Have you ever struggled with how to take good photos of kids? We all dream of taking the perfect photo when the camera is in our hands, but when it comes down to actually snapping the perfect shot, well, things tend to go south. Say for example, I’m a parent of one of the kids who attends the Cadency Academy, a little preschool school down the street. I have been asked to take first day of school photos. Fun, right? Well sure, in theory it sounds great. But it is not at all easy to take good photos of kids! They like to goof around, they look away, and they simply lose interest in sitting still. They are kids – it’s what they do!
When taking their photo, how can you get kids to give you a natural smile that doesn’t look forced or silly?
That is a great question. Even the most talented and experienced photographers struggle with this as they try to take natural looking shots. Ideally there would capture genuine, sincere smiles – those that melt our hearts. Those that children do best.
What are some tips for getting kids to sit still for photos?
The following tips and tricks should help your next photo session with your child go much smoother than previously.
Give Them Something to Sit On/Hold/Look At
This goes for younger children, especially toddlers that are just learning how to walk. Kids at this age can be restless, always walking around and toddling with excitement, which makes it difficult for you to take a good shot.
For this reason, give them something to sit on. It can be a mere chair that you can later crop out the photo — or make it a bit more exciting with a rocking horse or a rocking chair. This will make them sit still and look at the camera. If that’s not enough, you could also give them something to hold and/or something to look at. Their favorite toy, a flower, a photo of their favorite superhero – it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it holds their interest and makes them happy.
Take a break from the photo shoot and make time for some fun
The best way to capture those big, natural smiles is to let your child be free and have some fun. It can be in your home or outside, the choice is yours.
If you’re at home, let them dance and sing to their favorite song, play with their favorite toys, or whatever else you can think of. If you’re outside, let them get wild. Go somewhere in nature and let them be free to do whatever they want. Children have a special connection to nature, so you’ll be able to get some really authentic shots while your child is carefree and happy enjoying the outdoors.
Let them play a game while you take pictures
Games are always fun for kids, so why not play a game with them while taking their picture? Since they’ll be having fun, lots of genuine smiles are to be expected. As a parent, you know what games your child loves to play, especially those that make them smile the most. Use this to make a successful photo session and get all the genuine smiles you can. One interesting idea to make your child pose the way you want to is to play a game called “copycat”. Have your son or daughter copy the poses and facial expressions you make while taking their photos. To motivate them and make it more fun, offer them a reward (like a piece of candy or their favorite toy) if they make “good” copycats. Make sure to also encourage them by letting them know what a wonderful job they are doing, and don’t forget to have fun doing it yourself!
Be silly with the kids while taking pictures, for those natural smiles
As a parent, you know what makes your child laugh. Utilize this knowledge and talk to them in a silly way in order to make them giggly and smiley. If the child is very young, make funny faces, ridiculous noises, dance around the room, and do everything that will bring out that candid smile. On the other hand, if your child can talk and understand you, ask them silly questions or tell them a joke or a funny story. Prep yourself beforehand so that you have a decent amount of material to work with.
Don’t ask for a smile
This is very important if you want to capture authentic and natural smiles. The reason is simple – if you tell your child to smile for the camera, that smile will look forced in the photo and you won’t get the result you were expecting.
Saying “cheese” is also a bit outdated, but if you want to use a word to make your child smile, then think of something that will make them laugh, like “poop” or something along those lines.
Advice for the Parents
While taking pictures of your child, make sure that you are relaxed and enjoy the process. If you are stressed, had a bad day, or have some problem weighing down on you, postpone the photo session for another day. Being relaxed and happy is the surest way to have a successful photoshoot and make your child smile.
Also, take a lot of photos. Kids are unpredictable, so you never know when they’ll start laughing, when they’ll give you the expression you’re looking for, and so on. So be persistent, and don’t stop clicking!
About the author:
Jen Loong is the founder of WanderSnap – a service platform connecting families, businesses, and travelers with local creatives to capture everyday photos, videos, and moments across over 45 different cities. Their mission is to help make creative jobs accessible to people all over the world.
Speaking of taking photos, I could use your help! Do you have ideas for how to get kids to sit still for family holiday cards? What are some creative ways to take family photos for Christmas cards? please leave your ideas in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post about how to take good photos of kids, you might like to learn how to make DIY Photography backdrops!