We all have them. Pictures with fake smiles.

uses “all that jazz” from Music Puns

Yup, even photographers get kids giving fake smiles.
What’s the difference? A photographer won’t stop at the “cheese” face. I will keep trying until I get a real smile. (or else I’ll put the camera away, if it’s my own kids, without snapping any, and then come back to it later).
Eventually, if I keep trying, I’ll get something more natural:

uses “Kissed by the sun” from Sunshine Actions

It’s tough. A lot of times, kids are used to giving you that fake smile. If you’ve told your kids “say cheese!”, you’re asking them to give you a fake grin. I’m guilty of this too.
But even when you’ve never told them to smile, you’ll still have times when it’s the look they give.

using “I’ll be Bach” from Music Puns

So…what can you do?
…take a trip with me down memory lane. Remember taking a picture of your child at a few months old, when he or she smiled but it wasn’t a guarantee? What did you do? You shook a rattle, said silly words, showed their favorite toy…you did something to get a genuine smile. There was no other way.

That’s what you’re going for here. Minus the rattle. That doesn’t work after a certain point.

Some suggestions:

  • Get them to say something silly.
  • Tell them a dumb joke.
  • Tease them. “don’t smile! I said don’t smile!!”
  • Play games. “I bet I can hold a frown longer than you!”
  • With boys, bodily humor can work. I refuse to use that kind of humor, but most people are fine with it (if you’re taking pictures of someone else, you might want to check with the mom to see what the family’s thoughts are on the topic).
  • Do some serious shots.
  • Get them talking. Those are almost all throw-away shots, but it gets them relaxed and gets their face muscles doing something other than “EEEEE”.

My daughter’s 4th birthday pictures. This first picture was the smile she wanted to give me. Most people would just move on after getting this…it’s kind of a smile, right?



But then I put the camera next to me and started talking to her. Eventually I got her laughing, so I grabbed my camera again and got this gem!



(both edited using Glass Collectibles at 56% opacity and banana split at 47%)

What have you done to get a natural expression?

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