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How to Get Kids to Smile For Pictures: Photography Tips

Tips for Getting Kids to Smile for Pictures
by: Kristen Duke Photography
{we love her}Hello friends! Ashley asked me to do a post on some photography basics, so I thought I’d share something that would help the momma’s out there trying to get their kids to just LOOK AT THEM for a picture. I know a lot of you can feel my pain when you get blank stares or grumpy frowns or just plain ignoring your requests. As a momma myself, I have to have a LOT of tricks up my sleeve to get my own kids to smile at the camera (no, they aren’t used to it and happyily comply, I have to work for it). Right now in my family, I am dealing with my hardest client ages–the 2 year old and the 10 year old boy–Neither want to do what you ask when it comes to picture taking! Luckily my 6 year old daughter loves the camera!
My dad said if you want people to remember something you are teaching, give them a set of three points and it will stick better (Did you notice that with my e-book?) So I’ve got 3 tricks for the young ones and 3 tips for the older kids.

3 tricks for getting young kids to smile:

How to get kids to smile for pictures
1. One word phrases
“Cheese” is SO overdone…the kids are tired of it and by now they’ve heard it so much that they move their lips in a straight line and show some teeth but their eyes are totally annoyed and rarely even make eye contact. Change up those one word phrases you have them say. Some of my favorites for kids or groups: “Yee–haw” or “happy” or “Hooray!” or “pizza.” Throw out any words for them to repeat. It can be anything from their favorite treat to their favorite cartoon character to their favorite toy. Have them repeat what makes them happy and they will think happy thoughts.
2. Sing a song
We want to get the children to a place that brings happiness in order to capture happiness. As the momma (or aunt or grandma), you know their favorite song, start singing it! If they don’t sing along, they will surely smile as they hear it. Twinkle Twinkle or Old McDonald or Wheels on the Bus are standard favorites, but I often ask kids (if I don’t know them well) what shows they like to watch and I am finding myself singing about Dora or Elmo or even Barney. Singing the words wrong can actually be pretty funny as well. The little ones will correct you. One time, I kept singing it wrong even after correcting, and I got a grumpy face. I think I just took that one too far;)
Getting kids to smile for photographs
3. Have a bag of tricks
First, I pull out a little yellow hair scrunchy that has been converted to a duck. It wraps around my lens and I tell the young kids to look right at the duck and quack. I try to wait until I am desperate when I pull out a ball or a rattle to get their attention. I do this because often the little ones want to hold it and my plan could backfire. I throw the ball up in the air, or put it right by the camera and say I am going to throw it at them. The anticipatory smile is all worth it. I have a silver bell ornament from Christmas that I like to bring out because in the event that the young child wants to hold the ball, it isn’t too ugly to stay in his hand for the pic. A stick or book can “bonk” the photographer on the head or leg and you can actually yell “OWW” and that brings on the laughs as well. This requires an extra person doing the “bonking.” This shot below what my head getting “bonked” by my reflector as I pretended to get hurt.
tricks to get kids to smile for family pictures

3 tricks for getting older kids to smile:

How to get older kids to smile for pictures
1. Have a conversation
Show interest and have a chat about life. Ask about school, friends, sports, skateboarding, vacations, birthday wish list, their favorite show, etc. By asking questions and getting them to talk, they forget about the grumpiness that surely presented itself when you pulled out the camera.
2. Have some music at the ready
Teens love their music and it usually puts them in a good mood. Whether you ask them to bring their ipod, or tune the car radio to their favorite station, you are sure to get a happy face. You may even get to capture a dance move. Seriously, I love those kinds of candid shots!
3. Ask about their girl/boy friend.
They may not have one, but the idea of this brings a “no way” or a big smile as they think of that person they are crushing on. Whether they try to deny it, or paint you a picture of all of their loves’ exquisite details, you will get a smile.
How to get kids to smile for pictures
If you have some suggestions on getting kids to smile, please share! I can always use new ideas…especially for my own kids!
Kristen Duke Photography
P.S. Ashley mentioned my Say NO! to Auto e-book and workshops on here last week. I want to mention that I had a location change for my July 23rd California workshop. It was going to be in San Diego, but it is now in Huntington Beach. So if that is closer to you, please let me know if you’d like to attend! If you aren’t close to there or my Texas locations, look up my skype mentoring info for some one on one Q&A!
Oh, and if I haven’t given you enough links to pass the time, com
e on over to my facebook page and become a fan because each Friday (today!), I have a Facebook Freebie where I give away full resolution files of landscape images I have taken. Print as you please.
Have a great Friday!

