How To Get Your Child To Smile Naturally For Photos

Prefer to read? You’ll find a written tutorial below.

How To Get Your Child To Smile Naturally For Photos

Once children reach a certain age and become conscious of smiling for the camera it can be difficult to capture their natural smile. If they’re anything like mine, they either smile awkwardly or like to pull funny faces!

And when children become older still, they can start to feel awkward in front of the camera. So knowing how to coax those natural smiles out of them becomes even more important.

Whatever your child’s age there are ways to capture that gorgeous, natural smile that you’re used to seeing every day. In this article I’ll share five tricks that you can use to get natural smiles when you’re taking photos of your children.


Tip One: Say Anything Other Than Cheese When You’re Taking Photos!

It’s strange that we all grow up thinking that it’s good to say “cheese” when we’re being photographed because most of us don’t look very natural when we do!

Instead I recommend asking your children to say anything other than cheese. Just before I sat down to write this tutorial, I had to take some pictures of my daughter for school. She’s been collecting things in groups of 15, so instead of asking her to say cheese I asked her to say 15. I got a nice, natural smile and no cheesy grin!

If you’re struggling to think of what to ask your children to say, one thing that always works well is to choose a word that will make them laugh. Ask them to say a word that you know will make them giggle, and as soon as they do start laughing take your photograph.

Tip Two: Let Them Play And Wait For A Natural Smile

One of the things that can stop us from coaxing out natural smiles is that trying to take a nice photo of your own children can become quite stressful. You’re in a nice place, you’re desperate for them to just smile nicely, but they don’t want to play ball! I think we’ve all been there.

But nice photos don’t always have to be about a planned moment. Instead just let your child play. Chat to them as they play and have your camera ready as you wait for the moment where they naturally look up and smile. When they do, be ready to take your photograph.


Tip Three: Use Reverse Psychology

When your child is point-blank refusing to smile, a bit of reverse psychology can work really well. When I use this trick, I tell children that they are not allowed to smile at me under any circumstances!

I make it into a game, and keep reminding them not to smile. Every time I see a glimpse of a smile on the corners of their mouth I remind them that they’re not supposed to be smiling. Few children can keep it up for long, and usually end up laughing. That’s the moment when I take their photograph.

Tip Four: Play A Game As You Take Their Photograph

The idea behind playing a game is that you’re encouraging your child to think about anything other than posing for the photograph. While they’re busy playing along with you, they will inevitably smile, laugh, giggle – you just need to be ready with your camera to capture it!

You don’t need to think of anything complicated – the game can be as simple as peek-a-boo for little children. For older children it could be a guessing game or quiz. Anything that takes their mind off the camera.

Tip Five: Use The Element Of Surprise To Capture A Natural Smile

If your child always pulls a forced, unnatural smile when you try to photograph them, you can coax out a natural smile by surprising them just before you take the photograph.

Get ready to take your photograph as usual, but just before you click the shutter do something to surprise your child and make them giggle. This could be making a really funny noise. It could be saying something completely outrageous that they just don’t expect you to say. ​

The idea here is that they’ll forget about the fact they’re supposed to be smiling for a photo and giggle or laugh at what you said. That’s when you should see a nice, natural smile to capture.

In Summary: How To Get Natural Smiles In Photos

If you struggle with getting your children to smile naturally for photographs, there are a few tricks you can use to take their mind off the camera, and coax out their natural smile:

  1. Say anything other than cheese
  2. Let them play
  3. Reverse psychology
  4. Play a game
  5. Surprise them

Next time you pull your camera out to photograph them, have a couple of these tricks up your sleeve and give them a go. I’d love to hear how you get on.

Want To Learn More About How You Can Improve Your Photographs?

  • Book a place on my online 1-2-1 beginners photography training for parents.
    In this half-day training, you’ll learn:
  • What the different settings on your camera mean and how to use them.
  • The exposure triangle and how light affects your photographs.
  • What makes a good photograph and the rules of composition.
  • How to capture natural photographs of your children without any forced, cheesy grins!

Click here to learn more about the beginners photography training

Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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