• C.Nic Photographs

4 Tips For Getting (Real) Smiles From Kids!


At some point, whether as a photographer or parent (or both!), you've probably wondered how do you get those beautiful, sweet, silly moments of a kiddo if they are being shy, upset, distracted, or just having one of those days?! Unfortunately it's not as easy as "saying cheese!" - but there are a ton of creative ways to get kiddos to smile.

#1. Don't be afraid to be utterly, completely, uncontrollably goofy!


Does Dad's dancing make the little one(s) laugh? Or maybe Mom knows a funny joke that makes them giggle. I've had an older sibling give me bunny ears while I held the camera which made her laugh! Siblings can be a huge help - and they usually have no trouble with being totally silly. If I get help from a sibling or parent, I can get a feel for their personalities and use that for future group photos. Even having various members interact a bit in front of the camera (such as telling each other knock-knock jokes or just being silly/sweet) can create magic! (So, bonus tip: You never know when silly jokes will help you capture a great photo! Here's a free one: Where did the sheep go for vacation? The Baaaaa-hamas!)


#2. Tell them NOT to smile! Yep, classic reverse psychology here. Almost every shoot I'm on I hear "Smile! Say cheese!" and the your kid's shyness or rebellious streak kicks right in, or you get that super strained smile that looks more like Sheldon Cooper being told to smile. More often than not, if you tell a little one to hold in their smile, don't smile, don't laugh, etc. - it'll get them to giggle! (Would you believe that M here, featured to the left, was actually really shy when we first started?! It was sooo worth it when she smiled because seriously, how truly beautiful is she?!)


#3. Have the sun behind your subject! Who can smile with the sun in their eyes? You'll get eyes closed or watering with a painful smile, and the photo will probably end up being deleted or lost on Facebook somewhere. Either way, it's not being enjoyed to the full potential. If you face your kiddo with the sun behind them, it'll make it so much easier for them to actually see you, really smile, plus their hair will look beautiful! The best time to do this is early morning or evening. Mid-day will be the most difficult time to get a photo like this, your best bet will be finding a patch of shade. If you do have to have your subject face the sun (let's say there's an unmovable object in the photo you want to get) - use this free tip that I picked up from working at Disney: have all subjects look at you, then close their eyes without moving them. Compose your shot and focus. Have everyone smile. Then, let the kids know that when you count to three - open their eyes at you. When you say "Three!" (when their eyes are open), snap the photo! This method should be able to help improve your chances on getting at least one photo where everyone is looking! Make sure that small children are told to never look into the sun and when eyes are closed, their eyes should still be focused on you - not moving around.


#4. Let them be a part, not a product. Go for that silly face! It might make them laugh! Have them make those faces you'd never want on a giant canvas or on your holiday card. Why? Because you just don't know what might happen a split second later. Kids are really good at amusing themselves! Have two or more children? Challenge them to tell jokes to each other or make each other laugh! Let one of the parents pick them up or toss them into the air - chances are they'll still be laughing when they're put down (plus you get a cute candid!). Side note - always listen to kids if they say stop or no more - it's important for them to feel heard especially when it comes to personal boundaries and their 'bubble'. Point is, if you tell them to smile for an hour straight - chances are they'll get sore and bored. But - if they feel like they're a part of the experience, rather than just a product of it, everyone will be happier!

Good luck!

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