5 Tips to Get Kids to Smile

As a photographer,

Having your family photos taken is exciting and I understand that you’re probably imagining all the things you are going to do with the beautiful images that you will have of your family. This is normal, and I encourage it! However, it’s important that you don’t arrive at the session with preconceived notions of how the session will go (especially with toddlers). It’s the job of an experienced photographer to set the children (and parents) at ease and have a good time. Sessions with little ones should be fun, enjoyable, and natural. Forcing kids to sit still for too long usually creates forced expressions and often makes children less cooperative. A good photographer will have you all moving around, being playful, and interacting as a family. Don’t put any pressure on your kids or yourself and everyone is more likely to have a good time.

Don’t Ask Them to Smile

My first tip is, don’t ask them to smile. In fact, don’t even talk about smiling ahead of time. If you have young children, tell them a day or two before your session that you’re going to a park with a friend and she’s bringing her camera. It’s going to be really fun, and you’re really excited. When our kids know that we’re excited about something, generally they’re more likely to get on board. Overly preparing them for how they should (or shouldn’t) smile or behave doesn’t always work. In fact, in my experience, it can often make it worse. They come into the session with pressure knowing they’re supposed to behave in a certain way, versus coming in and just having fun. No expectations, just fun.

Don’t Set Expectations

As important as quality and expertise are in finding a photographer, you will also want a professional who has a style that resonates with you and your life. Take time to consider the style of images you desire. Do you want classic in-studio portraits or do you prefer on-location with natural light, and if so, where?

It’s key to choose a photographer whose portfolio reflects what you are looking for. Check out photographers’ websites, blogs and social media channels. You should be able to get a feel for whether they maintain a style and have mastered it, or if they jump from trend to trend.

Regardless, make sure you really assess what you want your outcome to be for your finished products. Try not to be swayed by “what’s hot” as whatever is trendy today might not really make sense for your long-term keepsakes. You don’t want to invest in family portraits that will look dated on your walls and albums in a few years.

Once you have selected a few photographers that you believe meet your quality, expertise, style and vision goals, initiate a conversation with them to discuss planning your session, and your goals. You will want them to understand what you are looking for so they can let you know if it’s something they can accomplish.

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Have Fun

Parents, this tip is for you! If your children see that you’re having fun, they’re bound to jump in and have fun too. Don’t be afraid to be yourself in front of the camera. Be goofy. Dance and sing with your children as you normally would at home. The more comfortable you are in front of the camera, the more comfortable your children will be too. This is when their true personalities will shine, and your photographer will be capturing it all.

Roll with the Punches

want you to know that photographers have seen it all. If it hasn’t happened with my own child, it has happened during a session. Trust me, nothing your child does during our session will surprise me. I’m not here to judge your parenting or your discipline skills. I’m here to have fun with you and document this stage in your lives. Sit back and relax. I promise that even if it seems like it’s going terribly, if you roll with it, you’ll be surprised by the beautiful photos we get.

Don’t ask them to say Cheese

Seriously. Just don’t. I have words for whoever came up with the brilliant idea to teach every child age 1-10 to “say cheeeeeeeeese. The only thing this does is produce super fake, super forced, painful smiles that parents sigh at when having photos taken of their gorgeous, beautiful-natural-smile, children. Don’t ask your kids to say cheese during your family photos. Please and thank you. There you have it. My best tips for getting rid of ‘cheesy smile syndrome’.

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