5 Tips for including your toddler in a newborn photo session

July 11, 2022

If you already have kids at home, I’m guessing that a photograph of your newborn with their older siblings is at the top of your session wishlist.

If your older child is in the toddler range (1-3 years), you might also feel a little anxious about including them in your newborn session.

You live with a toddler, so I’m not going to bother lying to you :). This age is challenging to photograph. Challenging, but definitely not impossible!

I photograph newborns and toddlers together regularly, so I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve. I’ll tell you what to expect so you can come into the session relaxed (and ready to embrace just a little bit of chaos).

Let go of your expectations.

As you know, toddlers, especially those under 2, are too young for bribes or negotiation. There is no forcing a toddler to do what you want them to do, especially if that something is laying quietly on their back with their arms around their one-week-old sibling.

If your little one isn’t interested in being in photographs, the last thing you want to do is get cross or try to bend them to your will. So what can we do?

Black and white portrait of parents, newborn and sister

Once we let go of our expectations (step away from the Pinterest board!) and meet your toddler where they are, we can begin to get them engaged with the process. When they are having fun – on their terms – we can gently steer them towards our own goals.

The first photograph we get might look like this:

Young girl holding newborn baby in her arms

But it might also look like this:

B&W portrait of newborn and sibling

Or even this:

Family portrait with newborn and small brother upside down

Try, try again

Capturing a great portrait of your toddler and newborn is rarely achieved in one try. I find it’s better to let your toddler come and go as they like.

Your toddler may need a break from the stimulation of the session and will return when they’ve had enough quiet time. I recommend that you bring another set of hands, if possible. That way, your little one can take a break with Grandma (or whomever) if both parents are needed in the setup.

When big brother or sister is ready to join the action again, they usually come back with a good attitude. After all, now it’s their idea to join in ;).

Mother holding newborn, small sister patting their head

Newborn baby being kissed by young sibling

Portrait of mother with two young children: small girl and newborn baby

Let them steal the spotlight.

Your little one may feel like the new baby has just upstaged them. I always spend some time during the session letting your toddler be the center of attention. Toddlers love to show off all their tricks, and giving them our undivided attention, even just for a couple of minutes, builds goodwill.

Black and white portrait of young girlPortrait of young girl with hands over mouthYoung girl having fun, toppling over with feet in the air

Get in the picture with them.

Your firstborn may be an older sibling, but they are still very young! In new situations, it’s natural for toddlers to want to stick close to their parents, at least at the start. With a new baby at home, you may find that they cling to you more than usual. If your toddler wants to be by your side, that’s ok!

Family portrait with sibling and newborn baby in armsFamily portrait with young brother holding newborn in arms

Give them something to do

Toddlers have a short attention span, and it’s unlikely they will sit and look at the camera for very long. Giving them something to do (give a kiss, check their baby’s nose for boogies, or practice gentle touches) is an excellent way to keep them in one place just a little bit longer.

Small brother kissing sleeping newborn baby BW close-up of young boy touching nose of newborn brother Family photoshoot portrait with newborn and young sister

Knowing what to expect makes including a toddler in your newborn session much less stressful. Kids feed off our energy, and when we are more relaxed, so are they! I think you’ll find that including siblings in your newborn’s session is more fun than you think. You just have to be willing to come along for the ride ;).

Family portrait of parents and young girl looking at newborn baby

You can contact me here for more information about my Los Angeles newborn photoshoots.

big sister and newborn

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I photograph maternity, newborn, baby, and family sessions in and around Los Angeles. If you're interested in a session, please get in touch.

Ariel Cannon Photography | Los Angeles

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