Working with Toddlers – West Chester Family Photography

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Working with toddlers during a family photography session is not easy.

But playing with toddlers? That’s a different story.

Look, I’m a mom. I know what moms want. While surface level we may want a photo of everyone looking and smiling for the fridge… beyond that image, we just want to document that we exist and made these perfect humans.

However, a problem occurs when we try to document these already perfect humans in the ways we’re told make a perfect photo. We scroll through photos of other moms of toddlers that “just have it all together.” “Those” moms have kids that listen. “Those” moms have really nice hair and self care time that results in manicures and spa days and all the things we think would make us more, well, perfect. Sound familiar?

Indeed, I’ve seen plenty of “those moms” (and dads) behind the scenes. But it’s not fricken pretty.

I spent too many of my early days as a photographer dealing with parents that yell, threaten, and cause tears when kids don’t look and smile for the camera. They think “Oh! My kid’s not listening!” They get embarrassed and they freak out. Even “those” moms are comparing themselves to a standard that doesn’t exist outside of an app.

So what happens? I have a thousand photos of kids trying their best fake smiles, holding back tears, midway to an anxiety attack— and every single one of them is ruined by Mom or Dad’s gaping mouth yelling something stupid about not getting pizza after the session even though they totally will be getting pizza after the session. It’s dumb. It’s also ugly, AND it’s the best way to make it so your child dreads photos year after year.

I don’t work with toddlers, I play and engage with toddlers. This is because I do not want perfection at our photography session. And honestly, neither do you. We have a beautiful night with no where to be, nothing to do, in a beautiful location and you want to spend it yelling about timeouts and threatening to tell Santa? C’mon. We can’t document your memories if you refuse to make them.

What we WANT from your photography session, especially with toddlers, is for us to PLAY.  Toddlers love play. They love seeing new places. They love the smallest, most mundane (to us big people) things. They are pure, and curious, and perfection. All by themselves. Nothing else is needed. So, let’s explore! Let’s get our hands dirty, our shoes wet, and our pants muddy.  Find a cool rock? I’d love to see it. Bug up your nose? Better pick ’em out. Show me all the creepy crawlies, the fluffy dandelions, and the cool clouds you can spot.

A BP session comes with a play based approach, every time. I follow kids, I give prompts— not orders— that help them show off who they are. If a prompt doesn’t work, we move on. This approach means I spend a lot of time on the ground, usually getting wet during our session. I go home with mud all over and sore muscles. I spend a good amount of time head-swapping and using Photoshop magic on stray hairs. But at the end, we’ve captured more than that fridge picture. We’ve documented that you not only existed, you LIVED. We’ve documented the greatest perfection on earth: your love.

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