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Shellsea
    June 3, 2011 at 5:42 am

    This is perfect! I always love the photography tips and I use the rattle one all the time. (works for a baby, might need to change it up in the future)

  • Reply
    Kim ~ One Nutty Mama
    June 3, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Great tips! I'm not a pro photographer but a mom that's always trying to get a smiling picture of her kids.

  • Reply
    Jazmin @ Happily Ever After
    June 3, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Love this!! I have been trying to find ideas to get my 2 yr old to smile for pictures! :o)

  • Reply
    purplesunset24
    June 3, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Great tips… Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Erin
    June 3, 2011 at 6:00 am

    To get my kids to smile…I bring out tickle fingers. So happy that my DSLR is set up for true one hand shooting. I just wave the fingers on one hand and shoot with the other. I also make a total fool of myself by dancing sometimes.

  • Reply
    andi
    June 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    really great tips, i'm always trying to figure out how professional photographers get kids to behave so well :). this post would be perfect to link to my "photo friday" link party. i have bri from mod memento guest posting today! i'd love it if you stopped by. http://milesandmems.blogspot.com/ thanks!

  • Reply
    Jill @ A Mom With A Lesson Plan
    June 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    We have the hardest time getting my son out of his "camera smile" I can't wait to try these tricks!

  • Reply
    Alyssa
    June 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Lots of good ideas! I really love it!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    June 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I love her photography! Thanks for the fab tips! I always have the hardest time getting kids to look! lol! PS I'm having a Summer Luvin' Saturday party tomorrow…you should link up all the summer fun you and Baby W are having!
    http://www.poutypinkprincess.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Lauren
    June 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Great post! I love Kristen Duke's work. I just bought the e-book and it's great. I'm looking forward to the intermediate book. When I do kiddie photos, bubbles and lollipops are a hit. The kids let loose, have fun, and it makes for great shots.

  • Reply
    Hespyhesp
    June 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Great tips! To get my two year old to smile while my husband takes pictures I usually stand behind him and jump out and say "BOO!" or, well, this is embarrassing… I make silly noises and sometimes even make myself burp. He's a boy, so naturally he thinks it is hilarious!

  • Reply
    Claire
    June 4, 2011 at 6:30 am

    this is helpful, thanks! i feel like it's tough though when it's my own kids. they listen better to other people. but then i figure, oh well, if they're not looking or smiling i'll just remember that's what they were like at this age 🙂 but these tips are definitely helpful. will try them!

    spinning-threads.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Allie
    June 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Great post! Some good ideas on there!! 🙂

  • Reply
    {{{Kelly}}} XtOphY Design Studio
    June 5, 2011 at 12:22 am

    GREAT Ideas! My 4 yr old is so hard to photograph right now. And my 8 month old just kinda is all over the place 🙂 Thanks so much for this!

  • Reply
    Kristen
    June 5, 2011 at 5:40 am

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  • Reply
    mrszimm
    June 6, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I had a photographer once tell me that asking your child to say "cupcake" usually creates a smile or at least forms your mouth into the shape of a smile.

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    August 25, 2011 at 2:15 am

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    November 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    what kid of projces could i do that makes kids smiley and whant to learn

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    Leah
    May 9, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Thank you for the tips, these are great and I can’t wait to test them out. I have 2 kids ages 3 and 2 and they never look or smile at the camera. I swear they have a 6th sense for when it’s near and they look the opposite direction. If they’re being super agreeable they smile plastic smiles with closed eyes, so I’m dying for some good pictures 🙂

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    July 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Make a weird face in front of them, They always will smile. 🙂

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