Getting Your Child to Stay Still for Photos

An adorable, laughing baby looking at camera under a white blanket

Parents take countless photos of their children. But most of us aren’t professional photographers and aren’t able to splurge on those more than occasionally. So how do the experts get babies and toddlers to sit still long enough to get such beautiful pictures of them? What do they do that you can try at home so you don’t snap yet another blurry image of your tot running away from you when you’re trying to capture that special moment?

Here are some tips from photographers on how they get their littlest clients to stay put and look at them during a shoot.

  1. Give them a place to sit. Once babies learn to walk, they have a hard time sitting still, period, and constantly want to get up and practice their new skill. There’s so much to explore! But if you give them a little stool or chair, a car, a rocking horse or another place to sit, they’re much more likely to oblige, at least for a little while. And if it’s something tall to sit on that they can’t get down from as easily, all the better.
  1. Give them a toy or treat to hold. Once you’ve gotten the child to sit down, hand her a little doll, stuffed animal, toy car or pack of candy and let her examine it for a while. It’s a good way to distract her from bolting out of the seat. And when she looks up, hopefully with a smile on her face, you’ll be ready to catch the moment on film.
  1. Put a goofy hat or rabbit ears on your head or give them something else to look at. Autumn, a photographer and writer of the It’s Always Autumn blog, puts bunny ears or a ridiculous hat on and then repeatedly asks the child what’s on her head – which not only gets him to look at her but also elicits laughter. Waving toys or candy around for the tot to look at and promising that he can hold it afterwards might also do the trick.
  1. Make silly noises. Being armed with an array of funny and silly noises you can make to get your little ones’ attention is a good one to try. A crazy sound will often make them stop what they’re doing and look up to figure out what it is. Just be ready to snap the photo when they do!
  1. Don’t force them to sit still, and follow them around instead. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Though the posed, sitting-still photos are lovely, sometimes it’s just not meant to be – so get down on your baby’s or toddler’s level and follow them around wherever they go, shooting pictures whenever they do something cute (which is often). Chances are, you’ll get a lot of really good ones that way.
  1. Ask them to play “copycat” or peek-a-boo with you. Many of the professionals play peek-a-boo to get children to sit still and look at them, using their camera to hide behind and then popping out. It works especially well with younger babies and toddlers. For the 2- and 3-year-olds, asking them to copy what you’re doing might yield better results. You strike whatever pose you’d like them to be in, they copy you and you take the photo.

Catherine Donaldson-Evans is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications.

When she isn’t writing and editing, Catherine can be found chasing after a toddler, a baby and a husband – not necessarily in that order.