untitled-5466I had the privilege of having an awesome photo shoot with two sweet little boys ages 6 months and 3 years a couple of weeks ago.  I LOVE taking photos of babies around 4-7 months!!  They still have their baby fat and look adorable, aren’t too mobile yet, and they give you some AMAZING smiles…ones that come from the gut!

That got me thinking about writing a post with some tips for parents or beginning photographers who take photos of children.  Sometimes for children in that preschool stage, it can be like pulling teeth to get a real smile with emotions.

You can find more photos from my photo shoot with these two cuties at the bottom of this post, but first…

Getting those REAL Smiles:  Tricks and Tips 

1.  PLEASE don’t make them say CHEESE 

It’s almost as ingrained in the American consciousness as apple pie.  We get in a pinch, want our kids to smile, and we automatically say: “SAY CHEESE”.  Although it may make the corners of their mouth turn up in what looks like some resemblance of a smile, it is not the kind of smile you’re going for.  Saying “cheese” can easily lead to a squinty eyed, all teeth barred smile that looks fake.  For some reason, I’ve also noticed that children tilt their heads and stick out their chins when they say “cheese”.  Bottom line:  Just don’t say it!

2.  The child needs to feel relaxed.

Especially during photo shoots, it pays off in smiles later to help the child feel comfortable around you first. In my photo shoots, I try to talk a little with the child before we start shooting. I ask them questions about themselves and tell them a little about me.  I let them pet my pet bunny Dini if they want.  It helps to make them more comfortable and cooperative.

This goes the same for parents trying to take photos of their children.  If you are super stressed out about getting that perfect photo – the stress is probably rubbing off on your child too.  Parents can get a little intense sometimes -especially when it’s a photo of a special Christmas outfit or birthday.  We want the photos to be beautiful, but the process needs to be as relaxed as possible.

3.  Make sure the child isn’t cold, hungry or TIRED.

Let’s face it -NONE of us feels very cooperative if we’re starving, cold, or tired.  This should be pretty self evident, but sometimes we just forget – or we don’t want that perfect outfit ruined by a big blotch goo on the shirt before the photo shoot.   Try giving them a string cheese, fruit snack, or other non-sticky-gooey-crummy snack to fill those little tummies.  Oh, and don’t plan a photo shoot during your child’s nap time.  Help your child have a successful photo shoot by planning according to your child’s needs.


With many kids, asking them silly questions really gets them smiling.

  • “So, I hear your 25 years old!  WHAT, you’re NOT?!  Are you sure?….”

  • “You’re name is Tinkerbell, right?  What, it’s Luke?!  I don’t know… I thought your mom said Tinkerbell!

and so on…   This may sound a little silly, but it often works for me and kids think it’s hilarious.

5.  Use a little reverse psychology

I often use a little reverse psychology trick in my photo shoots, and it seems to work well especially for kids around 4 and 5 years old. I tell the child (in a kind tone of voice):  “Do not smile. Under NO circumstances should you smile.  Don’t smile. Hey, you’re smiling.  No, you can’t!!”  Sounds crazy, but somehow it works!

6.  Let them be goofy!

Let’s face it.  Goofiness comes with the territory of toddlers and preschoolers.  Nobody can sit and smile for 30 minutes to an hour and not go a little nutty!  I still remember how my face hurt after my wedding photos.  I thought my face would forever be stuck in the “SMILE” position.

I often ask a child to show me different emotions during a photo shoot.

For example:  Can you show me a MAD face?…what about a SERIOUS face?

Fun Family and Photo Shoot 3Can you show me a SILLY face?…what about a SCARED face?

This goes on until I get to a HAPPY face.   I often find that this works, and sometimes I get some awesome results that aren’t from the “happy face”!

Well, I hope that these little tricks will help you the next time you are trying to get an awesome pic of your child or client! Please feel free to like, comment, and share this post!  Thanks!  Oh, and don’t forget to check out my last photo shoot with these two super cuties below!