A one-year-old boy walks hand-in-hand with his parents at his first birthday photography session in Chaska, MN


If you've ever had (or known, or seen, or heard) a toddler, you know one thing: they're completely unpredictable. As a Twin Cities family photographer who works with a LOT of toddlers, I can confirm. Today, I'm going to walk you through a recent photo session with a sweet little guy just rounding the corner on his first trip 'round the sun! If you find yourself gearing up for a family photo session with your toddler, keep reading to learn what to expect (plus some tips and tricks to help your little one make it through with a smile on that sweet little face.)

Toddler Tip No. 1: Happy Kids > Perfect Light

You might be wondering, "does my kid have the attention span to make it through a photo session?" and the answer is, no. No, they don't. Toddlers usually don't last much more than an hour for their photo session, so don't expect them to hold out much longer than that. And while it's tempting to book your session within an hour of sunset to get those gorgeous golden rays, you risk an overtired child, which will add a whole new level of complication. Keep it simple, and consider not pushing it *right* up to the end of the day.

Also, remember during your session that your little one is in charge. We'll play when they're happy, rest from demands when they need a break (psst – these photos usually end up being my favorites), and we'll give them a snack when hanger strikes.

Collage of images of a one-year-old and his Mom at his photography session at the MN Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, MN

When it comes to photographing toddlers, variety is everything. For milestone sessions with toddlers who are walking or cruising, I always recommend locations with a mix of elements – rocks to sit on, open prairies for exploring, flat ground for cuddling up on a blanket, and/or benches and other structural elements for those little hands to use for support as they stand.

Toddler Tip #2: Bring Distractions

Toddlers are known for their unpredictability. To capture those beautiful smiles and adorable dimples, we often need a little help. Think about what grabs their attention, whether it's a favorite song or a funny noise.

Nine times out of ten I can get some traction with peek-a-boo at least for a little while, but this guy wasn't having it. Thankfully, I was able to learn a bit about this little man ahead of time through Mom's comments on his pre-session questionnaire, and we had plenty of variety in what to use to get his attention.

Toddler Tip #3: Breaks Are Essential

Constant demands for attention can be overstimulating, so we need to make sure we're allowing some breaks from all that input. Sometimes they need a snack or a cuddle from Mom, and sometimes they just need to look around and take it all in. (These usually end up being my favorite photos from the session).

During this guy's session, we stepped back for a bit while he was sitting on the rock, and I used the time to capture details like his chubby little hands holding onto the foliage and those adorable eyelashes as he gazed toward something on the ground. By taking a rest from attention bids, he was much more receptive and attentive when we jumped back in.

The Perfect Prop: A Tiny House

The spot we picked at the Arb had a nearby tiny house perfectly sized for a tiny human. This little prop that added an element of interest and variety to the session. Just when we thought we were done with this guy's photos, I noticed the door on the house added an extra layer of texture and charm. I wanted to grab a few last images with the door closed in the background, but I realized the door wouldn't stay shut. Mom came to the rescue by climbing into the tiny house and closing it from the inside 🙌🏼 (Dear Clients, you truly are the secret sauce that makes this whole thing work 💯).

Collage of a one-year-old boy in a small playhouse at his first birthday photography session in Chaska, MN

Choosing a location for your family photography session can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start, so I always recommend to start with think of locations that might have meaning for you and your family. Mom and Dad had their engagement photos taken at the Arboretum in Chaska, MN, so it was a sweet little gesture that they were reunited here to celebrate their little one's first trip 'round the sun.

Toddler Tip #4: Come prepared for all the things before, during, and after your session

If you're new to toddler parenting, welcome to a whole new world of overpacking anytime you leave the house – because if you intentionally under-pack, you will need that thing you decided to leave at home. I recommend thinking of things like:

  • Multiple outfit changes (for intentional wardrobe variety and a just-in-case if something gets dirty, spilled on, etc.)
  • Crumb-free snacks (like yogurt melts or fruit pouches)
  • Water
  • A favorite toy
  • Depending on how much walking your location requires, a stroller or wagon
Collage of professional photos of a one-year-old boy on a cloudy day at the Arboretum in Chaska, MMN

There you have it – the adventure of a one-year-old milestone session. It's never predictable, but always filled with genuine moments of authentic emotion that you'll treasure forever. If you're looking for someone to capture your family's special moments, contact me to get started. I'm here to turn your cherished memories into beautiful photographs that will transport you back to those precious moments in time. Let's chat soon!

Until next time,


A photo of Miranda appears "taped" next to her contact information