10 Tips to Photograph Kids and Get Genuine Smiles

Photographing kids can be quite the challenge! Sometimes they are energetic and running all over the place and other times they’re shy and only want to hide away from you. So how do you connect with kids to get those genuine smiles? Here are our 10 tips to get those great expressions from your tinies subjects!

  1. Talk to them first – Before you start pointing a camera at their face, take a second to introduce yourself and talk to them. Younger kids need a few minutes to warm up to you before letting you
  2. Get to know them ahead of time  – Start using using questionnaires before the session! This is a great way to ask mom or dad what their kids are into so you can connect with them the day of the session. What are they loving right now? Any favorite movie or tv characters? Favorite songs?
  3. Prep mom and dad – Let them know ahead of time to not get frustrated or angry with the kids if they aren’t being perfect. Anger will only lead to melt downs and tears. Let them know from the start that you want them to have fun with their kids, and you’ll ask for help if you need them to intervene. But if something isn’t working, you’ll switch gears and try something else.
  4. Relax – If you’re chasing them around, trying desperately to get any smiles out of them, you’re going to end up with forced, inauthentic smiles. If you are more relaxed and go with the flow, the kids are more likely to warm up to you and give you what you’re looking for.
  5. Respect – Kids are very in tune when adults are talking down to them or over them, or when adults are overdoing it and not being themselves. Talk to them like normal and include them in conversation. If you show them respect, be yourself, and have fun they’ll show it back to you.
  6. Use back button focus – By using this technique, you can prefocus on your subject and bring your face out slightly from behind the camera to make a joke and connect with them. This is a great way to get a genuine smile from them!
  7. Don’t bribe them – Tell the parents to not bribe the kids with candy or something to do after the session (like a toy or ice cream). All this does is set the kids focus on that one thing, and the fact that they don’t have it. Plus it puts them in the mind set that this is something that isn’t fun, but if you do it you’ll get a reward. It may buy you a couple minutes, but in the end can lead to more melt downs.
  8. Get down on their level – Putting yourself on the same level as them not only makes for a great image, but it also helps him feel less intimidated when you talk eye level with them.
  9. Pre-Focus – This tip works especially well for younger children. Set up your shot, pre-focus the shot, and then bring your face out from behind the camera so that you can make eye contact and talk to them or make silly faces to get them to laugh. They will be more engaged versus if your face is covered by your camera.
  10. Play – Find games for the family to play to get great smiles out of the kids. Have mom and dad swing the kid as they walk, have a tickle fight, have dad lift them up in the air, play peekaboo, have them show you how high they can jump, have them whisper in moms ear, give their best roar, etc. Make them up as you go based on their personality and what they love! By making the session fun, you’re sure to get great smiles out of everyone!

What are your favorite tips to avoid getting the “cheese” smile? 

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