It has been the “thing” for a while now, especially in the summer months here in Toronto, Canada. “Golden Hour” photo sessions are most photographers’ dream, especially when there is zero overcast & the scenery we are using allows for soft, golden back lighting behind our subjects. These sessions are typically shot with us about an hour and a half to two hours before complete darkness. During Toronto, Canada’s summer, that means about 7-7:30pm onward, as daylight is typically completely gone around 9pm. During the Fall months it’s even earlier. Other than the beautiful style it adds to our work, it also reduces eye squinting, over-heated clients/photographers during muggier days & soft, even skin tones, which ultimately reduces our editing time in post-production.

As amazing as “Golden Hour” light looks in our final images, there are several things to be mindful of and to prepare for when working with our cutest subjects, specifically “3 and Unders”. The following is a list of my 6 top things I am mindful of when planning these sessions, as well as some tips to provide parents with to prepare for their session during this peak time.

PLANNING NAP TIME: I don’t know about you, but tired toddlers are my greatest photography fear. They go from these sweet, innocent, angelic little humans to your worse enemy in a matter of a few clicks of your camera. Since we typically begin about one and a half to two hours before complete darkness, it normally means it’s typically BEDTIME for these little munchkins. Because of this, planning out nap times the day of the session really make a difference in how far the photographer can push them through the shoot. Most parents think I’m crazy with this request, because it sometimes means one off day of toddler mood swings and irritability, but in the name of AMAZING PHOTOS…’s a worthy sacrifice, I promise!


SHOW UP EARLY: Because these sessions are so time sensitive with the sun beginning to set, it is HIGHLY recommended you show up early. This is especially important if it’s a brand new location that you have not yet scouted, shot at or been to in any shape or form. If you’ve done all of your scouting prior to the client arriving (this includes being aware of where the light source is coming from), it will make for a much smoother process. You will also feel much more confident, prepared and ready to make optimal use of your time with your “3 and Under”. I also highly recommend encouraging your clients to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early so they do not feel rushed getting the little ones ready!

NO ELECTRONIC BRIBERY: Say what? Yes… I repeat… AVOID AT ALL COSTS…. ELECTRONIC BRIBERY! Actually only allow parents to bribe with anything incentivizing once at the session after consulting with you! It allows for more natural reactions and keeps the kids excited about their hard earned prize. In regards to electronic bribery during the shoot, I say this with complete understanding that the new generation has become so dependent on their devices that sometimes it sounds completely crazy. Keeping  a “3 and Under” entertained and cooperative while waiting around for their turn WITHOUT youtube, iPad’s, cellphones and handheld games is like a mission to the moon nowadays. It’s really important though to try and encourage parents to utilize other forms of entertainment while their little one is waiting their turn. You know games like tag, the pretend “mommy’s going to get you game”, colouring books, singing their favourite songs, patty cake, anything but a device! Okay, Okay… I’ll explain. The minute a child has a phone for instance and you have to take that phone out of their hand to get them to pose and smile, because we can’t of course edit out the phone (it’s requested often believe it or not), you now become the bad guy. The “3 and Under” now associates the big camera and weird stranger in front of them with “they took away my Paw Patrol episode and now I’m not going to cooperate”. Parents will understand if they want the type of photos you’ve been advertising.

CHANGE UPON ARRIVAL: Chances are you won’t have an iron handy in the middle of the park or beach. You most likely will not have a spare white t-shirt handy either if kids get their clothes dirty on the way to the location somehow. I highly recommend kids changing upon arrival (hence why arriving early is important). This will definitely ensure crisp clothing, that is photo ready and free from any type of car ride mishaps. Most places will not have change rooms so using the car as a change room is always the best option.

FOOD & SNACKS: I always recommend that my client’s avoid feeding their “3 and Unders” anything that will dye or stain their tongue. Nobody likes editing out blue lollipop tongues when you aim to get the candid laughing shots. I also recommend ensuring that the kids have something to eat closer to the time they are to be at the session, so that their dinner will hold them over. What’s even worse then a sleepy “3 and Under”? How about a HANGRY “3 and Under”! I become irritable as an adult when I’m starving, so it’s definitely understandable when little ones bellies are roaring and they refuse to cooperate. I do suggest bringing light easy snacks (but only using them as bribery when agreed upon with photographer to ensure it’s a good time). Some of my favourite easy going snacks for this age group are; Goldfish Crackers, Mum Mum Rice Biscuits, Gerber Puffs, Rice Cakes, or pretty much any other favourites that can be consumed in small bites, dissolve easily and have little to no mess.

SICK KIDS: I often have clients with “3 and Unders” that book with me and are super considerate and mindful of my photography schedule. They are super sweet and never want to disappoint, even if it means bringing their sick child to a session hoping to bribe them into good health just to get the shoot done. I ALWAYS stress to my clients that this is NEVER a good idea. Sick kids will not give great results. If they just have a runny nose, but are still full of energy and in great spirits then of course a parent can use their discretion. If it was a few nights of running fevers and a terrible cough, it’s always encouraged to let me know asap to cancel and we will reschedule without penalty. My job is to worry about my schedule, my client’s job is to just follow my prep guides and communicate with me along the way so that I can fully ensure I am prepared with any changes.

All in all, these tips of course are just some useful tricks I use to prep my clients and help my session workflow, but of course take what you may & try to apply it as you need to. I have found that no session of course is perfect especially with a toddler testing boundaries, developmentally learning and growing. We can however, try to make the process as stress free and fun as possible by being prepared.

Subscribe & stay up to date!

Privacy Preference Center