Newborn sessions include the whole family so I frequently photography newborns with their older siblings. The most common age gap I see is between 18 months and 3 years, the ‘toddler stage’ which can make capturing the sibling image that every parent wants a challenge! Toddlers, while adorable most of the time, can be tricky little people, with strong sense of what they do or more often do not want to do. When preparing for a newborn session with a toddler sibling, I always ask parents about the personality of their older child, how they are responding to the new baby and whether they have cuddles or held their new sibling yet. I take 'me to get to know and make a fuss of the toddler before I turn my attention to the new baby. I want to share with you my tried, tested and safe method for achieving the sibling image parents want, as well as some tips and tricks to make things go more smoothly. Although I describe this as you would approach it for a newborn, this is a great way of photographing babies with their siblings right up until they can sit unaided.
I love this pose because personally, I would not ask a child under 3 to hold a newborn baby in their arms. Children less than 3 years old have less ability to understand instructions or to stay still and could move suddenly and unpredictably placing baby in danger. This pose ensures that baby is supported at all times and ensures that the toddler does not have to support their weight.
A word about light – Good light is the key to a great photo. Look for the lightest room in your house with a large window or glass door. Avoid direct sunlight or soften it with a white sheet.
Arrange a helper – I always ask parents to be my helpers and spotters when posing a newborn with their sibling. It is important to have someone on hand to keep the baby safe while you take the photograph.
A soft surface - This super sweet pose can be set up on a bed, rug or any safe, soft surface. It’s best to avoid busy patterns on the background but a bit of texture looks great, so a duvet, plain blanket or rug are ideal.
Lie your toddler down on their back and get them comfy (it helps to lie down with them so they get the idea and make a big fuss when they co-operate!).
TIP: If you raise their head a little with a pillow or rolled up blanket under their head you will find that you don’t have to lean so far over them when taking the photo. Then place either just next to them or on their out stretched arm for the toddler to cuddle. You can do different variations on this set up depending on how keen your toddler is to interact with the baby. They can cuddle and kiss baby, put their finger on baby’s nose and of course give you a beautiful smile!
TRICK: Wrapping or swaddling your newborn will help keep them calm and in a neat little bundle, avoiding failing arms and legs!
If All Else Fails... bribery works so well with most toddlers. With parent’s consent I have a stash of balloons, biscuits, chocolate buttons and stickers which very few have been able to resist!
Watch Out For... your toddler deciding enough is enough and jumping up regardless of baby! This is why help is essential.
I hope this has helped you to create beautiful sibling photographs with your own toddler and newborn. There will always be some siblings who don’t want to be photographed, however I have lots tricks I use in the studio to ensure we still get that special first sibling photo; including using Photoshop to make composite images if necessary. So many parents walk through the door worried about how their toddler will co-operate and I love their joy when we capture that once in a lifetime image for them. It is so worth it!