Download the Guide
Grab our free kids photography guide and start using our fave tips & tricks to improve your photos!
If you want to make kids smile quickly and easily for photos, ask them to “say cheese!”.
The problem when shooting photos of kids is that, you’ll generally get phony, cheesy, unappealing smiles where they barely even look like their real selves!
If you want real smiles from kids, with spontaneous expressions of glee and laughter, the kind that warms your heart and creates pics you’ll treasure forever… you need to engage them in fun ways.
So I’ve compiled a list of my ten favourite tricks, games and prompts that work to draw out natural happy from any kid.
You can make some kids smile, especially little ones, if you sing either in a silly voice, or if you get the words wrong. I never sing a song correctly… my favourite is the alphabet song. I’ll tell them I just learned this song yesterday and could they listen for me and let me know if I’m getting it right. Then I start…
“ABCDEF Bananas! HIJKLMNO 6 13 42 PQR Bucket full of Monkeys!…”
Somewhere in there (usually around bananas!), they start laughing and telling me how badly I’ve stuffed it up. And I’ll capture all the smiles and laughter. I can use this a few times when shooting photos, throwing in different mistakes every time.
For babies and toddlers, do it straight. This age group love songs, so get familiar with a few favourites that are easy to remember and you’ll always get smiles.
To get smiles for my photos, I will talk about my last meal, making it as disgusting or weird as I can.
“I’m so full, I had a broccoli milkshake for breakfast with monkey hair and dirty socks!”.
I’ll tell them I’m really hungry and I feel like some soup. Ask them for soup ideas, throw in a few disgusting suggestions, and watch them take it from there.
Wondering what other things you can do to get smiles for photos? Ask for a high 5, up here, down low, too slow. Keep pulling your hand away at the last second and capture the laughs and smiles in between.
Make sure before you finish you let them catch you!
It doesn’t matter if you already know the kids, or even if the subject is your child. The statement will be surprising and make them smile.
So when I’m about to take a photo, I’ll say “oh by the way, my name is Sandwich McBurger, what’s your name? Any other ridiculous name will work… especially if you use toilet humour!
Danielle Alyssa, Click Love Grow Graduate
If you want to capture adorable smiles in photos, ask the kids to try and scare you. Little ones will often do this by playing peek-a-boo, and when they say “boo!”, over act with fright, and be ready to capture their laughter. This is a very popular game with ages 3-6.
Spring a silly voice on them when chatting to them, and be prepared to capture their look of surprise and delight. I once spent about 20 minutes photographing children play Simon Says with a bad Russian accent. Worked surprisingly well!
The moment your face is obscured behind your camera and they’re waiting for you to take a shot, make a silly sound. I like to snore and then blame them and ask if they could please stay awake.
The easiest way to get smiles for your photos is to tell kids that this is very serious business and they are not allowed to smile.
Use a mock stern voice, keep repeating it, accuse them of smiling, ask them to compose themselves, please stop smiling, this is very serious business!
Naturally they’ll try to thwart you and smile through the photos!
Related: What Lenses Do To Faces
One of my favourites! To make kids smile with ease, ask them to tickle each other. Tell them they have to wait until you count to 3. Then count very slowly, and when you get to 3, say something unexpected instead, eg. 1…….2……..dirty socks!
Capture the smiles and looks of excited anticipation in the build up, the delightful laughter when you say something other than the expected “three”. For shooting your photos, you can drag this one out for a few turns, and when you finally get to 3, capture their connection and laughter as they tickle one another.
I’ll ask where is your smile hiding? Is it…. in your ears? And I tickle an ear. Is it… in your tummy? Is it…. in your lunchbox? Get sillier and sillier with the potential location of their smile and hey presto, out it comes.
Most toddlers, pre-schoolers and a little beyond will dance like no one is watching. You’ll need a fast shutter speed for this one!
Related: How to Capture Kids in Action
I hope my tips on on getting kids to smile naturally will help you get amazing photos of your little ones!