Photographing Little Ones and Advice to Aide the Stress│Stories & Memories Blog

Hey everyone! I want to give you a little background on myself before diving into this blog, because some parents might not like what you read about conducting photo sessions with you younger ones (about 5 and under).

I have been doing photography since 2008 and from those years I have been working with little ones since 2012, so coming up on 4 years now. During three of those four years I worked for JCP Portraits and learned much about photographing little ones in a high demand and high speed environment. Some of you probably have great or bad things to say about JCP Portraits, but for a retail chain studio I absolutely love them! They play no games and there prices are amazing! Now, being separate from them I run my own outdoor photography business where I photography little ones up through adults.

Now with my credentials out of the way, let’s dive in. Over my years as a photographer I have had parents who come in knowing if I get just one photo it is a miracle, but I have also had parents who think their kids pictures are going to be perfect. Let me tell you right now photographing little ones is a hit or miss type of session. Sometimes you walk in and your session goes like this: 122c040013d24c544d9c48016a3194cf

Everything went perfectly! The little one smiled, the background looks perfect, and nothing is out of order. Trust me that doesn’t always happen. Some times you will get this here: 


I can’t tell you how many times I had little ones looking away from the camera or running toward mommy and daddy behind me crying, because they are scared or just don’t want to do it. Trust me this is a natural process.

Yes, as photographers we have tricks up our shelves to get your little bundle of joys attention, but the tricks only last for so long. That is why I am all for shorter sessions with little ones, because of attention span. No, I am not going to say all little ones have ADD or ADHD. That is a subject for a licensed psychologist. I am talking about how in the first four or five years of a child’s life they are learning how to focus on anything for a long period of time.

I did some research on the matter and here is what I found from Day 2 Day Parenting website:

8 – 15 months

Any new activity or event will distract your child, but they can usually attend for one minute or a little longer to a single toy or activity.

16 – 19 months

Your child might be restless, but is able to sustain attention to one structured activity for 2-3 minutes. Your child might not be able to tolerate verbal or visual interference.

20 – 24 months

Your child is still easily distracted by sounds, but can stay attentive to an activity either with or without an adult for 3-6 minutes.

25 – 36 months

Your child can generally pay attention to a toy or other activity for 5-8 minutes. In addition, he/she can shift attention from an adult speaking to him/her and then back to what he/she was doing if he/she is prompted to focus her attention.

3 – 4 years

Your child can usually attend to an activity for 8-10 minutes, and then alternate his/her total attention between the adult talking to him/her and the activity he/she is doing independently. (Toddler).

This information also applies to when they are in a photo session! So here are some tips and advice on your session(s) for your little ones:

  1. When in the studio, private or retail, make sure only one person is trying to make the little one(s) smile. Too much stimulus can distract and frustrate the little one(s).
  2. Don’t be surprised after a couple minutes if the little one gets restless. The photographer should know to change up tactics or if they have what they need change up outfit and scenery.
  3. I wouldn’t schedule longer than a 15 to 20  minute session. If you want more than what this session gives you see if you can work something out with your photographer on scheduling an additional session.
  4. Have an open mind while in the session. If you child is all over the place don’t panic. Some of the cutest pictures can come out of the little ones playing with the prop in front of them or walking around. They are rare moments, but photographers train themselves to find those moments amidst the chaos.
  5. If your little one isn’t having it: DON’T FORCE THEM. Forcing them will cause more issues. Like I said it is a hit or miss when it comes to little ones and sessions.
  6. Be cautious of bribing the little ones with food during the session. Like I have said the session is going to go quicker than most with little ones and if they are eating, food gets on their face and if we miss a smile because of wiping their mouth, we can’t get that back. I would bribe at the very last moment and have it be something small that won’t get on their faces.
  7. Honestly in my humble opinion DON’T BRIBE AT ALL! Trust me it doesn’t work 90% of the time.
  8. Wardrobe can always be an issue if they are still spitting up or mess it up in any way. Be prepared and bring another outfit!!!! Maybe even bring two…just in case.
  9. Lastly have fun with it! Kids are at such a fun age! Be open to different types of pictures other than the ones where they are smiling at you. Here are just some examples of different pictures of little ones being themselves and they will still tug at your heart strings.

Last thing. This is for toddlers through about 5 years old. This advice does NOT apply to newborns. That is a whole other ball game we will hit on in a different post. Good luck!

Have a great day and enjoy the sessions below I found via Pinterest that show more than just smiling little ones!


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