March 9, 2020

Getting Natural Smiles Out of Kids, Part 1 | San Diego Family Photographer

It happens almost every time: pull your camera out to capture your kids doing something cute, and the sweet natural smiles are replaced by plastic replicas quicker than you can say “cheese.”

But there is help! As a family photographer who spends a lot of time photographing kids, I’ve learned a few tricks I’ll share with you over the coming weeks. Arm yourself with them, and get ready to start snapping away at some natural expressions, full of joy!

Getting Natural Smiles Out of Kids, Part 1 | San Diego Family Photographer

Today is tip #1: get them talking.

Pointing a camera at a child and asking them to look at you is a sure recipe for frozen smiles.

Why? Because all they’re thinking about is the camera pointed at them and how they’re expected to respond. But, if you get their mind OFF the camera, natural expressions will follow.

One way to do this is to get them talking. Like this:

1) Ask them an engaging question they will enjoy answering.


“If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be, and why?

“If you could have one super power, what would it be?”

“What is your favorite place in the whole world?”

2) Give them a fun topic to talk about. This is particularly useful if they are engaged in an activity they are really enjoying, and that’s what you’re trying to capture. A quick and easy one is to just say, “tell me about what you’re doing right now.”

Other examples that aren’t situation-specific:

“Tell me about your favorite person / place in the whole world.”

“Tell me about the last movie you saw that you really liked.”

“Tell me about something you really love about your mom/dad.”

Now, the secret here is that you don’t just get them talking, snap a picture, and be done with it. The secret is to CATCH the expressions that will happen naturally while they’re engaged with your question. When people talk, a dozen things happen with their face – it’s the sweet smiles in between you want to catch. That means taking perhaps a dozen pictures quickly in a row, increasing your chances of capturing the ones you want – the ones with that sweet expression you will treasure.

So next time you pull out your camera, get them talking. Snap away while engaging their minds, and watch the sweet smiles naturally appear!

Click here for Part 2: Get Them Thinking.

Love Michelle Photography