In this post let’s talk about something all momtographers want to know. How to get your kids to smile naturally in your photos instead of those super fake smiles you get when you say, “smile!” Getting your kids to look and act relaxed in front of the camera can be difficult. I struggle with this with my clients as well. The key is to make the whole process as comfortable and natural as you can.
Actionable tips for getting natural smiles from your kids in photos
Keep it low key
We all love to get a nice photo where everyone is looking at the camera with a gorgeous smile every once in a while. But those are few and far between, especially with young kids. It’s hard for kids not to look posed in a photo like this because they are posed. It’s simply just not a genuine shot. Instead, try to capture them in their space, doing what they love and you are sure to get some genuine smiles in your photos. Move yourself around rather than telling them to look towards you.
Have your camera ready and shoot fast. We all know moments move quickly when kids are involved and they will move from one thing to another in an instant. If you want to get the genuine smiles you need to be ready to shoot at any given moment. I encourage moms to just have their cameras with them everywhere. Some of your favorite shots will happen when you least expect it.
This works very well if you are taking pictures of more than one person, such as siblings or dad and son. Say something like, “tell your sister a secret”, or “give him a tickle”. Encouraging this kind of interaction almost always gets a joyful reaction. It might not last so be ready to snap the shot. If you’re taking pictures of a toddler you could include movement. Tell dad to swing him in the air and then bring him close to his cheek and look your way. Do this a few times and take a photo of the smile your child gives as he comes back down towards daddy’s cheek.
One of the biggest mistakes we make as moms is to have expectations of getting good photos and then taking it out on our kids when it doesn’t turn out the way we planned. We all know hardly anything turns out the way we planned when little humans are involved. The easiest way to destroy any chance of getting genuine smiles in your photos is to become negative and forceful. Not only will this ruin your photos right now, it will likely make your kids try to avoid your camera in the future as well. I am guilty of this one.
For my son’s first birthday I wanted to get a few pictures. I got him in a cute little outfit, took him outside in the perfect light, and all he wanted to do was eat grass. He would crawl away every time I got close and was extremely irritable. I also got frustrated and tried to get him to cooperate. I bet you can guess which one of us won the battle. In these moments it’s important that we take a break and try again at another time. There’s no chance of a natural smile when your kiddo has had enough.
Be a fly on the wall
Let your kids, family or clients interact like you aren’t there. Take pictures while they play and engage with each other and just move around to capture the moment as it unfolds. Keeping yourself from being a distraction will encourage more natural interactions which will lead to better smiles for. Think about documenting rather than posing.
Taking great pictures of your kids often comes down to how natural the picture looks. I know it can be a challenge not to tell your kids to look at you and smile or say cheese, but these two tactics almost never work to get genuine smiles in your photos. Instead, try the tips above and let your kids have a little fun while you photograph them. Keep it light hearted and find ways to capture the natural interactions as much as possible. Some of your best photos will be the ones where no one is looking directly at your camera and that’s okay!
What to do now:
Be less of a photographer and more of a documenter. Let your kids be in their element when you are snapping photos. Stop saying, “smile at me” and start looking for opportunities for real smiles in your photographs. Practice, Practice, Practice!
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