How To Get Your Kid To Genuinely Smile In Photos

When you ask a little kid to smile on command for a photo, you'll usually get something that resembles either a frightened prairie dog, someone who just smelled a fart, or the Joker.

Photo: uticaflowercompany (Flickr)

There's nothing wrong with awkward kid-smiles - for parents, they're hilarious, and for kids, they will make for excellent #ThrowbackThursday posts in decade or so. But it's also nice to capture those genuine grins - you know, the ones that are on their faces at just about every moment except when you pull out your camera.

My sister Carissa is a photographer whose job it is make even the most photo-averse children comfortable, while snapping images of their best selves. She told me some of her tricks for getting little kids to smile less awkwardly. None of them involve saying "cheeeeeese".

  • Have them chase you. "When you stop, they will be in a happy mood and you can take their picture," Carissa says.
  • Ask them to tell you a joke without smiling or laughing. This is usually an impossible challenge for a kid, and they will burst out laughing.
  • If you're photographing two kids, tell them to have a staring contest with each other. Same concept as above - they can't not smile.
  • With small children, have someone toss them in the air, hang them upside-down, or fly them like Superman. "These are great action shots," Carissa says.
  • Make fart sounds. I know. It's basically cheating. Alternately, you can whisper something silly in their ear such as "boo boo butt".
  • Have them talk about something happy. Their new puppy, their trip to Disneyland, the funny thing their brother did, their favourite flavour of ice cream.
  • Have them fake laugh with you. Fake laughs usually become real laughs.
  • Have some kid-jokes on hand. A few classics: "What musical instrument is found in the bathroom?" "A tuba toothpaste." "Why should you not let a bear operate the remote?" "He will keep pressing the paws button." "Why was Tigger dirty?" "Because he was playing with Pooh."
  • Say something totally random on the count of three, right before snapping the photo. Maybe "Donkey with a blue shoe!" or "Bazoinks!" They will be disoriented for a second and then smile.

If the tricks work with your kids, great, but if they just aren't into picture-taking, don't push it. The last thing you want is your kid to develop anxiety around the camera, a la Chandler Bing. Let it go, and remember that even bad photos can be great ones for their wedding slideshow.


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