The biggest difference between a professional photographer and a stranger in the park with a camera is their ability to capture your family’s unique personalities. One of the biggest skills required to achieve this is getting kids to smile naturally. Here are some tips and tricks for getting those natural smiles without having to “say cheese!”.
Getting Kids To Smile Naturally: Ask Questions
Kids love to talk about themselves. So as a photographer, one of the best things you can do is get them talking about their passions and interests. Dinosaurs? Perfect, T-Rex noises in the bag. Have a Dora Explorer fan in the crowd? Study up on how to count in Spanish. These small details seem insignificant but can make sessions go from good to great.
One of the most fun tricks in my bag is singing silly songs. I have a “playlist” if you will of songs that I love to sing at high-pitch, usually while jumping around. When the adults model being happy, the kids pick up on that quickly. When this happens, everyone leaves the session with a smile on their face.
Although I am generally not a fan of potty talk, the novelty of it is exciting for kids. If Mom and Dad are game, a few fart jokes or potty jokes mixed in usually get some genuine giggles. I don’t recommend using this as your main strategy and use it only when absolutely needed.
Getting Kids To Smile Naturally: Tickle Hugs
The next trick I like to bring out is tickle hugs. This is a great way to get everyone in the family warmed up and laughing. And if they’re laughing, they’re not crying. See what I did there?!
“Don’t smile! I said, don’t smile!” is another fun one. Depending on the age of the kiddo, you may want to be careful with this but with the right kiddo it will be the perfect way to get them to give you a huge grin. Better make sure that shutter speed is cranked though, it might be quick!
Throwing Them Around
As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these strategies are dependent on what the parents are comfortable with. Obviously, you won’t be the one throwing the kiddos around so you’ll need buy in from the adults. Some of the best smiles happen upside down!
“I’m Going to Get You!”
This is a favorite for the under 2 crowd. If you hide behind your camera, pop out and then go in for the tickle, you’ll often be met with squeals of laughter. Is there anything better than that?
A Final Word About Getting Kids To Smile Naturally
All kids are different and should be approached differently. It’s so, so important to remember that kiddos are often nervous (especially if mom and dad are) and are waiting to get their cues from you. Measure the amount of energy they will need at the beginning of the session and work your way there slowly. For an hour long session, it’s better to start slow and allow them time to warm up. That being said, sometimes you encounter an outgoing kiddo and you’ll want to get all the shots in you can before they get too comfortable.