Photography Tips: How to Get Kids to Smile for the Camera


We all want to take gorgeous photos, especially of our kids. My daughter just turned two, so she's at the age now where as soon as she sees my phone or camera come out, she stops what she's doing and begs to hold it.

I need some new strategies, and who couldn't use some creative ideas for this one? 

To help you (and me) achieve this goal, I messaged a few talented family photographers I know for tips and tricks on getting those perfect shots. Read on for the details, then let me know in the comments what worked best for you!

Q: “What are your go-to tricks to get babies and kids to smile and laugh for the camera?”

Lena Antaramian (Live Love Laugh Photos) - As a parent you generally know what makes your baby or child laugh.  What makes them laugh in ‘real life’ is what will make them laugh for the camera – be it you blowing raspberries or singing a silly song for your 9-month-old baby or telling knock-knock-jokes to your pre-schooler.

I have a few camera gadgets that I put on my camera to grab the attention of babies and toddlers – that works really well.  And for older kids I just try to be as silly as I can – kids find nothing is funnier than a silly adult! :)

Vikki Reed

Viki Reed -  A lot of families know to bring favorite noise makers or toys which give your subject something comforting to focus on if you’re not shooting at their house. It also helps to be sensible and avoid being loud - don’t storm or stomp around, smile a LOT, cheer and clap in a playful Gymboree way.  Talk to them the way you speak with your own little family members.

Find things in common. Be honestly at ease with the little ones.  They’re like animals and sense anxiety and tension.  I also order my peeps to bring lots of snacks, or bottles if they’re not breastfeeding.  

Andrew Macpherson - Jingle keys work well. I like to run around a lot to keep the kids attention.

Christie Adams - I think it's important to engage with children - ask them questions, sing to them etc.  Many times even the most energetic children will behave better for me, as a stranger, than their own parents.

Stacy Canzonieri - I am willing to try anything to get a child to laugh or smile! I might sing a song and change the words, make funny animal noises, or play peek-a-boo for younger ones. The more time you spend with the child before you actually start shooting, the more you get to know what makes them tick.

Yellow Lollipop Photography

Yellow Lollipop Photography

Aneta (Yellow Lollipop Photography) - I am a big kid at heart and I am not afraid to get down to their level, play with them, tickle them, even sing a silly song (and I can impersonate Elmo like no other!). The key is to make them feel comfortable and gain their trust. Once you do that, they relax and you can capture their true personalities. Sometimes I use my Camera Creatures as well, which are stuffed animals that you attach to your camera. I love them and own all of them :)

Shannon Mulligan - This is always a fun one! Sometimes you just have to be super goofy and make silly noises. Sometimes I play a quick game of hide and seek or Simon Says. My goal is to gain the trust of the child from the very beginning of the session, and most of the time, I capture genuine smiles. I never like the "Cheese" smile.

Jennifer Davis - Just let them be kids!  Roll with it, be silly, and get down to their level.  I never ask kids to 'perform', I always just try to be a funny friend and have my camera at the ready.  The smiles always come.

And there you have it. So next time I want to get a great photo of my daughter laughing, I'll be more discrete with the camera and just let her do her thing to hopefully catch some great candid shots, or do things I normally do to make her laugh like sing her favorite songs or ask her silly questions.

Asking her to "smile!" is not the way to go - lesson learned.

It's also great to know that there are some wonderful family photographers in my area that would have no trouble getting my daughter to smile for some more professional shots when I want them.

Did you try any of these tricks? Let me know in the comments what worked (or didn't) for you!

xo, Coralee
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