8 Clever Ways to Motivate your Children to Smile at the Camera


One of the most beautiful things in the world is watching a child smile. One of the most frustrating things in the world is trying to get a child to smile while you’re holding a camera. Their childish innocence creates stunning giggles, laughter and grins. But like magic, you pick up a camera and all that natural beauty seems to escape them. Here are some helpful hints on taking memorable, striking photos.

  1. STOP using “cheese”.

Using the phrase “cheese” tends to produce a lot of fake smiles. A smile is best when it’s natural and organic. Once a child gets used to the term “cheese”, they anticipate what you are expecting from them and are more likely to feel ambushed into smiling. Instead, try having a conversation with them. Speak freely with them. Talk about their hobbies, things they like, their favorite things. Talking about what they like will produce a happy emotion and therefore, a natural smile.

  1. Have snack offerings on hand.

Bribery is always a great motivator for children, according to Picture Perfect NY. Do not, however, make the mistake of providing a messy snack unless you want your pictures to be messy. Try something like Smarties, which are clean, tiny, and since there are multiples in the pack, you can hand them out one at a time, waiting for a smile in between. Who wouldn’t smile for food?

  1. Use your master reverse psychology skills!

If you ask a child for a sad face they are going to do one of two things: 1. they will make a sad face or, 2. they will smile just to spite you or because they think you’re silly! But don’t get discouraged if they do indeed make a sad face. Your next step is to say, “DON’T you dare smile! Nope! You’re not allowed to!” Again, out of spite, or because they think you’re nuts, your child is bound to produce a grin.

  1. Location, location, location!

If you create a fun setting, you will create fun children. When children have fun, what do they do? Well, they smile of course! If you fashion a pleasing situation and you are just there for the ride, you will have wonderfully natural pictures of grinning children. Check out this article for a few more ideas on creating a fun environment.

  1. Get moving.

Kids tend to forget about the camera when they’re moving around. Running, jumping, riding, playing, tends to loosen children up and create a fun environment for them to be themselves. Capture them as they run at you. Let them be silly. Being silly and their natural selves will always produce positive emotions. Produce those positive emotions and voila! you have a smile.

  1. Let them look away.

Don’t be so stubborn in believing that the only good photos you can capture are the ones you take with them looking them head on. Let them look away; at their favorite cartoon, their parents/family. You will capture genuine expressions and more thoughtful images. A wonderful article about letting your children be genuine can be found here.

  1. Use a toy, but make smart toy choices!

For younger children, toys can make great tools for making smiles. The only problem is that then the children WANT the toys. Try this instead: use a ball and pretend to throw it at them. They will jump or giggle in anticipation of the ball being thrown and thus smile exquisitely for you! Or if you would like to use another toy, think about your setting. Use something that can be easily integrated into your photos, so it seems like it was planned the whole time! For example, use bells for Christmas pictures, flowers or animals for outdoor pictures.

  1. Get on their level.

A camera and a towering adult can be very intimidating to a child. Don’t be so frightening! Loosen the grip a little and get down on the floor. You will help alleviate tension, and create a warm environment. Try tickling them, relaxing with them or just shooting the breeze. Being natural will create natural children and ultimately, natural smiles.