Every photo I have of myself from when I was a child my face is all squished up, I’m showing all my teeth, my eyes are closed, and I am doing the biggest fake smile I can muster. I bet you have similar photos. The ones where someone said, “say cheese”, and you thought you needed to do an exaggerated smile. In this post, you will learn how to get genuine smiles in photos and what to do instead of, “say cheese”.


Actionable photo tips to get genuine smiles in photos.


Make the interactions real

If the interactions feel at all fake, the smiles will look forced. Truly engage and have fun with your kids if you want to get genuine emotion. If you aren’t genuine, they won’t be either. Play and interact the way you normally would when you aren’t photographing. This is why I always tell the mom’s I teach to take photos all the time, even in the most ordinary moments. If it is just a part of your life, you will find it becomes easier to get genuine smiles and more cooperation from your kids.


Talk as you photograph

If you’re talking and interacting with your kids you are far more likely to get genuine smiles in your photographs. These smiles come from the relationship your children have with you. Talking to them while you photograph will make it less of a ‘photo shoot’ and more of an engaging time with them. Enjoy the time together and use it as an opportunity to get them talking. You will get all kinds of great facial expressions including genuine smiles.

genuine smiles in photos

Don’t say, “say cheese” or “smile”

No matter how many times I tell my photography students this, they still do it. It is completely ingrained in us from childhood I think. You do not need to get say, “say cheese” to get your child to look at the camera. In fact, this almost never produces a genuine smile in photos. Instead, do any of the other tactics from this list. Tell your child to make an ugly face and then take a photo right after as they laugh about the face they just made. Move around a lot and take photos from every angle. Say something like, “did you know I think you’re really silly?” Or I think you really good at_________ (you fill in the blank). All of these tactics will get your child’s attention and bring out genuine smiles for your pictures.


Give compliments and don’t get grumpy

When you’re taking photos of your kids, make sure you are giving them compliments the whole time. This goes for adults too. Everyone has to feel good about themselves to relax enough for photos. Tell your kids what you love about them, that you love their big smile, that you think they’re special, and on and on. Kids love compliments as much as the rest of us.

genuine smiles in photos

Sing, dance, and tell jokes

This is an easy one. Get your kiddos laughing by singing funny songs or dancing. You may also want to have a few jokes ready you know will get them going. (Jokes about boogers and underpants usually do the trick quite easily!) If the process is fun you will get better photos and more genuine smiles.


Have your subjects interact with each other

If you are photographing your kids tell them to tell each other a secret, look at each other, or have one tickle the other. These interactions will create genuine laughter and smiles which will give you genuine smiles in your photos. Depending on the age of your child, you may just need to say, put your arm around your big brother or give him a hug and that older sibling will probably make an effort to get away, which will also give you genuine smiles. You know your kids. Don’t and them uncomfortable, but get them to interact in a way that will get them laughing.

genuine smiles in photos

These photo tips on how to get genuine smiles in photos will help you capture your child’s personality. No more fake, exaggerated smiles. Your goal should be to make your kids comfortable around the camera, make it a non stressful activity, and engage with them as you photograph. If they enjoy getting their photo taken you will get the smiles you are looking for.


What to do now:

Get out there and start taking photos of the everyday moment and have fun doing it! You can pin this article for later by clicking the Pinterest icon on the side. My goal for you is that you have fun with photography and make it a part of your every day.  Tag me on Instagram (@athomewithkidsblog) and show me your favorite photos.


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