How to Get Your Toddler to Sit Still and Look at the Camera!

How to Get Your Toddler to Sit Still and Look at the Camera

Do you have an adorable toddler you’d love to photograph, but who keeps running away from you every time you pull out your camera? You’re not alone!

Toddlers are some of our favorite groups of people to photograph. These tiny humans are so cute and always seem to be doing something worthy of being captured on “film.” Unfortunately, these brilliant people have a nasty reputation of running away when they see a camera, or jumping up from their seat just as you’ve asked them to sit down, or looking anywhere BUT into the camera when you’re most ready to click the shutter.

Today’s tips may not prevent your child from running away at the sight of a camera, but with any luck, they may just stay still long enough to capture a smile. Without further ado, we present to you our top five tips for getting your toddler to sit still and look at the camera. 

1. Sit on THIS Spot!

If you have any chance of getting your toddler to sit still and look at the camera, it starts with giving your toddler a place to sit. This is even more important if you have a younger toddler, you know, one who has recently learned to walk and wants to walk any chance they get.

If you’re trying to chase an active toddler, you’ll spend more time trying to focus and miss the smiles. However, if you provide a place for that child to sit, you can spend more of your time shooting. If you’re not sure what to use as a seat, look for a good stool, bench, stump, chair, rocking horse or their favorite riding toy. You can even use a piece of tape or a sticker on the floor and ask them to sit on that spot. You’ll receive bonus points if they can have fun while you’re taking pictures.

That said, be sure to have your camera out and your settings ready BEFORE you put your toddler into place. Typically, once they are seated, they will only sit still for a moment or two, so you have to be ready. Furthermore, if you can have an assistant to wrangle your child, or stand behind you and act like a goofball, you’ll have an even better chance of getting the shot you want. 

2. Something to Hold

If simply sitting down isn’t enough to keep your toddler in place long enough to get a good shot, try giving them something to hold onto. 

Bring along their favorite stuffed animal (or another small toy) for a sentimental touch. Alternatively, you can share some sweet treats (something that won’t make a mess of their clothing or face, such as a smartie). You can even grab a nearby flower, as we did in the shot above. Simply have your child sit down and then hand them the toy or treat. Be prepared with your camera, but allow them a little bit of time to explore whatever it is that you gave them before you shoot. Then wait patiently (with camera ready) for the moment when your child looks back at you. Their expression will be worth the wait!

3. Look HERE!

Isn’t it funny how toddlers always want us to watch what they’re doing, but refuse to look at us when they see a camera? 

Again, grab a helper (older child, spouse, etc) and have them perform a silly dance routine directly behind you. Be sure to instruct your helper to position themselves level with your camera so your toddler isn’t looking up. 

If you don’t have an extra set of hands, you’ll have to get creative. We like to wear a ridiculous headband or hat on our head. You can then ask your child, “what’s on my head.” Keep asking until they look up. Ideally, they’ll laugh or smile. We’ve also found it fun to sing songs and change the words to something super silly, or ask what a lion says, then moo (or something along those lines). Try doing something a little unexpected and your toddler is sure to follow along. 

You can also use something like a Shutter Hugger that is designed to give your child something fun to look at, but we have found that if you try to use these with your child regularly, they lose their effectiveness. However, we’ve found that sometimes, simply moving around a bit  (standing up, sitting down, leaning one way or another) will draw your toddlers eyes towards you. At some point during their curiosity, you’re bound to catch them looking your way. 

4. Show Them Your Screen

Some of our favorites photo sessions with our toddlers, have been when we loosened up and allowed them to take part in the “design” of the photo shoot. 

Okay, so we realize that you aren’t always trying to recreate an image from pinterest when you pick up your camera. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t subconsciously try to guide our children into doing something specific for the sake of a picture. Our kids sense this and will try everything in their little power to find out what it is that we’re so desperately trying to achieve. As far as they are concerned, if they just get a look into our viewfinder, they’ll be able to see what we see. So, show them. 

That’s right, let them see themselves inside the camera by showing them your LCD screen. This simple exercise will delight your child, and if they are anything like our children, they’ll want to do it again. We’ve found that overtime, your child may even start asking you to take their picture with the understanding that you show them the picture immediately after. It may not always be what you were hoping to get out of the photo shoot, but you’ll have fun doing it. 

5. Monkey See, Monkey Do

If you have an older toddler (2 or 3 years old), you may have good luck asking your child to do something specific such as sit here, lie down or pose, but only after you perform the task first.

We find that this approach works best if you and your toddler are already in the mood for photos. You can try something kinda silly to start. As he mimics you, be sure to praise him. Then try a different pose and him to copy you. As long as you keep telling your child that they’re doing a great job, they’ll play along for as long as you’d like (at least a few poses). 


With a little practice and a lot of patience, we hope that these tips better prepare you to take photos of your adorable toddlers. Sitting still and looking at the camera is half the battle, but if you can overcome that much, the rest is super fun!

Want more tips for photographing toddlers, check out 10 Tips and Tricks for Photographing Your Toddler.

Photo Credit: Ashley Sisk 

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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