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Say cheese… then a grimace… So How to get children smiling in photographs?

We have all been there. The moment is perfect, so you decide to take a photo of your little one, you raise your camera and… that fake grimace smile!

How to get children smiling in photographs

Where did that smile go?

Why do they do that? You know how adorably cute that genuine smile is but you just can’t seem to capture it in a photo. As a photographer , I sometimes get parents feel disaapointed say “oh they are normally more smiley than this.” Firstly, I don’t actually mind if not all of the pictures I take are of the child smiling. Sometimes the most beautiful and authentic images are when they don’t smile. let me share a little story of how I got a class of children smiling in their photographs. This is a suitable method for children aged 3 and over

A class of children smiling

Recently I took my camera to school (I’m also a teacher.)

I wanted to give the parents a meaningful gift to celebrate the end of what has been one of the most difficult school years ever. Of course, I know that beautiful images are a gift to be treasured. 

Knowing these children so well really helps. Some of them I have taught for the last 3 years, so I know what makes them happy or sad. I know their fears and their triggers.

I thought therefore I would easily be able to capture those gorgeous, genuine smiles I see each day. But as soon as I lifted my camera, uh-oh… the grimace!

How to get children smiling in photographs

No cheese, please!

Standard school photographer that I have encountered some with their bag of tricks. The cuddly toy that disappears behind their shoulder, the classic “Say Cheese!” or accusing the assistant of being a ‘silly suasage.’ To be fair, these strategies can be quite successful. They require the photographer to be loud and like a kids entertainer. That is not me. I like to be calm around young children so what simple trick did I find that worked beautifully?

Knock, Knock…

It was simple really. I asked them to tell me their best joke. Sure I took a few images whilst they were talking that were not usuable and had funny expressions. However, what is one thing guaranteed? All kids think their jokes are hilarious. Even the ones that make no sense whatsoever. When they finish telling their joke, there it is. That autentic, genuine smile that waits with anticipation for your response. CLICK!

Smiling children, smiling parents

When I presented these pictures to parents in a beautiful mount with a poem on the back they were overwhelmed at the gesture. Many saying ‘Why don’t they smile like that when I take pictures?’ Infact, one parent went as far as to send a message with these beautiful words:

Sara – I’m genuinely moved with the beautiful words, beautiful picture, I have tears in my eyes! – thank you so much thank you, wish you all the very best from all my heart!

If you have enjoyed this post – give it a go and let me know how you got on in the comments below. I’m not saying it is guaranteed to work, but it definitely worked for me on this occasion!

Please check out some of our other blog titles:

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5 tips to photograph your newborn at home

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