One of the most difficult things to do in photography might be getting kids to smile for the camera. Even the best photographers sometimes struggle to get a natural smile from young children. Here are some tips for getting kids to smile as well as some things to remind the parents before the shoot:
1) Make sure they get to bed on time the night before!
Nothing makes kids more grumpy than if they are overly tired. Make sure that the parents schedule the shoot at a time when the kid(s) are naturally most happy and energetic. For some kids this would be first thing in the morning. For others it would be right after an afternoon nap. Talk to the parents and pick a time when you’ll have the best chance for happy kids.
2) Make sure they come to the photo shoot with full bellies.
Hungry kids are grumpy. (Aren’t we all?) Advise the parents to make sure their kid is well fed and maybe even have them bring their favorite (non messy) snack to tide them over if they get hungry during the photo shoot.
3) Allow their personality to show through!
Some of the best pictures may be a more candid style. Instead of trying to force the kid to hold a pose, let them interact naturally with a parent, sibling, or favorite toy. Be ready to capture the moment when they are expressing real emotion instead of the moment when they are ready to get their picture taken. Let them walk, skip or dance around!
4) Remind the parent that it is the photographer’s job to get the attention of the child.
It can be frustrating when you are trying to get the child to look at the camera and smile and at the same time the parent is standing behind you trying to get them to smile as well. The result is the kid doesn’t know where to look and gets confused. It’s best to just explain this to the parent ahead of time and let them know you might ask them for help getting their kid to laugh or smile but to let you try first.
5) Bring clean snacks they can eat without getting messy.
Consider providing a small snack or treat that you can use to bribe the kid into cooperating for a few more shots. Or sometimes they just need a break for a min while they eat a piece of candy and then they are more willing to get back in front of the camera again.
6) Play Peek-a-boo.
Or really any silly game that will get a child’s attention and make them laugh. Play the “mirror” game where you tell them to copy everything you do. Make silly faces or try shooting upside down or in silly positions to get them to laugh.
7) “Fuzzy Pickles!”
Come up with a list of silly phrases that you can have ready to surprise and delight young children with. “Do you want to eat a fuzzy pickle?” is sure to get a giggle or two. Telling them not to smile is another sure-fire way.
8) Keep on shooting.
Kids are unpredictable. Often if keep shooting even after you think you got a shot, the following expressions will be genuine emotion. Let each pose or situation play out and don’t be in too big of a hurry to try the next thing. Maybe the best photo is not the one where they are looking at the camera and smiling, but instead it’s the one where they are looking intently at something else in the room or environment that caught their attention. A contemplative stare can make for a more meaningful photo than the standard happy face.
Yes, photographing kids can be stressful. You’re trying to capture great photos for the parents while trying to keep the kids from tripping over or destroying your backdrops and lights. Just take a deep breath and relax. A relaxed photographer will send the signal to the parents and children that they are in a safe, relaxed environment and you will get better shots. Play relaxing or fun music. Don’t rush the session. Give the kids (and parents) time to feel comfortable around you and get to know you a little bit. Talk directly to the children and make them feel important and that you like them. They will be much more willing to do what you ask if they feel they can trust you and they have a chance to warm up to you. Don’t be afraid to act like a goof. This gives them permission to let loose and have fun as well. Get down on their level and crawl around on the floor or ground with them.
10) Try a Shutter Hugger.
These fun stuffed animals called Shutter Huggers use an elastic to stretch around the end of your lens and makes your camera more friendly! Also, try wearing fun clothes, or funny shoes. Use a clown horn or noise maker to get their attention.
Have your own tips for getting good smiles out of kids? Send us a message over on Facebook!