Getting Your Kids to Smile Naturally for Photos
Yup, we've all been there...
you dust off that fancy camera, or
you finally schedule a family session and
you get your kids in those cute matching outfits only for them to give you their fake, forced "cheeeeeese" smiles. UGH!
This is how it usually goes in my household when I negotiate with my two girls.
ME: "Hey, Eva can you smile normally please?"
Eva, giving me her biggest grinning smile: "I AM, mom!"
ME: "But...a little smaller smile than that...okay? Like your normal, natural smile..."
Eva, now looking away from the camera, still smiling ear to ear but now rolling her eyes at me: "But I AMMMM mom!"
ME: Takes a deep sigh, clicks the camera: "Awesome (drenched in sarcasm)."
How many times has that happened to you?!
As a professional photographer and mom to two little fake grinning cheeeesers, I am here to tell you
1.) I've totally been there...Probably multiple times this week. And 2.) Don't give up, there IS a way to actually get your kids to smile naturally for photos!
Here are a couple of tips and tricks that I use with my own kids as well as my family session clients:
Nothing gets my one year old to smile better than a good ole game of "peek a boo." I put my camera in front of my face and then pop up from behind it like a goof. Do it a couple of times and those little ones will eventually crack a smile, even perhaps a laugh. Remember to shoot a lot and keep shooting! Many times for one good natural smile photo, I take around 10-15. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
Still no smile, try a sing along. Itsy bitsy spider - Baby shark - Old McDonald had a farm, etc. If you are doing a session at home, play those songs over your Alexa or Google speaker. Have your kids dance and twirl! Distraction is key to photographing little kids.
Kids just want to have fun! Tell them to roar like a lion or to make a funny face.
These are some of my favorite photos of Eva when she was little. After trying to get a smile out of her, I told her to be a mighty lion and scare me. She thought it was the funniest thing and these photos literally were taken seconds apart after her might roar.
During family sessions, I always tell the kids to show me how high they can jump up in the air. It creates a fun little game, especially with siblings, and gets the kids to relax.
Interaction is key
Siblings are not cooperating?! No problem. Have them tickle each other or whisper a secret into each others ears. This also works great during family sessions with parents.
One of my favorite things to do with my clients is have them interact with their kids. Tickling is always a winner but also tossing kids up in the air, lifting them up and down, holding them upside down, etc.
Also, make sure your kids are well rested and fed before attempting to take their photos. My girls can get "hangry" pretty quick, so I always bring snacks and have them take little breaks. Quick breaks do so much to help their moods and attention. And if all else fails, I will be the first mom to tell you that I bribe my own kids with snacks, ice cream, donuts (you name it!) during our own family photos. "If you smile for a couple of photos, I will give you fruit snacks!!" Yup, no shame in my mommy game!
And MOST OF ALL, be okay with imperfection. Those grinning cheeeese smiles or pouty faces can be annoying but years down the line, they will remind you of those crazy, imperfect, but wonderful childhood and parenting days.
And cherish those little messy moments!
Love + Appreciation,