos.   It’s important that you don’t just give it to them.  First photos, then prize. 
  6. Just go with it.  This is them. You are bound to get a few great shots.