How to Take Great Toddler & Family Photos + Holiday Cards

I started blogging when my son was five months old.  He is turning three next month, so I have a lot of experience taking photos with him!  I thought I'd share a few tips that I've learned along the way for ensuring great photos of your toddler, as well as family photos for holiday cards!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see the Disclosure page for additional information. This post was sponsored by Minted.  Thank you for supporting the brands that I love!  

Try to have fun and forget the camera  

The more you act like yourself and the less you focus on the camera, the more natural your photos will come out.  My best photos have been on days where I had my photographer tag along on a fun family activity.

Photo credit: Adele Schelling

Have fun, be yourselves and hopefully your photographer will capture those genuine family moments!

Photo credit:  Greg Marinaccio

Photo credit: Greg Marinaccio

Choose your location wisely

I try to shoot in locations where there is space for my son to safely run around and be himself.  This means avoiding areas where he can easily run into the street or jump in a pond. We also do best in familiar locations, which is why you may have noticed that so many of my Instagram photos  are taken on one pretty gated street in my neighborhood.

Bring a prop

I recently saw a family taking photos in a New Orleans park on a vintage style sofa that they had brought along!  I found that to be a bit extreme (though I bet the photos are divine)!  We often bring one toy that we don't mind showing up in the frame.  I'll always first try to get photos without the toy, and introduce it when my son loses interest in the shoot.  In last year's holiday photos we let my son hold a toy car and his smile couldn't have been bigger.

Photo credit: Adele Schelling

We also got some great photos at a Seedling event where my son was holding some exciting new toys.  

Photo credit: Lissie Loomis Phototography

Be open to your child's wardrobe preferences

If you search Pinterest for "family holiday photos" you will find countless images of families modeling perfectly coordinated and curated outfits.  If you can pull that off, more power to you! 

These photos were taken during a phase when my son would wake up telling me that it is cold and raining because he wanted to wear his "rain bloots."  I let him have his way, thinking that it would be fun to capture the stage.   

Photo credit: Adele Schelling

Make it personal

This isn't absolutely necessary, but it's fun to infuse your personality or reference another memory or artifact in photos.  On a whim one day, we recreated one of our engagement photos (the baby in the photo on the left is just a random passerby and the cutie on the right is my son),  We didn't plan it and didn't get it perfect but we had fun with it, which makes it more special for us.

Photo credit: Ryan Brenizer, left; Adele Schelling, right

Careful how you procure smiles

I have a vivid memory of a family photo at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens at about age four where I was told to say "cheese" and then got reprimanded for smiling crazy.  

I've learned the hard way that when I ask my son to say "cheese" he squints his eyes and scrunches up his entire face just like I did.  Instead I tell him to say "parakeet" or to dance!

Photo credit: Adele Schelling

Experiment and see what gets your child to smile for the camera!

And sometimes, it's best not to try to procure a smile at all.  How amazing are these photos where my son was just being himself?

Photo credit: Greg Marinaccio

Don't stress if the shoot doesn't go well

We had a really busy schedule this fall and ended up shooting our holiday photos on a cold and drizzly day.  My son wanted no part in it, and to make matters worse, he waved a leaf in his eye and then squinted and complained the entire time that he needed eye drops (he's an ophthalmologist's son).  We took a breather and then tried again (which didn't help my frizzy hair situation, but allowed him to reset).

On another day, my son wanted no part in a family photo.  At the time I was frustrated, but the resulting photos now crack me up:  


Photo credit: Adele Schelling

Remember that you really need only one or two great photos per shoot and if you follow your child's lead you are most likely to get them!

Find a photographer who fits your style

I've enjoyed working with all the photographers listed above.  Another great option is Minted's new Photo-Opp service.  Minted will send a photographer to your home or chosen location to take your family photos for as low as $100.  Click here to check out this service.   This service also includes complimentary holiday card styling!

Show it off

Once you get that perfect photo you are ready to make your holiday cards!  I've been making my holiday cards on Minted for the past two years,  and also for my son's birth announcements.  They have the most beautiful designs, quick turnarounds and they even address your envelopes for free!

I always choose a card style that has only one photo on the front so you can see photo detail (this is especially important for photos with lots of faces or that aren't very close up). 

Two years ago I went with this simple petite card:

Last year I went with a larger card and also included a collage of my favorite photos from the year on the back.

I also used Minted for my son's birth announcement (which I now have framed in his room). 

Not only does Minted have a great assortment of beautiful designs, they will print your mailing addresses for free!  And if you want your mailing to be extra special, they even make custom photo stamps.

As soon as I hit publish on this post I'm going to make our holiday cards, taking advantage of Minted's current 20% off holiday cards promotion!  While I'm there I'm also picking up some holiday gifts and stationery for my boy!

Take advantage of the Black Friday promotion by clicking here and using code BF2017 (expires 11/26/17).

If you missed this promo, join my Facebook deals group  to stay up to date on promos at Minted and other retailers!