Tips For Getting Natural Smiles with Children

Photographing children can be difficult and often takes more time than you would expect. Be sure that you ask Mum and Dad if they want any particular shots as it can take all day in some cases.

child smilingHere are some top tips on how to get those natural-looking smiles:

1. Cut the Cheese

Telling a child to “Say Cheese” often causes those awkward, forced faces that don’t truly capture who they are. You can’t expect a child to walk into a photoshoot ready to smile on demand for a stranger.

cheesy smile from child

2. Get Chatty

Instead, try simply talking to them first, find out what they like:

  • What’s their favourite lesson at school?
  • Which foods do they detest the most?
  • What do they want to be when they’re older?

setting up child shoot

Mix up the questions, and the reactions and expressions will naturally vary; this gives you, as the photographer, more to work with.

For example, asking a child if they like eating sprouts, broccoli or gherkins might cause you to capture some very interesting (or funny) facial expressions.

child holding nose

Create a bond between yourself and the child; that way you will appear less intimidating.

When photographing children, don’t ask the child to smile, this can lead to making them feel uncomfortable, which will show in your photos, try making them laugh (or smile) naturally, for those glowing, uplifting images that Mum and Dad will adore!

playful child poses

Tip: To really make children feel at ease, get down low. Lying (or crouching) down to the child’s eye level will help to make you look smaller and less menacing (or intimidating).

girl thinking drawing

3. Trick for trick

What do all children love? Shouting and Screaming.

Most kids aren’t allowed to scream and shout, which makes it great fun to kids (when they are allowed).

Firstly, make sure your neighbours are out, then encourage them to make as much noise as they like; not only will they be delighted with shock, but they’ll have fun and love it!

This is a quick and easy way to make children instantly ease up in front of the camera (and in front of you).

child pose

The best way to create a calm, relaxed atmosphere (as quickly as possible), is to let the child do everything they’re not allowed to. This means sticking their tongues out, pulling silly faces, making strange noises, or even getting a bit messy.

child with messy painting

Think outside of the box, and go for alternative approaches. The children will know that you want them to smile, so instead, tell them to be as serious as possible.

If you ask a child to try not to smile, they will eventually break out into laughter. Turn this into a game, tell them that they are not allowed, under any circumstances to smile – they’ll crack almost instantly.

child bursting out of a box

4. Show and Tell

It is often a good idea to involve children in the photoshoot. They will be in a brand new environment, where they may feel uncomfortable. Why not show them the shots as you take them? Have your photos streaming to a computer nearby, or simply show them the back of the camera.

The more you keep them involved in the process, the more relaxed they will feel. If your camera has a flip screen, you could turn it to face them, show them what you’re shooting as you’re shooting.

photographer and girl looking at camera

To a small child, strange adults can appear more like giants. Get down onto the floor so that you’re photographing children from a child’s level (or below them).

You can use this to your advantage, make up a game and encourage them to get involved; this is bound to help them relax in your company. Much more importantly, your shots will be level with their height rather than appearing as if you’re looking down on them.

family portrait pose

If the children you’re shooting aren’t too young, pass them your camera and let them take some pictures of you. It is probably best to stay pretty close to them – just in case!

Be sure to pull your funniest face, this will bring out that lovely giggle, as well as make them feel relaxed around your camera equipment.

child looking over camera

5. Use props

If you’re shooting a newborn too, involve the siblings; let them see what you’re doing and ask them what they think about the shot – then, include them in the shots too.

If a toddler is focused on the new baby or sibling (instead of you), you will get some beautiful natural shots. If you’re lucky, you may capture a tender moment of interaction – priceless imagery!

sister and sibling posing

Ever had a child who just wouldn’t let go of that favourite toy? Or maybe it’s a fancy dress costume (or item of clothing) that they will not be without. There’s no reason to exclude their favourite toys or outfits from the frame, what better way to show their true personality than to keep these items in the shot?

child cuddling teddy

There’s no point in risking upsetting the child by taking their favourite toys or comfort items away from them. Instead, find ways to utilize the items – it will keep the child entertained and provide you with additional photographic opportunities, so keep the camera ready.

child rock star

Older Children

When photographing children, the same rules apply to older kids. If they have a hobby that they are passionate about, introduce it within the session. This will make the process more enjoyable for them, and also helps you to connect with them as an individual. Capture the memories and always try to incorporate their personality.

child pretending to DJ

We hope this article on photographing children has given you some fresh ideas, interesting tips and room for thought about. Next time you want to achieve those blushing candid shots of children, remember to warm up your singing voices, practice some practical jokes, and make sure you leave the cheese at home in the fridge (where it belongs).

child eating cheese

And don’t worry… if all else fails, who doesn’t love a hilarious photo of an uncooperative child anyway? So get snapping and practice developing some new fun and creative child portraits.

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