Get Your Kids to Smile at the Camera | 7 Tips



It doesn’t matter if you have a master’s in a fine photographer or a mom with an iPhone… we can all agree on one thing- getting your kids to smile at the camera is a downright struggle for all. Heck, getting them to even look in our general direction is hard. As a professional motherhood photographer, it’s my j-o-b to get kids to look and smile at the camera. Then I became a mom and realized that your own kids don’t exactly follow directions from their mother like they do other people. So, I had to get even more creative! After reading this post, you will learn how to get your kids to smile at the camera without the stress that you can start doing today. Without further ado, here are 7 tips to get your kids to smile at the camera.

More of a visual learner? Click here to check out my YouTube video all on this topic.

Get Your Kids to Smile at the Camera | 7 Tips_1

Tip 1 | Their Favorite Toy

This is a trick I discovered when my eldest son, Worth, was 6 months old. I had a cute basket set up and everything ready to go for his perfect session… and then he wouldn’t look at the camera. In a moment of desperation, I went and got his favorite toy and had my husband play peek-a-boo with it behind my back. GOLD! It worked like absolute magic. It threw him completely off guard (because he didn’t know we had it) and he smiled when he realized what it was. The result- amazing photos.

This trick is very simple and works for all young ages. Simply sneaking their favorite toy in your bag on the way to the session. Here’s the key: don’t introduce it at the beginning. Start shooting and when they least expect it, have it in your hand ready to play peek-a-boo or have someone do it for you so you can snap away.

Pro tip- make sure the item is RIGHT above your head and not to the left or right. You want your kid to look at the camera if possible.

Tip 2 | “Is _____ inside my camera/phone?”

Simply ask your kid if their favorite character or animal is inside your lens or camera. This question always throws them off a little and gets a great smile! This trick can be modified and grow with them. I’ve asked my son if there were a dinosaur and Chase (his favorite PawPatrol character) based on what he was the most into at the time.

You can also do this for a large group of kiddos! In my experience, I’ve noticed they first look at each other like, “do you see a dinosaur in there?!” But then they end up laughing and it makes a great photo even if they might now all be looking at the camera, it’s definitely worth a shot (no pun intended.)

Tip 3 | Know Your Kids Love Language

Are you familiar with the 5 love languages? These are 5 ways in which we feel most loved and appreciated. I highly recommend the book The 5 Love Languages. This is most commonly referenced when speaking about marriage and how to communicate with your spouse. However, kids also have a special way in which they feel loved, accepted, and appreciated (and there’s a book on that too!) The 5 Love Languages are Words of AffirmationActs of Service, Receiving GiftsQuality Time, and Physical Touch.

What’s your child’s?

For sure, Worth’s is receiving gifts. He gets so excited and is motivated by any type of surprise or gift. Now, I’m not saying I go out and purchase a toy every time I take his photo, but I do use this information to my advantage when I need it. If he’s just not cooperating or in the mood for photos, I’ll bribe him. I am NOT above a kid for good photos especially when I know it’s his love language. During a session that is more casual, I may say “if you do what mommy asks, you get to pick the show we watch tonight” or ” I have some fruit snacks waiting for you if mommy get a good picture.”

When I am paying for photos or taking photos that are super, super special to me, I may get him a gift. For my maternity session and newborn session with his baby brother, he got to go to the book store and pick any book out he wanted. I let him know that was the reward well in advance… like days. I talked about how much fun it was going to be during the session AND when he got to pick out a book. Setting the expectation and getting him excited about really works.

Just knowing your kid’s love language is a great start and using that information to make them feel loved and supported during the session.

Tip 4 | Say the Word to Make Them Smile

Is there a word that makes your kid giggle? Booger. Hiney. Pirate bootie. Whatever it may be, just say it and get ready for a huge smile!

Tip 5 | Act a Fool

This session isn’t about you and no one is photographing you. So, let loose, mama! GO ALL OUT. In the words of Ludacris, “act a fool.”  Just be ready to take some photos while you do it because they are coming!

Tip 6 | Say Anything But Cheese

Kids hear it all the time, “say cheeeeeese.” So, try something else that is totally off the wall. For my son, “say booger” is an instant smile (boys… they are gross sometimes but really easy to make smile.”

Trick 7 | Sing the Theme Song

Oh, this is my favorite of the 7 ways to get your kids to smile at the camera. If you’ve come to my studio with your child, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me (poorly) sing. I always ask the parent, what is their favorite show. I will bust out the theme song just when I need it and, you guessed it, huge smiles!

***Bonus Tip: You can quickly and easily edit the photo you take on your phone in one click. Click here to read my post How to Use Mobile Preset and get a preset FOR FREE!***

There ya have it! My favorite  7 ways to get your kids to smile at the camera. You now know all my secrets on how to get your kids to smile at the camera without the stress. Now it’s time to get photographing!  Want to learn how to use a fancy camera to take AMAZING photos of your kids? Join me in Mom Photography school for only $35! Click here to read all about how much moms all over the country have gotten amazing results with MPS.





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  1. […] made that up, but it’s SO TRUE. It doesn’t matter how cute your kid’s smile is (which you can find a post all about how to get them to smile here!) … if the colors are off, the photos will not be good. No worries though! I am here to make […]

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