How to Get Your Child to SMILE for Pictures

By Kyra Chambers •  Updated: 08/11/22 •  7 min read

As a parent, you might be wondering how to get your child to smile for pictures at some point.

Because let’s face it, there’s nothing more rewarding than capturing your child’s natural smiles.

It can make your day, and it can make their day too!

But getting your child to smile for the camera isn’t always easy. Especially during a photo session. They may not like the sound of the shutter, or they may not want to sit still.

In this blog post, we’ll share some proven tips that’ll help you capture your child’s natural smile every time!

To Create a Genuine Smile, You Have to Be Excited

Your facial expressions and body language can influence your child.

If you want them to smile, you have to be excited about it too!

Get silly, make funny faces, use a silly voice, or make a funny noise. You want to let them see you’re enjoying yourself and that taking their pictures is fun.

This will put them at ease and make them more likely to smile.

As a parent, you’ll be taking pictures of them throughout their life, so it’s best to have them see this is an enjoyable experience early on.

Use Funny Words When Trying to Get Kids to Smile Naturally

Saying the word “cheese” is outdated and never really works for me with children.

Whenever I’ve tried telling a child to say “cheese” instead of a smile, they do this thing where they close their eyes and show me all of their teeth.

So instead of saying “cheese”, I tell them, “say boogers!” and I get 1 of 2 reactions:

  1. Either they’re excited to say boogers, and I get their genuine natural smile
  2. Or they’re surprised and start giggling because they weren’t expecting it

And sometimes “boogers” doesn’t work.

Every kid’s different!

Experiment Using Some of These Words:

Try whatever you think will make them belly laugh. You know them best!

Reverse Psychology Can Work

I’m sure you’re well aware that as a parent, you’ve experienced some disobedience, resistance, or ignoring from your child.

So I’d suggest using it to your advantage when taking their pictures.

Tell them the opposite of what you want them to do using reverse psychology.

In my sessions, I’ll say, “Hey! Don’t you laugh! Don’t do it!” or “don’t you smile!” and just the thought of trying to obey is funny to them, so they start laughing and smiling.

How to Get Your Kid to Smile

Works every time. They’ll always take the opportunity to defy you. It’s a curiosity thing.

If you try this, use a non-serious voice so that it isn’t confusing for them in the future when you’re talking to them in a serious manner.

They should be able to read the playfulness on your face and in your tone.

Go With The Flow For a Natural Smile

I always say the kids are the boss in my studio, and I’m their advisor, assisting them to the next fun thing.

I let them roam around a little bit, see what catches their attention, and try to bring that toy, prop or person to the center of my backdrop so I can take their pictures.

If they’re super intrigued by a fake snowball, I’ll play with them and suggest we throw it at each other. When I catch it, I get excited, they smile, and I get beautiful genuine smiles.

Or, if they seem interested in a teddy bear, I’ll go up to them and pretend the bear is kissing them.

Getting Kids to Smile Naturally in Photos Requires Creativity

Go with the flow of whatever piqued their interest and use it as a way to get them to look at you. That includes people too!

If your child isn’t paying you any mind and wants to look at or be with another person in the room, use that person as bait.

Have them stand behind you and get them to play peek a boo or make a silly face. Or dance around and be super animated.

Whatever it takes to get your child to smile!

Sibling Rivalry When Taking Photos

I’m sure you’ve seen it first hand when one sibling gets jealous over the other sibling’s toy, food, and affection you show them. They’ll pay no mind to a particular toy until the other child picks it up. Use that sibling rivalry to your advantage!

If you have more than one child, tell the child who’s being difficult to photograph to stand aside. Then start taking pictures of the other child (this works exceptionally well if they’re photogenic).

Smiling Child While Taking Pictures

Put all the attention on that child, and the other child will want to jump in front of the camera. The other kid will want to be the center of attention even if they don’t like pictures!

Work Fast When Taking Family Pictures

Little kids get bored quickly, especially with how fast the world is nowadays.

Even the cartoons kids watch gives them shorter attention spans. Try to work quickly and keep them interested and engaged. Make the session fun and never have a dull moment.

I’d say you have 15 minutes to get the best pictures out of them before they get bored and cranky.

Use What You Know About Your Child

You know your child better than anyone else.

Take all of those into consideration and use them to your advantage!

You’re with them the most.

You know their schedule, when they’re the happiest and when they can get cranky. So you know when to avoid taking their pictures and when to capture specific moments.

An excellent photographer will use all of these tactics and a few tricks up their sleeve to get your child to smile within the timeslot of that photoshoot session. But you are with your child in the moments no one else will see. Just you and your baby/babies.

Take The Extra Step to Capture Those Moments:

These intimate moments will be more valuable than any studio session with a backdrop.

Don’t Be A Perfectionist

If you want perfect pictures, that’s the best time to book a session with a photographer who’s excellent with children.

They know how to capture those perfect moments.

But if you’re trying to get some good memories of your own children, don’t strive for perfectionism.

Get in the picture with them!

Set up a tripod or use your timer on your camera/phone and be in the moment with them.

How to Get Your Child to Smile for Pictures Using Mom & Dad Kisses

You know the smothering them with kisses trick to get them to smile naturally.

This is one of the most precious moments you can capture with your child. You, as a parent showing them affection. Get creative with it too!

Get down on the ground, lay next to them, and have them kiss you on the cheek.

Pull those giggles out of your kiddo!

Candid Shots With Natural Smiles Are The Best

I love candid shots!

They’re my favorite type of pictures to take because they’re so real. And photographing kids is so unpredictable because you never know what they’ll do next.

So when trying to get your kids to smile naturally, act naturally and let them be themselves.

Talk to them as they’re eating, playing, or whatever shot you’re trying to get. And make them forget that the camera is there.

They’ll give you the most genuine smiles when they’re not thinking about it.

Or sometimes, the shot of them just figuring out how something works and being curious can be just as good.

Now You Know How to Get Your Children to Smile for Pictures

I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful.

Please take pictures of them often so they can see it’s completely normal and effortless to take pictures, so you don’t have a hard time shooting with them in the future.

They’ll become photogenic with patience and practice, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

Kyra Chambers

Kyra Chambers, also known as Kyra The Creative is a Photographer, Artist, and Multi-media Designer. She's been taking pictures since 2016. She loves to capture memories for families and impactful images for professionals.