In 2010 I took Katie and Alice's portrait in their home and within a very short time had some picture perfect images of them sitting side by side in party dresses. Dad received a framed picture for his birthday and was, by all accounts, thrilled to bits. One year on and Mum, Tina, wants to mark his birthday again with a more up to date picture of their twin girls. Now, there's one major difference between last year and this - those girls are now toddling! When I arrived they were prettily dressed in matching tops, posh trousers and bows in their hair. Now I had more than a sneaking suspicion that things weren't going to progress as smoothly as last year - after all I've photographed a few hundred toddlers and have begun to understand the species quite well. I was under no illusion about the challenges I faced in trying to capture that perfect moment when two toddlers beamed at me, at the same time, whilst standing or sitting closely together. Once in a blue moon it does happen, usually when I'm changing lenses or catching my breath!
But let's come back to some sort of reality (and normality - I don't want mum to think that her girls are out of the norm!) when dealing with toddlers. They truly define the expression "a law unto themselves" in every sense. Whatever you think they're going to do, you can bet it will be the opposite. They cannot be directed, positioned or posed. Reasoning, begging and pleading fall on deaf ears. Distraction can work but you have to be prepared to work like greased lightening. I usually enlist the help of mum, dad, nanna and older siblings to act like complete lunatics in order to get a toddler's attention and to earn their smiles and laughter. But remember that we're talking double trouble here and you can guarantee that whilst one child is beaming beautifully at the camera, the other has got closed eyes, hand in mouth or finger up nose! I sometimes use bubbles to get them to look upwards but that usually ends in complete chaos as you can't expect any self respecting toddler to sit quietly and admire the bubbles - where's the fun in that?!
Many of my clients want that dream shot of their beautiful children, smiling together with scrubbed, shiny faces and best party outfits. And if you're lucky and the wind is blowing in the right direction and the gods are smiling down on you then you just might get it. And as kids get older and respond better to bribery and cajoling it becomes much easier. However,I try to persuade parents of babies and very young children that it's better to forget trying to stage manage the shoot, forget Pears Soap portraits and concentrate on photographing toddlers being toddlers. They are absolutely wonderful creatures, fascinated by and engrossed in the world around them. Walking and running is a novelty - they don't care where they're going just as long as they can do go there without being stopped. Toys are great but they'd pick puddles, mud and sand any time.
I hope mum and dad like the photos - we did manage to get a few of the girls smiling side by side (albeit fastened down in their high chairs!), but I will always prefer the portraits of Katie and Alice as they raced around the farm yard, splashing (and sitting) in puddles and bouncing around in glee on the trampoline!
Oh and the 3 "P"s of photographing toddlers - Patience, Perseverance but above all Play.By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!