One of the greatest compliments I receive as a photographer is from parents who receive their photo gallery and exclaim, “How did you get these?!” Parents are hoping the kids will be on their best behavior, sit still long just enough to get a family shot and – the ultimate goal – actually have their kids looking at the camera and smiling naturally!
Here is the trick.
Play with your kids. Those smiling pictures are often after a family tickle fight or being tossed in the air – not because they sat still and smiled wonderfully at me, the stranger behind the camera – but because they had fun. Do you usually wrestle? Play peek-a-boo? Toss them in the air? These are great ways to help your child relax and smile!
Bring a special treat. A good bribe at the right time can totally work! So why not bring along a special snack you know they will smile for?
Bring a favorite toy along. Something familiar like a favorite toy they can hold for comfort can help ease them into the session. Allowing your photographer to interact with your child and the toy will help your child to see the photographer as someone who is friendly and kind!
Go with the flow. We want to capture your child and your family in those natural moments – not the forced ones. So be ok to let them guide the session a little bit. If they want to play, play! If they need a break, let’s let them chill. If they are curious about the surroundings, let them explore!
So what if things do go a little awry?
That’s totally ok. In fact, it is completely normal. They are in new circumstances and they are with unfamiliar people. In other words, they are probably going to act a little out of the ordinary. (I mean, even as adults, seeing a camera pointed in our direction can make us act totally weird!)
Take a break. You know your child best. If your child needs a 5 minute break, lets do it! It will make the rest of the session better. It is SO much better to pause when they begin to show frustration than wait until its too late and they are just too frustrated to continue at all. We just take a break, snap some other photos without them, and let them warm up to the camera again.
Create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’m kinda serious lol. Who doesn’t want to be a part of a tickle fight or being tossed in the air? It may not work for every kid but if you look like you are having fun (and hopefully you really, truly are!) they might want to run right back into the fun!
Let the kids choose what kind of photos we take. Maybe they want a photo of their favorite toy! When I turn the camera around to show them the result it might make them more curious and they might want another photo! Do they want a picture of dad tossing them up and down or of mom swinging them around? Does bunny enjoy having pictures taken? Maybe they will too!
When you have a photographer capture your family, it is more than just the photo you get at the end of the day. It is an experience your child will remember. All of us want your family to have fun and enjoy this experience because if you don’t… you probably won’t want to do it again. Getting those family pictures will be more and more difficult because you and your child will remember the struggle. The photo on the wall won’t quite make up for that – at least in your child’s mind.
This is why finding a photographer that understands and values children makes all the difference. We realize what is going on and try our best to put you and your child at ease. Let’s navigate the unfamiliar environment together.
Here’s the main thing: If you want your children to smile, let’s give them a real reason to smile! Nothing forced or coerced. The goal should always be genuine, playful, joy-filled smiles.
Then we all just might relax and enjoy the session.
And, you’ll get some incredible photos too.