Tips For Getting Natural Smiles Out of Children
Photographing children can be difficult and often takes more time that you would expect. Be sure that you ask Mum and Dad if they want any particular shots as it can take all day in some cases.
Here’s some top tips on how to get those natural looking smiles:
1. Cut the Cheese
Telling a child to “say Cheese” often causes those awkward, forced faces that don’t truly capture who they are. You can’t expect a child to walk in to a photoshoot ready to smile on demand for a stranger.
Instead, try simply talking to them first, find out what they like:
• what’s their favourite lesson at school?
• what food do they detest the most?
• what do they want to be when they’re older…?
Mix up the questions, and the reactions and expressions will naturally vary; this gives you, as the photographer, more to work with.
For example, asking a child if they like eating sprouts, broccoli or gherkins might cause you to capture some very interesting (or funny) facial expressions.
Create a bond between yourself and the child; that way you will appear less intimidating.
Don’t ask the child to smile, this can lead to making them feel uncomfortable, which will show in your photos, try making them laugh (or smile) naturally, for those glowing, uplifting images that Mum and Dad will adore!
Tip: To really make children feel at ease, get down low. Lying (or crouching) down to the child’s eye level will help to make you look smaller and less menacing (or intimidating).
2. Trick for trick
What do all children love? Shouting and Screaming.
Most kids aren’t allowed to scream and shout, which makes it great fun to kids (when they are allowed).
Firstly, make sure your neighbours are out, then encourage them to make as much noise as they like; not only will they be delighted with shock, but they’ll have fun and love it!
This is a quick and easy way to make children instantly ease up in front of the camera (and in front of you).
The best way to create a calm, relaxed atmosphere (as quickly as possible), is to let the child do everything they’re not allowed to. This means sticking their tongues out, pulling silly faces, making strange noises, or even getting a bit messy.
Think outside of the box, and go for alternative approaches. The children will know that you want them to smile, so instead, tell them to be as serious as possible.
If you ask a child to try not to smile, they will eventually break out in to laughter. Turn this into a game, tell them that they are not allowed, under any circumstances to smile – they’ll crack almost instantly.
3. Show and Tell
It is often a good idea to involve children in the photoshoot. They will be in a brand new environment, where they may feel uncomfortable. Why not show them the shots as you take them? Have your photos streaming to a computer nearby, or simply show them the back of the camera.
The more you keep them involved in the process, the more relaxed they will feel. If your camera has a flip screen, you could turn it to face them, show them what you’re shooting as you’re shooting.
To a small child, strange adults can appear more like giants. Get down onto the floor so that you’re shooting from their level (or below them).
You can use this to your advantage, make up a game and encourage them to get involved; this is bound to help them relax in your company.
Much more importantly, your shots will be level with their height rather than appearing as if you’re looking down on them.
If the children you’re shooting aren’t too young, pass them your camera and let them take some pictures of you. It is probably best to stay pretty close to them – just in case!
Be sure to pull your funniest face, this will bring out that lovely giggle, as well as make them feel relaxed around your equipment.
If you’re shooting a new born too, involve the siblings; let them see what you’re doing and ask them what they think about the shot – then, include them in the shots too.
If a toddler is focused on the new baby or sibling (instead of you), you will get some beautifully natural shots. If you’re lucky, you may capture a tender moment of interaction – priceless imagery!
4. Use props
Ever had a child who just wouldn’t let go of that favourite toy? Or maybe it’s a fancy dress costume (or item of clothing) that they will not be without.
There’s no reason to exclude their favourite toys or outfits from the frame, what better way to show their true personality than to keep these items in the shot?
There’s no point in risking upsetting the child by taking their favourite toys or comfort items away from them. Instead, find ways to utilize the items – it will keep the child entertained and provide you with additional photographic opportunities, so keep the camera ready.
The same rules apply when photographing an older child. If they have a hobby that they are passionate about, introduce it within the session.
This will make the process more enjoyable for them, and also helps you to connect with them as an individual. Capture the memories and always try to incorporate their personality.
We hope this portrait photography blog post has given you some fresh ideas and room for thought.
Next time you want to achieve those blushing candid shots of children, remember to warm up your singing voices, practice some practical jokes, and make sure you leave the cheese at home in the fridge (where it belongs).
And don’t worry… if all else fails, who doesn’t love a hilarious photo of an uncooperative child anyway?
So get snapping and practice developing some new fun and creative child portraits. Enjoy! The iPhotography Team.
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