Face it -- you have the cutest kid who ever lived. Your toddler's dazzling smile, inch-deep dimples and scruffy hair are so unbearably adorable that they need to be shared with the world, and modeling seems like a solid way to do that (and making a little extra money never hurt anyone, either). With all the precious pictures you've taken of your toddler, it may seem overwhelming to think of sifting through them, but take heart. You only need three photos: a close-up, a full-body shot and a shot that shows off your toddler's personality.
Dress your toddler relatively neatly in colors or patterns that flatter her. "Neatly" doesn't mean that you need to worry about untucked shirt-tails or polished shoes (she's a toddler, after all), but the blouse that's perfect except for the spaghetti sauce stain is a no-no. If possible, pick something that shows off your toddler's personality, since modeling agencies judge by that as much as by looks. A prim little princess should wear different clothes than a rough-and-ready tomboy.
Avoid using makeup or hair products on your toddler. Modeling agencies want an idea of what your child looks like naturally, so if she looks like an escapee from a reality show, they'll move right past her portfolio in favor of one with a less primped and prepped kid.
Set up a photography area with good, even lighting, such as a well-lit room or a sunny day outdoors. Avoid anything that will cast bizarre shadows on your toddler's face or that will force you to use flash. Make sure the area doesn't have a busy background, since that will distract the agency from your toddler. A tidy room, a backyard or a park will work fine; a cluttered bedroom or crowded sidewalk won't.
Take a close-up shot of your toddler from the neck or shoulders up. Ideally, your child should be smiling and making eye contact. If you're having trouble managing this shot, try making goofy sounds or waving around a favorite toy to draw your toddler's attention and encourage a smile.
Get a full-body picture of your toddler, head to toe. The point of this picture is to give the agency an idea of how your toddler stands, but that doesn't mean that she has to have posture so sharp you can balance a book on her head. Just like with your choice of clothing, you want this picture to reflect her personality; if your child looks more natural and relaxed slouching than standing up straight, go with it. Agencies want real children, not stiffly posed mannequins.
Set up the "character shot" -- a picture that showcases your child's personality. The Child Modeling Agencies Information Center suggests thinking of the setting and activity that makes your child the most relaxed and happy, whether that's running on the playground, flipping through a favorite book, having a tea party with dolls or just making goofy faces at the camera. You might try giving your child several beloved toys and books in your photography area and taking candid pictures until one clicks.
Write a brief cover letter for your child. Include your contact information, your child's name and the type of modeling you are interested in (for instance, print modeling vs. TV commercials). Resist the temptation to ramble about how adorable or precocious your toddler is -- the letter shouldn't be any more than three to five sentences.
Update your pictures every six months or so. Toddlers change significantly in a short period of time, and agencies will be a bit surprised if the chubby-cheeked 18-month-old in the portfolio is now a lanky 3-year-old.
Research each modeling agency and adjust your cover letter and portfolio accordingly. If one agency only asks for two pictures and you send all three, or if an agency only does print modeling and you mention TV commercials in your cover letter, you'll look as though you haven't done your research. Resist the urge to take extra pictures unless an agency specifically asks for more. You have so many cute photos of your child that it's tempting to throw them all into the portfolio, but the agency really only needs these three. If you take too many, they'll feel like you're forcing them to flip through your entire family photo album -- and they may get so overwhelmed by the extra pictures that they won't notice the three important ones. Avoid stereotypically precious pictures for the personality shot, like pictures of your toddler running around naked, wearing a Halloween costume or sitting in a high chair with a chocolate-smeared grin. These tend to cross the line from "cute" to "cutesy." If you're not a good photographer, you might be tempted to hire a professional. That's your choice, but remember that because modeling is a highly competitive field, you may not recoup that investment. Don't spend any money on the portfolio that you aren't prepared to lose for good.
Never become involved with an agency that asks for money up front; that's a warning sign of a scam. You should never pay an agency until your child books a photo shoot.