If you’re a new mom juggling the logistics and coordination of newborn photos, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Dreaming up the vision for your photos was the easy part: the proud Big Sibling holding the new baby, the whole family in a love pile on the couch, and the quiet moments by the window… But getting your feisty toddler to cooperate for any of it? That’s an entirely different story.

Today, I’m pulling back the curtain to show you exactly how I approach newborn photo sessions with toddler siblings.

a family whispers over their newborn baby
A girl laughing in front of a garage door
A toddler reads a book to his newborn sibling

I come to your home.

I shoot most family sessions and 100% of newborn sessions at my client’s homes. It’s the most convenient option, with everything you need within arms reach. You’ll never need to worry about packing enough diapers, snacks, or back-up outfits for the inevitable blowout. For toddlers, staying at home means staying in a familiar environment, so they’ll warm up to me more quickly. And when they need a break, they can play in the other room with their toys and grab a snack without you worrying about danger lurking in an unfamiliar place. 

If you’re worried your home is too dark/too messy/too anything for photos, I have great news for you. All we need to make beautiful photos together is one big window with natural light coming through it, and a family who loves one another. I’ve got the rest covered.

YOur toddler is the star of the show.

When I enter your home for a newborn session, the first thing I do is greet your toddler. I do this before acknowledging any other family members or the baby. It’s important that your toddler knows I’m there to see them. Only once your toddler feels comfortable, I’ll start to ask them questions about their new sibling and ask for an introduction. When I say, “where’s your baby?” they always smile proudly and can’t wait to show off their new sibling! 

During the session, I always take time to photograph your toddler alone. This usually looks like me crawling on the floor and asking them to read me a story or show me their favorite toys. Having a new person take the time to make them feel important is so valuable, not only from a photography standpoint, but to ease the emotions that come along with change. When your toddler starts to relax around me, YOU will start to relax too, which automatically means better photos! 

Now if you’re thinking, “but Daisy, isn’t this a NEWBORN session? When are you going to focus on my newborn?” that leads me to my next point…

I use a “whole family” approach

There are many photographers who will focus only (or mostly) on your newborn during your newborn session. Makes sense right? But my approach is a little different. I lean heavily into the connection of your family as a whole, and how this new tiny human fits perfectly into the mix. I capture all of you in a love pile on the couch; I capture you in this season of parenthood; I capture your pets enjoying ALL the new smells; I capture the transformation of your toddler as they learn how to be a big sibling. And yes – I capture those tiny baby details, too! But when we put it all together, it’s a complete snapshot of what your life is like right now.

I often think about my own baby photos and how I LOVE the candid photos of me and my parents where and I can see the expressions on their faces. These real moments with context show me exactly where I fit, and how much I’m loved. These are the photos I’ll treasure forever. 

Your toddler decides what happens next.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s to NEVER ask a toddler a yes/no question. The answer will always be “no.” The saving grace is to give toddlers two options that we’re equally OK with. They can choose what they want to do next, and they’ll feel happy because it was their idea. I’m also a big fan of open-ended questions that invite your toddler into a conversation. It paves the way for the sweetest photo opps. Here are some examples of what I say (parents can try these during the session, too!) 

“Who should we take a picture of next: mommy/daddy/XYZ?”

“What do you want to do next: tell mommy a secret… or tickle the top of daddy’s head?” 

“What does the baby’s head smell like – raspberries? …..Or poop?” Potty humor FTW.

“Your baby is crying! What do you think they’re trying to say?” 

“What book should we read to the baby?” Or what toy do you want to show the baby, etc. 

“How many fingers does the baby have?” Or how many toes, where’s his nose/ears/bellybutton. 

“I bet you’re REALLY good at holding the baby.” And then we don’t even have to ask… they’re just excited to show off their baby-holding skills!

We set very realistic expectations.

If you’re hoping your toddler will sit still and be sunshine and rainbows for 2 hours, you’re bound for disappointment! I always ask what general types of images you want so I can curate a gallery you’ll love. But as you already know, toddlers run in the opposite direction, hide under the table, or want nothing to do with their new sibling whatsoever. I know, shocking. 

Toddlers have a 2-minute window of pure magic. When they are showing interest in their sibling, I shoot like a mad woman to capture as much as possible… but once they’re over it, I don’t push it. Giving your toddler a snack break is the perfect chance to focus on other moments like you and your spouse with baby alone. Something I hear often from second-time parents is how much less dedicated time they get with Baby. So when your toddler runs into another room, embrace the quiet moment. You’ll be so glad to have that memory frozen in time.

when all else fails… laugh.

I’m pretty sure that more photos have been ruined by parent’s grumpy/annoyed expressions at their kids’ behavior, than by any actual behavior from kids. I can make orneriness and chaos look really cute on camera, but only if parents laugh it off while it’s happening! 

Parents always share with me that the “uncooperative” photos of their toddler turn out to be their favorites. Maybe those perfectly-imperfect moments won’t get printed on your Holiday cards, but you’ll love how they make you wish you could rewind time. Keep smiling through the crazy. I promise it will be so worth it. 

Hi there!

I’m Daisy, and you’re very welcome here.

I’m a documentary Columbus Ohio family photographer offering stress-free and fun portrait experiences. I hope you enjoyed How I approach newborn photos with toddler siblings, and if you’d like to chat about your own family photos, smash that button below. Can’t wait to hear what wild and wonderful things you’re dreaming up!

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